Last updated on February 28th, 2023 at 03:37 pm
Do You Know Your Brand?
Your brand is your business. And it’s the beginning of your relationship with your audience, your customers, or your fans. Studio O’Riley is here to help you build the best brand for your business or project. Continue reading to see how.Do you know your brand? If you’re thinking “I don’t even have a brand,” I’m here to tell you that you’re mistaken. When you google the word, the definition comes up as “a type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name.” So by that definition, you may be right. But the word has come to mean the reputation that comes with your work. It’s what people think of when they hear the name of your business, almost an aesthetic associated with you or your work.
Studio O’Riley offers full branding services, from designing your logo to applying your color scheme across your website and your graphics. I’ve studied the ways businesses show themselves to the world, what works, and what doesn’t. Trust Studio O’Riley with your brand. It’s the first step in doing what you do.
Now that we know what a brand is, let’s talk about branding elements and how you can use them to support your work.
It’s hard to define brand elements because so many of them overlap, but we’ll describe seven distinct pieces of a strong brand: name, slogan, logo, colors, graphics, typography, and style.
Building Your Brand
Each of the following plays a part in creating a cohesive identity for a business or body of work. It’s wise to enforce these elements to ensure consistency across your brand.
Your brand name is arguably the most important piece of this process because it’s the part of your brand most likely to be shared by word of mouth. Your logo, your products, your slogan, and all the other elements of your brand are all shared almost exclusively by you or your company through advertising.
If you have not yet settled on a name, here are a few pointers:
- Keep it short and snappy. Names should roll off the tongue. If your name must be complex, consider shortening it to an abbreviation. In advertising, you have a few seconds at most to engrave your company name in consumer’s memories. That won’t happen if your name is too long or complicated.
- Include a hint to who you are and/or what you do. For instance, Studio O’Riley may not tell you much, but it tells you my name and that I have a studio. Studios generally have something to do with media or design, so the public can infer that my business is making something, as opposed to selling cars or farming kumquats
- The name should reflect the kind of business you run. Here I’m referring to the physical sound rather than the meaning behind the words. Are you a research group? Then be careful about making your name too fun, because it may detract from your credibility (unless you can show it in other ways). But if you’re a toy manufacturer, think about including alliteration, rhyme, or fun syllables. Maybe you’re a freelance writer, a photographer, or a bounty hunter. Your name should sound like it fits what you do.
Like your name, your slogan should be concise and snappy. I say concise rather than short because there’s a little more wiggle room here in terms of length. Your business may put out various quotes, quips, and phrases in your advertising campaigns, but your slogan should be a single sentence or collection of words that people can associate with your brand. It should be descriptive, accurate, and reflect the style of your brand. Studio O’Riley’s slogan, “Digital Media Services,” isn’t even a sentence, but it quickly tells people what I do.
A logo’s job is to convey the most information as quickly as possible. This is the part everybody thinks about when they think “brand,” and rightly so. Logos are everywhere. The old adage says it well: “A picture’s worth a thousand words.” Humans are visual creatures. We attach concepts to images automatically, which is why a pictorial representation of your brand is so useful.
Once that connection is made in the mind of a consumer, you can reinforce it through repetition, and businesses make use of this power all too much. It’s a necessary evil that in order to be known to the public, a brand must join the visual cacophony and put their logo everywhere they can. If you do it right, your logo will catch someone’s eye and you’ll see them in your store!
How to Decide on a Logo:
A logo is composed of shape and color. No matter how much or little detail goes into it, those are the essential elements. Like your name and slogan, your logo should fit your business. You can choose a simple shape or collection of shapes, like a square or a circle, or you can choose a complex or asymmetric shape. The visual flow of your logo will be interpreted by your consumers and contribute to their view of your business, so choose wisely.
Consider factors like sharpness versus roundness, bright colors versus dark, contrast versus a blended look. Humans are highly symbolic creatures, and we will read into those choices. Every element of your logo will say something about your brand, consciously or unconsciously.
Logo vs. Logotype
You’ll want to consider what kind of logo will serve you best. Generally, every business should have a logo and a logotype. The logotype is simply a version of the logo that includes the company name. The purpose is to associate the name with the logo itself so that when people see the one, they remember the other. This increases the perceived familiarity your customers feel with your brand, which is always a good thing in business.
Some businesses only have a logotype, others use both. I don’t know of a single successful business that doesn’t put their company name next to their logo in some capacity or another. So make sure you choose a logo and logotype (or even just a font) that will look good together.
