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Branding Cliff Notes for Successful Brands

A brand is a logo, right?! Actually, no. Brands, branding, identities, & logos are often misunderstood. These are the essential building blocks for good storytelling.
Target Audience Freebie on iPad

A brand is a logo, right?! Actually, no. Brand’s aren’t logos. 

Brands, branding, identities, & logos are often misunderstood. When working on strategic website builds we require branding, brand identity and assets, and professional photos. These three elements are the essential building blocks needed for good storytelling for content marketing, social media marketing, and website design. 

Branding is storytelling. Effective storytelling requires a concise goal and a cohesive presentation.

Table of Contents

Branding Definitions

Your brand is your ideal customer’s perception of your company. 

It’s formed from the reviews clients leave reviewing you/your products and services, the tone that’s used to describe you in interviews, your values, and your marketing.

Branding is the effort to influence the perception of your company.

Branding is the way that you make the business look good, have favorable positioning, influence value, etc.

The goals of branding are to build trust, create loyalty, influence advocacy, and encourage identity. 

  • Build Trust
  • Advocacy
  • Loyalty
  • Identity/Self Identification

Identity is the set of visual elements that represent a brand. 

A logo is a symbolic representation of the company.

The only job of a logo is to be memorable. Logos are part of the brand expression and brand expression is the visual representation of the brand strategy. Logos are only as strong as the brand strategy behind them.

Brand Strategy

Brand Strategy includes vision, values, mission, archetypes, tone/voice, purpose, customer experience, target audience, positioning, offerings, and more. 

Developing the brand strategy starts with understanding why you’re in business, what you offer, and who the offer is for. 

  • Why you are in business
  • Value Proposition–what you offer 
  • Target Audience–who is the offer for

 

One of my favorite books about branding, “Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen Hardcover” by Donald Miller, emphasizes the importance of getting the brand story right so that your message resonates with customers.

When you clarify your message, your website starts working for you. Your team members become a sales force, and your customers speak a viral message that spreads. You Can’t Afford to Confuse Customers.

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I love this book! Read it or listen to it, but either way, here’s the link…

Brand Archetypes 

A newer line of thought in branding is identifying a brand archetype to help align the message with the customer. 

Laura Jane Boast of LJB Studios writes, “Discovering your Brand’s Archetypes (sic), not only does this help you gain a better understanding of your brand’s personality, but you can utalise its traits to re-align your brands aesthetic, products or services, make better inform decisions, help to bring consistency, use the right tone of voice for your customer and even gain insight into how to deepen your connection with your customers.”

Brand Strategy & Design Process

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Brand Guidelines

Branding experts deliver a ‘Brand Style Guide’ that records the identity to keep the brand cohesive. 

Brand Guidelines, or a Brand Style Guide, visually encompasses everything about the brand including the mission statement, buyer personas, color palette, editorial style guide, typography/brand fonts, etc…

1

Brand Identity

Identity is the set of visual elements that represent a brand. 

Your brand identity is a collection of assets.

Brand Assets include: 

  • Logo & logo variations
  • Color palettes
  • Brand fonts/Typography
  • Graphics/Iconography
  • Photography Style

 

Brand assets are an opportunity to cohesively speak to your target audience through design–each element is selected to evoke a specific set of emotions and perceptions about your brand. 

Fantastic branding minimizes visual confusion by consolidating elements and assets into single objects (brand).

“The stronger the relationship between elements on a page, the better the communication."

The brand assets are used for

  • Signage
  • Collateral, such as menus, catalogs, flyers
  • Web Presence, including website, banners, and emails
  • Merchandising
  • Stationery
  • Advertising
  • Content Marketing
  • Internal use such as reports, memos, etc…

Logos

A logo is a symbolic representation of the company.

When you receive your brand identity, there are several logo variations included…primary logo, stacked logo, submarks, icons, and miscellaneous logos. 

Logo Variations

Cassie Gudmundson explains each logo variation in her blog post, ‘Logo Variations’. Here’s what she says: 

Primary Logo
This is the most complex version of your logo. If you have tag lines, location info, or an illustration in your branding this is the logo where you would include that.

