5 Branding Basics that Every Business Needs

December 4, 2020

Branding your business is an exciting thing, but it can also be a bit overwhelming. And if you’re wanting to work with a brand designer, they’ll likely ask you, “What all do you need?” And you might not know how to answer that question because how are you supposed to know what you need when you’re still in the early stages of business?! There are just so many options!

Some businesses assume they just need a logo to get them started. Others are eager to dive all the way in and work on all the things – the full brand identity, packaging design, social media templates, business cards, stationery, a custom website, etc.

But what do you really need when you’re in that first year or two of running your business? I’m going to break it down for you and share what I recommend for new businesses when they reach out to me.

01 / You need a clear vision for your business.

In order to successfully launch + market your business, you need to have a clear understanding of the following things:

  1. The purpose + heart behind what you do.
  2. Who your audience is, what matters to them + what problems lead them to you.
  3. How your business or product specifically helps them.
  4. Where you fall in your market/industry and how you want to make people feel.

If you can outline these key things, you’ll be able to build your branding in a way that’s intentional and goal-oriented. You may want to work with a brand strategist to help you with this part if you really want to dive deep into it, but many brand designers include a step in their process that covers this as well.

02 / You need a logo that’s flexible.

If you just have a logo, you may find that it only works well in certain situations and, therefore, limits you in how you can use it. That’s why when I work with clients, I like to create multiple logo variations for them so that they have the flexibility to apply their branding in lots of different ways. The more logo variations you have, the better. But for brands that are just starting out, I recommend having at least 2 variations of your logo:

  1. Your primary logo should be your business name and will be what you use for most applications. (website header, business cards, stationery, etc.)
  2. Your secondary logo can either be a:
    • monogram/icon that works well for smaller applications (stickers, profile pictures, stamps, email signatures, etc.)
    • tagline mark (This is useful if your business name doesn’t easily explain what you do. You’ll use this as a secondary element in places where you don’t necessarily need to show your primary logo, but you still want to have something there that conveys who you are in a different way.)

Having multiple logo variations also helps you create a more well-rounded branding experience for your audience in a way that’s recognizable, but not repetitive. Rather than using the same logo again and again, you have a collection of different marks that can be used anywhere and all work together seamlessly to create this overall brand presence.

03 / You need a color palette + brand fonts.

Another aspect of your brand that will make your business more memorable and recognizable is having a set color palette and fonts that you use across all of your platforms and business collateral.

For brand color palettes, I usually stick to 4-5 colors. 2-3 of them will be more neutral and the ones that you use most often. Then you’ll have 1-2 colors that are specifically meant to be a used as a pop of color for your brand and will help you highlight important things that you want people to look at (like buttons, sale announcements, etc.)

Then for fonts, I recommend choosing 2-3 fonts for your brand that you will use anywhere you share content (website, newsletters, ads, etc.). 1 font will be for headlines and important information. 1 will be for sub-headlines, secondary information or buttons. And 1 will be for for paragraph copy.

04 / You need a purpose behind every single design decision.

Whether you’re creating your logo or choosing your brand colors, there should ALWAYS be a specific purpose or goal behind every design decision that you make. This is the key to creating a brand identity that will actually help your business! If you just base your decisions on personal preferences and what you think looks “pretty”, there’s a greater chance that you’ll grow tired of it and want to change everything again in a year or two.

So before making any design decisions, reference your original vision for your brand and ask yourself, “Does this align with the goals I’ve set and the way I want to make my audience feel?” If you let that thinking guide your decisions, you’ll end up with a more sustainable (and meaningful) brand in the end!

05 / You need specific rules on how to use your branding consistently.

Once you’ve created your brand (whether you hired a designer or did it all yourself), you want to make sure that you have set specific rules for how everything should be used together. This will help you keep things consistent and cohesive as you start applying your branding to different areas of your business (like your website, business cards, social media, etc.)

I like to give my clients guidelines on where each version of their logo works best, as well as what colors should be used for backgrounds or for text. The more specific you can get about these rules, the more consistent and professional your branding will look 🙂

It’s great to have a designer create all the things for your brand! Design can make a huge impact on your business – from increasing your sales to building a stronger connection with your audience. But when you’re still in the early stages of your business, you might not need all the branding bells and whistles yet. Sometimes it’s better to start with the basics and these are the essentials that I recommend for newer businesses to help them get started and make sure that they get the most out of their first investment in working with a designer.

Another concern for new businesses can be the cost of working with a designer. So if you want to hear more about that, go check out this blog post on why design is so expensive! I break down what goes into the cost of a design project and even give some tips on some more affordable options if hiring a professional designer is still out of your budget.

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