Readability & Scalability
Perhaps the most important factors in choosing a logo are readability and scalability. Depending on the size of your business, you want a logo that will look as good on a billboard as on a business card or an app thumbnail. When complex logos are scaled to less than an inch in diameter, they can lose detail. Consider that printers and screens have limitations when it comes to resolution.
Since the logo’s job is to provide information quickly, it won’t do for consumers to have to squint and have to decipher the shape or text of the logo. To avoid this, it’s best to use a logo that doesn’t have too many small parts that could get lost in smaller dimensions.
We’ll talk about your brand colors in more detail in the next section. But I feel honor-bound to mention that color plays a huge role in your logo. Generally speaking, it’s wise to err on the side of fewer colors—one to three—rather than more colors. Of course, there are exceptions. Google’s logo uses four colors, but they are all clearly distinct and nearly equally present. Other brands manage to use many colors as well, but they are carefully chosen using color theory. If you’re not sure what you’re doing with colors, leave it to a professional like Studio O’Riley, or at least do your research.
If you’ve never delved into color psychology, give it a try. You’ll find some fascinating tidbits. For instance, the color blue tends to make people feel calm and content, possibly because it reminds us of clear, blue skies and oceans. Red makes people hungry, which is why you’ll find the color used in so many fast food brands like Jack in the Box, McDonalds, Wendy’s, etc. Yellow makes people happy, but can also denote danger.
All manner of color combinations and configurations will say different things to people, so it’s important to take color psychology into consideration when choosing them for your brand. Also, consider readability when choosing colors. Text and backgrounds should contrast each other. In fact, anything you want to be seen should contrast what’s around it. You can use colors in shapes to draw attention to certain areas of your designs.
Graphics are an important element in getting your business name in front of the public. First, decide whether your business will use photography and videography, that is, real footage with graphics on top… or whether you’ll use an entirely illustrated graphics style.
The purpose of using graphics is to get a message across to the public. For marketing purposes, static graphics include leaflets, business cards, signs, billboards, posters, and any still images used to advertise your products or services online or in the world.
Motion graphics are always digital. They are videos, GIFs, or animations that carry out your message. Just as with shape and color, motion can convey brand identity. Motion designers like me will pay close attention to the way you want to represent your brand and translate it into the way your graphics move. Should your graphics move quickly? Sharply? Slowly? Elegantly? Straight? Curved? The answers to these questions can have a profound effect on the perceived personality of your brand or your products.
Typography is more important than most people think. That’s because the font and characteristics you choose will directly affect the ability for people to read what you’re writing. Consistency is key. Your website, your graphics, your letters… anything you put out in the world from your brand should use the same fonts. You may have more than one, but as with color less is more.
Different fonts carry different feelings and some are easier on the eye than others. They can give the impression of a specific era or industry. Typewriter fonts conjure images of books and film scripts. Gothic fonts bring up the feeling of a bygone age. You can use your font choice to your brand’s advantage.
With any design, you must consider readability, doubly so with typography. Serif fonts work will in print, which is why they’re used so often in books. Sans serif fonts work better on the web. You’ll want to consider font weight, color, and other aspects to make your words stand out amid the sea of other brands in the marketplace.
This is where all the other elements come together. Depending on your business, you may need to think outside the box to define your brand identity. The best brands leverage the senses to create a unique and attractive experience for their customers. Sight, sound, texture, shape, taste, scent…. All of these say something about your products and can help in forming a lasting reputation.
The culmination of all the elements we’ve discussed and more will become an identity that will determine how people see and interact with your business.
When building your brand, consider the following:
Anyone will tell you that in order to make something popular, you’ve got to know your audience. You’ll want to research demographics and extrapolate what you know about your business. Then it’s simply a matter of establishing a connection between the two.
Consider factors like age, gender, marital status, likes and dislikes, hobbies, financial class. Even the size of a person’s circle of friends can be an indicator of the kinds of things they’re looking for in a product or service.
Knowing your audience is the first and best thing you can do to boost your brand because it means you can create points of connection. Be intentional about this and you won’t regret it.
Aesthetic is a nebulous term. Essentially it’s the feeling people get when they think of your brand or handle your products.
For a good idea of what an aesthetic is, think of your favorite perfume or cologne commercial. Is it black and white, filled with mist, with sensuous voices whispering product facts at you? How about filled with vibrant color, quick cuts, with beautiful people dancing closely in a club with a thundering pop beat? These are two different aesthetics. They each make the watcher feel different things.
The purpose of an aesthetic is to evoke an emotion and to bring up certain kinds of images in the minds of the people experiencing it. Brands use this concept with great success. Compare Apple’s iPhone aesthetic with that of Google’s Pixel phones. Apple goes for dark, sleek, professional, so that customers are almost drooling over the commercial. Google, on the other hand, focuses on personal connections in bright sunlight, showing the fun side of having a high-quality phone.
