Over the years I’ve seen a lot of business owners who haven’t taken the time to learn how to define brand identity.
Some of them feel like they don’t have the time, others are intimidated because they don’t know the first thing about branding, and some don’t even think it’s important at all.
But the fact of the matter is when businesses are inconsistent in their branding or have yet to define their brand, it dilutes their ability to connect with potential customers and diminishes the impact of all their marketing materials.
Even worse, these businesses don’t have anything to set them apart from the competition.
In these situations, sometimes business owners will haphazardly slap together some marketing collateral and try to brand themselves using what their competitors are doing as a template.
But this “me too” method of mimicking what competitors are doing is not effective.
So, if you feel like you’ve tried everything to come up with a brand identity and you’re at your wit’s end, or you’re overwhelmed because you’ve yet to even begin, you need to keep reading.
In this article, I’m going to give you a solid foundation for understanding what a visual brand is and how to build a strong brand online.
Tips for How to Define Brand Identity
Whether you’re creating a new brand or updating your existing one, your brand’s visual identity is the most important aspect of your marketing. Your brand is so much more than a website and a logo. It’s a user’s total experience and their perception of you and your business.
Therefore, every touchpoint a prospect has with you should have one consistent look and theme. This includes your logo, website, stationery, social media, videos, brochures, business cards, and of course, your personal brand in terms of how you dress and present yourself to the world.
A solid visual brand will:
- Promote professionalism and purpose.
- Help people know exactly what to expect from you.
- Build upon the existing brand experience they have with you.
- Attract prospects who align with your ideas, attitudes, and values.
- Enhance the confidence, trust, and rapport you have with your followers.
Visual branding adds real power to your marketing. It increases engagement with your customers, enhances their understanding of what you do, and makes you instantly recognizable to those who are familiar with your brand.
Considering all the benefits of personal and professional branding, learning how to define brand identity is absolutely crucial. But you’ve got to be consistent, otherwise you’ll dilute your brand and confuse your customers.
Keeping Your Branding Consistent
When it comes to your marketing, there are a lot of things to keep track of.
So how can you be certain all your marketing resonates with your brand identity?
Well, one thing I’ve learned over the years is when you want to maintain consistency in your marketing, you’ve got to have a style guide.
A comprehensive style guide will cover the following aspects:
- Headshot – A professional headshot goes a long way in terms of developing trust in your brand
- Logo – Your logo is like the nucleus of your brand because everything else stems from it. This is why it’s so important to define the meaning of your logo and think about what it represents
- Colour Palette – One of the most crucial aspects of a style guide is its colour palette. Make sure to choose colours that are meaningful to your brand and will resonate with your target market
- Brand Message – This is part of the essence of what your business stands for, and it should include your slogan or a tagline explaining who you are, what you do, and how you deliver value
- Fonts – Using the same one or two typefaces throughout all your written materials and graphics is another key aspect of maintaining a consistent brand identity
- Design Elements – The use of consistent borders, lines, shadows, and filters will make you easily recognizable to those who are familiar with your visual brand
- Tone – Set the tone of your business presence and stick to it – whether you want it to be serious, high-tech, sarcastic, or soulful, this is a big part of building a solid brand presence.
Using Your Style Guide as a Road Map
Your style guide should act like a map that helps your team stay on track. Sharing your style guide with every member of your team will help you to maintain consistency and ensure:
- Your graphic designer will stick to the fonts and colours your brand is known for.
- Your copywriter and social media manager will understand how to write in your brand voice.
- Your web designer can ensure your website and landing pages all have the same look and feel.
This is especially important for companies with virtual employees spanning multiple geographic regions, as this kind of business model can make it more difficult to keep everyone on the same page.
Having a style guide will make it easier for your team to access your logo, fonts, and templates, which allows you to protect your brand by keeping everything consistent.
Still, it’s always a good idea to double-check that everything conforms to your brand guidelines whenever you’re reviewing new marketing collateral.
So, now that you know what a style guide is, what it entails, and how important it is for creating consistency, let’s discuss how this relates to some of the most significant aspects of your marketing.
In today’s world, your website is the biggest statement your brand can make, and it serves as a reference to make sure all the other elements of your brand are in alignment.
This is why I am so against people using cookie-cutter template sites. They may look polished, but they lack the warmth, connection, and personality of a branded website. They’re also poorly built, and they tend to place limits on your website in terms of its design and functionality.