Best used for: website headers and large printed collateral (ie. a postcard or welcome packet).

Stacked Logo
This is a version of your logo that’s a bit tighter and more compact. Most often, a stacked version of a very horizontal logo. (Or vice versa for a primary logo that’s vertical in nature!)

Best used for: smaller collateral like a business card or mobile header on your website

Submarks
This mark is a simplified version of your logo that still includes your business name. The small shape makes it ideal for places where a full written logo wouldn’t fit very well. This can also include marks with additional information (like a tagline or ideal client description) that works together with your primary logo.

Best used for: small print pieces (ie. stickers) as well as stamps. Also profile photos for social media.

Icons
Similar to a submark, this is a small design mark that can stand in when your logo wouldn’t fit. Often an icon only includes an abbreviation of your business name OR a small illustration / mark.

Best used for: social media profiles or favicon on your website.

Misc Logos
Number 5 really depends on your business. Some brands will need another logo variation outside of their Primary and Stacked logo. Some brands need additional submarks or tagline designs. This could also just be a very simplified version of the logo. Consider that places where you will most often be using branding and decide what would be most beneficial from there!

Brand fonts/Typography

Choosing the correct fonts allows all of the elements to sync together and strengthen the perceived brand. I’m going to skip explaining this–it’s too important to be served well with a synopsis. 

Graphics/Iconography

*Same for this.

Color palettes

The Print Shop from Carleton University explains color palettes like this:

Colour sets the mood of brand expression. Emotions are powerful and have the ability to drive decision making. Brands want to cultivate strong emotional connections with their customers and this can’t be done with just a logo; colours are needed to cultivate these emotions. How consumers feel about a brand has more pull than what they think of a brand. Furthermore, if you couple this with the fact that we know certain colours evoke certain emotions, your brand colours then have the ability to impact sales and performance.

Photography Style

As a former professional photographer, I know that brand photography is imperative to cohesive marketing and site design!

People shop with their eyes.

Great photography tells a story. Great brand photography works to understand the brand story, capture it visually, and give your business the assets necessary to create a cohesive and compelling brand.

The photography style should be in alignment with the brand identity. The most basic way to explain this is to decide if the color palette is warm or cool toned, and then make photographic choices that align with the same tone.

I don't own any of these images, they're used for educational purposes.

Photography Style, Example 1

Instead of comparing wedding brands or something obscure, let’s look at Airbnbs. 

  • Each listing is a brand
  • Each listing has its own brand aesthetic
  • Each listing has a dedicated photography style

Airbnb 1

Modern, clean, warm — neutral

Airbnb 2

Sleek, outdoorsy, clean — warm

Airbnb 3

Traditional, tranquil, clean — cool

Photography Style, Example 2

Let’s compare two brand that seem very similar but really are quite different. 

madewell

Madewell

warm, clean, energetic

everlane

Everlane

bright, minimal, and calm

The images you develop for your brand need to reflect the branding in order to communicate an effective story. 

How to Refine Your Brand

If you’ve read this far, you probably have a business and already use a logo, but if you’re looking to develop or refine your brand on your own, here’s what to do…

9 Steps To Refine Your Brand

  1. Start by developing the Target Audience–FREEBIE – Target Audience
  2. Develop the brand story. Go to this site: https://www.mystorybrand.com/, sign up, create a Brandscript for each product/service you offer
  3. Create a private Pinterest board and pin things that you think represent that target audience & your story well. Keep pinning. 
  4. Look at the board and delete the elements that don’t align well with the majority of the pins
  5. Take a screenshot of the refined Pinterest board.
  6. Go to Coolors.co and create a color palette using that screenshot. Do this 3-5x.
  7. Determine if those color palettes are warm or cool.
  8. Hire a branding specialist to develop the brand assets and guidelines
  9. Hire a professional photographer to work with the brand guidelines to create images for your content marketing, social media, and website that tell your target audience’s story!

Practical advice for wedding planners & venues

Since you rely on photos from a wide variety of photographers/photographic styles, work through the process and decide if your brand color tones are warm or cool. Utilize, primarily, only the photos that match that color tone.