Your goal in your brand is to create an aesthetic that represents your business philosophy and relates well to your target audience.
Many brands are further defined by the materials they use in their products. Are you a high-tech brand, using only the latest technologies, or are you a low-tech, nature-focused brand, using organic, dependable materials?
The fact is, different things appeal to different people, and you’re going to get more customers if you pick a side and make it part of your aesthetic. You’ll find that materials, themselves, have fans, and that reaching out to those fan clubs will give you a better reputation than just… making stuff out of whatever.
What is the purpose of your products or services? Whatever it is, capitalize on it. Do you run a joke shop? A grocery store? A documentary studio? Whether your work is for giggles, general supplies, education, or anything else, that purpose should radiate through your brand. Write about it, tweet about it, let people know.
Understand, also, that your products can fulfill a certain niche that makes you special. You may be out to buy a box of pens because you need something—anything to write with. Someone else may be out to buy a box of pens because they need a calligraphy set, illustrated with chinese zodiac symbols for their art studio. The first will satisfy most people. The second will satisfy fewer, but more loyal customers.
Considering the purpose of your products is the first step you take in getting your customers to see the purpose, too!
Price isn’t always a straight conversion of value to currency. Sometimes, price is a selling point. Some brands are popular because they strive to be the best and to set the standard for the industry. Other brands are popular because they’re almost as good as the first brand, but cost half as much.
Decide which kind of business yours is, and then use that knowledge in your marketing. Half the work of advertising is description, and the other half is getting that description in front of as many eyes as possible. If you do that and your products have any amount of quality, your brand will grow.
Here are some final tips for starting out.
Emulate Other Brands
Imitation is the highest form of flattery. It’s also the best way to learn things. By emulating other brands, you learn to look at the big picture in terms of actionable steps. If you don’t know where to start, look around the industry at brands with a similar feel to the one you’re trying to create, then take notes and research why they make certain choices.
Provide a Personal Touch
Own your brand in more than just the legal sense. Your brand should be an extension of the things you love. People are social creatures, and they love to find common ground. By including your passions in your brand, you attract people with similar interests to come and get to know you and your work.
Ask Your Customers
Say you have no clue how to get started. There’s no shame in asking, and who better to ask than your customers? Determine the services or products you would like to provide, and then ask around what people would like to see in those services or products. Their answers will give you a direction to go in. This way, you begin already knowing that at least some people will appreciate what you offer.
Ask for Help
Building a brand is a lot of work, but you don’t have to do it alone. Ask for help from other professionals in your field, from consultants, from your friends and family. Your community is your workforce, and most people are excited to have a hand in starting something new.
YouTube is Your Friend
I mean this. Over the years, YouTube has become an essential tool for sharing information. If you don’t know what you’re doing, look up a tutorial. Googling your questions is fantastic and will get you far, but sometimes it helps to have a real person talk about what you’re trying to learn. YouTube is the perfect platform for this, and it’s free!
Partner with Other Brands
Just because you’re a new business doesn’t mean you can’t play with the big businesses. Other brands in your industry will likely be willing to partner with you, make deals, or offer discounts to your customers on certain conditions. Most brands have specialties, and that means that they aren’t always the best option for every customer. If you form partnerships with other brands, they can refer customers to you when they can’t provide what a customer wants, and vice versa.
Leverage Social Media
Social media has become an incredible tool for businesses in terms of marketing and networking. Social media allows you as a business to reach out directly to your followers. It’s the art of self-publishing and it affords you enormous flexibility and the ability to form a two-way relationship with your customers. Use social media to publish videos, discounts, or to let customers know what movie your family is watching tonight. The more two-way interaction your brand has with its followers, the better.
Never Underestimate Freebies
Freebies don’t have to be expensive to your business. In fact, they shouldn’t be. The smallest trinket can produce a big effect.
Hire a Graphic Designer 😉
Unless you are a graphic designer, you don’t want to tackle branding by yourself or without the aid of one. Even if you have great artists for friends, you’ll want to make sure that your brand will compare and will resonate well with current market trends.
Graphic designers are trained to analyze those trends, to know the questions to ask, and to be versatile enough to establish a style that will help your brand grow.
Talk to Your Chamber of Commerce
Most areas have a chamber of commerce. These are great resources for building and maintaining your business and your connections.
Representatives from your local chamber of commerce will help you fill out paperwork, give you helpful resources to legitimize your business, and connect you with other professionals to help you grow on your road to a full-fledged business.