Why reinvent yourself with every little decision? Deciding how to brand your business can have a long-lasting impact and infiltrate decisions years down the road. Putting serious thought into it early can pay dividends in the long term
Whether you realize it or not, chances are you already have an idea of how you want to brand your business. You might not have a logo or the theme colors picked out, but you know what you like, and you have at least a vague sense of what you want to focus on and how you want to operate. You may not have yet put it into words, but the ideas are likely there. You just need to get it out of your head and pare it all down to the essence of what your business is.
This can be no small task, but don’t let it discourage you. This is a chance to solidify those half-formed ideas and put them down on paper.
There are a million things to consider when branding your business, but we like to break it into two major components under which all else falls: internal branding and external branding.
When most people think of branding, they think of color schemes and logos, style and font. But before any of that, you need to pin down what your business actually is. You don’t necessarily need to have your logo or colors picked out before you begin a business, but you do need to brainstorm on the voice and mission of your brand. What specific services will you offer? Why are you providing these services and how do you do it differently than everyone else?
Let the answers to these questions guide you in how you develop your onboarding process, communications, and other systems in addition to your copy voice and style guide.
Many businesses treat a mission statement as an utter afterthought, though we feel that’s a mistake. This is really where you should distill down the very essence of what your business is about. Why does it exist? What do you hope to accomplish with it?
A mission statement should be short and sweet, no more than a couple of sentences at most. Brainstorm individual words that you feel fit your business just to get them down on the page, and try to string them together in different ways.
A great way to get some inspiration is to research some of your favorite companies’ mission statements and see what speaks to you.
Don’t get too wrapped up in crafting the perfect statement. Almost more than anything, a mission statement helps you define your business’s purpose and acts as a guiding tenet for all of your decisions going forward. Once you establish what you stand for and what you’re trying to accomplish, the decisions often make themselves.
The copy voice of your business sets the tone of all of your communications. A lawyer firm will likely have a stolid, scholarly tone whereas an amusement park may have a whimsical one. The words you use and the formality of your copy will evoke certain emotions, and you want to be sure that your tone matches that of your potential clients and yourself.
This is what most of us imagine as branding — the logos, colors, styling, etc. While significantly less important at the outset than internal branding, it is nonetheless an important part of any business.
Choosing the right business name is strictly a personal preference, although there are some basic suggestions you want to follow. For one, the name should at least somewhat suggest what it is you’ll be performing for a client.
Enigmatic or misleading names are discouraged, for obvious reasons. You don’t want to name your business Madison’s Banana Co. if your focus is social media management. A business name should be simple and easy to remember. You also want to match the tone of your business’ focus. A VA for a law firm will likely have a more serious tone than one for a cupcake shop.
It’s worth it to set aside some time to really think about it. Brainstorm and write down as many names as you can. Don’t worry if they’re silly or dumb–the point is to just get your creativity flowing and see what happens. Let a couple of days go by before you look at your list. Putting some time between a brainstorm session and editing can shed new light on names you loved or hated.
A logo is the stamp of the business. It needs to be simple and immediately recognizable whether large or small. When you see the Nike, Amazon, or Apple logos, you instantly know who they belong to. But notice how simple they are — there’s nothing elaborate or ornate about any of them.
It is important to note that when you’re just starting out, a simply designed logo is fine. Just the text of you or your business’ name can suffice, as long as it’s legible and the colors have good contrast to make it easily readable. It should be high resolution and have a transparent background so it can be easily used on any website or stationery.
Though it seems like an insignificant thing, the choice of colors you use to represent your brand will permeate every visual aspect of your business. It will be on your business cards, your website, and any and all design work you do for social media and more. What colors do you think of when you think of Target or Home Depot? They are inseparable from the brand.
There’s a lot of theories around colors and the feelings they evoke, though ultimately just pick colors you like — you’ll be looking at them a lot. Bear in mind that colors you love might not be everyone’s cup of tea, for example Pepto pink or garish neons, and that should factor into your decision as well. What you’re striving for is one to three complimentary colors that you feel best reflect the spirit of you and your business.
Font, image stylization
DO NOT USE COMIC SANS. Just don’t. Resist whatever urge exists to compel people to use it. Unless you’re writing a company newsletter for a cotton candy factory in 1998, there is no place for the comic sans font in business. Can we let it die already?
All kidding aside, this is really starting to drill down into the minutia of branding, but it still remains an important aspect. Choose a font that is easily readable, not one replete with scrolls and filigree and fancy twists and swirls that make it impossible to parse. There are tons of interesting and elegant fonts out there and a quick google search will lead you to thousands to choose from.
It’s also time to think about image stylization. If you use filters, try to keep them consistent. You’re trying to present a cohesive overall image of your brand, and it should all tie together.
DIY or hire out?
There are companies that exist solely to help companies with branding, and while they can be very helpful and add tons of value to a business, the really good ones can be prohibitively expensive. Luckily, a lot of this can be done by you for nothing more than some time and dedication. As your business grows you can always hire a branding specialist down the road, but for a business in its infancy where costs can be substantial, a lot of entrepreneurs take much or all of this on themselves.
If you feel comfortable taking a crack at it, there are a couple of helpful tools that can assist you with your design.
Looka is a design and branding tool that has several templates built-in to make logo creation super simple. While it’s not free, the $20 price tag for a logo and $80 for a full branding package makes it extremely reasonable.
Creative Market is another hub for all things branding. Loads of graphics, fonts and templates are available via their clean and easily navigable site. Pricing is a little steeper, starting at around $10 for a customizable logo template, but if you really get into it and find yourself doing most of the design work, Creative Market is a veritable treasure trove of quality branding tools.
It’s worth mentioning Canva as an option. There’s a free platform you can use that grants you access to hundreds of customizable logo templates. The downside is that there will be thousands of other people using the same templates and your logo may come off as generic. Through for someone on a budget, it is not a bad way to start.
Like it or not, branding is something that you’ll want to put a lot of thought into for your business. Well crafted and designed branding can make you stand out from the crowd, before anyone even quite knows what you’re about and what services you offer. Though, as stated at the beginning of this article, it’s all for nothing until you decide what it is you’ll actually do and what services or products you’ll provide.
Matthew Ogden is a Minneapolis-based copywriter and content writer and editor. He’s written for national retailers and lobster roll companies alike. When not writing he can be found nose deep in a book, writing and performing music, or nerding out about guitar tone.