When it comes to the images you use on your website, make sure they’re consistent with your brand identity, but also reflective of your ideal clients.
In addition, you should also use language that will resonate with your target audience and create an about page to help visitors understand your backstory, your field of expertise, and why you’re passionate about what you do.
Getting this stuff right is critical because the more your website looks and feels like you, the better it’s going to be for attracting your ideal customers.
2) Social Media
Social media provides a plethora of opportunities for visual branding.
From Facebook cover images, to profile pics, to graphics, there are endless opportunities for people to learn more about what you do.
It’s vital to ensure the images you use evoke the feelings and emotions you want your brand to convey. The goal is for all your social media accounts to consistently helps users understand your unique vibe, and if they’re already familiar with your brand, to ensure they’ll immediately recognize you.
3) Professional Headshot
When I started my first business, I was very camera shy. So, when it came time to get some updated headshots, I dreaded it. But surprisingly enough, I feel like going through this process actually boosted my confidence.
My new headshots are used as a personal and business branding tool that help me to be more recognized online. They’re on all my social media profiles and our website, and as a result, more people recognize me when I attend local networking events.
I know it’s nerve-wracking, but Investing in new headshots can truly jump-start your brand and set you up for even greater success.
4) Sharing Photos
Sharing photos makes your marketing more personable and helps to showcase your personal brand. Like it or not, people love seeing the real person behind the business.
So, when you’re working, or you find yourself in group situations, try to be mindful of how you can snap a few photos and show your followers what you’re up to.
It might seem daunting, but it’s really quite easy, and you don’t need to have a professional photographer following you around 24 hours a day.
Take a picture holding your new book, grab a shot with a new friend you met while networking, or show the resort you’re staying at for your business mastermind.
Highlighting these moments takes minimal effort and it can help you establish a more meaningful connection with your audience, so while it might not be your cup of tea, it’s definitely worth it.
Creating videos can help you to build a much larger and more loyal following online.
But just like all your other marketing materials, you have to make sure your videos match your brand identity.
You can do this with the graphics you’re using, and all the other digital elements of your video, but you can also reflect your brand identity in many other ways, as well, such as dressing in a manner that’s consistent with your brand.
Also, wherever you decide to shoot your videos, whether it’s sitting at your desk, cooking in the kitchen, or standing in front of a green screen, you’ve got to do whatever you can to ensure everything remains consistent with your brand identity.
6) Branded Images
One of the ways to ensure marketing materials like blog articles and social media posts stay consistent with your brand identity is to use branded images.
I know this might seem overwhelming, but there are loads of free tools to help you make graphic quotes, infographics, and other visuals, so you don’t have to be a graphic design wizard.
That being said, whatever you choose to do, make sure your images remain consistent with your brand.
One of the ways to do this, aside from aligning with the visual elements and values of your brand, is by adding your logo to each image, which makes it easier for people to recognize your content when they see it.
7) Free Giveaways
When you’re offering free reports, tools, and other goodies to visitors, make sure they have the same colours, logos, and visual feel as all your other materials.
When it looks professional and makes a great impression, it builds credibility. Plus, it’s just one more piece of the brand puzzle that helps them understand what you do.
8) Email Signature
A graphic email signature like this one can add visual impact to every message you send and help to familiarize potential customers with your brand identity.
Services like WiseStamp make it easy to add your logo, picture, and social media links to your email signature, so don’t sweat it.
Your eSignatures should match your brand identity, providing an effective way to enhance and promote your brand with every email you send.
It’s also good for all your team members to set up a signature, as well, so you come across as a consistent and professional team.
Are You a Wannabe or a Real Brand?
After considering all the elements I’ve discussed above, it’s good to take a look at your brand as a whole and make sure everything is in alignment, and whether there are things you could do better.
You should take some time to consider if your visual brand is:
It’s also good to regularly consider whether your branding is fully up to date with the nature of your business, your industry, and if it accurately reflects what you do and the customers whom you serve.
Maybe you’ve become more specialized, maybe you have new product offerings, or perhaps you’re now the host of a new podcast.
Whatever the case, it never hurts to take an honest look at your brand with the eyes of an outsider and ask yourself if what you see truly reflects who you are now as a company.
To your business success, Susan