Several years ago, when I was working as a graphic designer at a themed entertainment company, the company went through a restructuring phase. They added a “branding” department to their business.
As a fledgling designer, I had no idea what “branding” meant.
And, if I’m being completely honest, I thought that it was kind of dumb. Because to me, “branding” meant choosing a couple of colors and a logo, and plastering them all over the place.
But over the years, I’ve had the chance to observe how people and businesses grow and become successful. No one likes to admit that they were wrong, and I am no exception. However, I was dead wrong about branding.
In short, branding is everything. It’s how your audience perceives you. It’s whether or not your audience trusts you. It’s so much more than just a few colors and a logo.
Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in!
What is Branding?
Branding is the public perception of a person, company, or product. It includes tangible materials such as colors, logos, images, and fonts. However, branding is really about the impact of those tangible materials. How do your customers feel when they see you on social media or use your product? What do your customers say when others inquire about you, your company, or your product? That is the true essence of your brand.
Let’s look at an example.
What do you think of when you see this logo?
If your inner fashionista screamed, “Louis Vuitton!” You’re right! That’s an example of brand recognition.
Now, what does the Louis Vuitton brand stand for?
Chances are, when you think of the Louis Vuitton brand, you probably also think of words such as “luxury,” “quality,” and “expensive.”
That is neither a mistake nor coincidence. Crafting the Louis Vuitton brand was a conscious, concerted effort. The company has spent millions on targeted advertising campaigns depicting what their customers are supposed to feel like when they buy Louis Vuitton handbags. Their ads (and all ads for that matter, no matter what the company or product) contain the subtle message, “This could be your life—if you buy our product.”
Now, I’m not here to judge whether or not people should be spending their money on luxury items, but I will pose these questions to you:
- Do Louis Vuitton handbags function any better than other, cheaper handbags?
- Are the materials and craftsmanship that go into Louis Vuitton handbags so superior that the handbags last that much longer than other handbags?
But: Are Louis Vuitton customers happy with their purchases?
Absolutely. In fact, a quick search for #louisvuitton on Instagram reveals over 24 million posts of people showing off their new handbags, shoes, and accessories. In 2016, Business Insider named Louis Vuitton #4 on their list of the top 9 luxury brands in the world.
I’d say that their brand strategy is working quite well.
Now, let’s look at how branding applies to you.
Branding for Blogs and Small Businesses
So, we’ve covered luxury brands. What about bloggers and online business owners?
The same basic concept of branding applies, just on a much smaller scale. In fact, you’ve probably already heard blogging gurus recommend things like “define your customer avatar” and “find your voice,” right?
Well, that’s actually part of an overall brand strategy. Just like Louis Vuitton markets to affluent citizens who enjoy luxury products, as a blogger or small business owner, you need to figure out who you should be marketing to. After that, you’ll need to implement a strategy for attracting that specific audience—that’s where things like logos, colors, photos, and graphics come into play.
Now, what if your blog or small business is not ready to be “branded” like a luxury brand?
Here’s the thing: The public perception of your brand is already at work, whether you put any effort into it or not. Although you may not be intentionally broadcasting a brand strategy, your audience is constantly developing impressions about you, your product, and your company through a variety of means:
- The design of your website
- The content that you deliver through social media
- The quality of your blog content
- The type of language used in written content
- The image that you project about yourself
- The photos that are featured on your website
- How you respond to comments
- How you handle criticism
And, you may not realize it but all of these subtle cues help your audience and potential customers come to conclusions on a number of super important questions:
- Do they trust you?
- Is your information reliable?
- Do you understand their problems and pain points?
- Are you a good person?
Of course, blog readers and paying customers don’t explicitly ask themselves these questions every time they visit a web page, but in order for them to proceed with either a) opting in to your email list b) following you on social media or c) purchasing your product, all of the answers to the above questions must be “yes.” So, it behooves you to start paying attention to your brand perception as early as possible—even if your blog is brand new, and even if you’re just getting your business off the ground.The public perception of your brand is already at work, whether you put any effort into it or not.Click To Tweet
How to Start Building Your Brand
Here are some ways you can start cultivating your personal, business, or blog brand right away:
1. Brand Recognition
Remember the Louis Vuitton logo example? You can develop brand recognition by ensuring that business logo appears on all of your graphics and printed collateral. For example, if you are sharing graphics on social media, make sure that your business logo appears with it. It doesn’t have to be large or overwhelming, just make sure it’s visible. Also make sure that your business logo is featured on business cards, fliers, and postcards.
For personal brands, remember that you are your brand. Make sure that a clear, professional photo of your face appears on your website, social media profiles, and your sales pages.
2. Ditch Irrelevant Content
This is a very common mistake that I see quite frequently (and am guilty of doing myself). When starting a new blog or business, it’s very easy to say to yourself, “Well, I’m just going to lay my entire personality out and see what audiences gravitate toward.”
The problem with this strategy is that it’s very confusing for your audience and it distorts your brand image. Ask yourself this: If Louis Vuitton started selling $20 handbags alongside their $2,000 handbags, how do you think their brand would fare? Likewise, if your blog doesn’t have a specific focus, you may end up losing readers.
3. Develop a Customer Avatar
It’s incredibly important to know who your perfect customer (or perfect blog reader) is. What are their hobbies? What kind of job to they hold? What is their income? What kind of information are they looking for?
Part of creating your brand is understanding your audience. That way, you can create the kind of content that they want to consume, and you can create content in a tone that resonates. For example, if your audience is primarily teens who are into rap music, you’ll write in a tone that is very different from writing for elderly people who are into Broadway showtunes. You’ll use different examples, and you’ll use different jargon.
4. Be Consistent
This is probably the #1 piece of advice that I can give you regarding brand strategy. Consistency is absolutely the key to creating a strong brand. Here’s where consistency comes into play:
Use consistent colors. Color plays a huge role in brand recognition. You’ll notice that Coca-Cola has used the same shade of red for decades. T-Mobile has used the same shade of pink for decades. And, both of these companies have used “their color” consistently for decades on their websites, packaging, in their advertisements. If you want to create a strong brand identity, I highly recommend choosing 1-2 (maybe 3) colors and sticking to them religiously when creating your website, social media graphics, and printed collateral.
Use consistent language. What is consistent language? It’s maintaining the same tone and personality throughout all written materials. This may include blog posts, email newsletters, and social media updates. Language is a very subtle, but very impactful aspect of branding. This is why I always recommend that bloggers write their blog posts themselves (as opposed to outsourcing them) and that businesses stick to using the same copy writers.
Have a consistent message. Ultimately, your brand is about the message you are sending to the world. Having a consistent message lets your audience know that you’re focused and passionate about the change you are trying to make in the world. Make sure that you are sending the same message throughout all of your written materials and graphics by using the same terminology and projecting the same “feel.”
5. Download my Branding Resource Guide
If you’re ready to start branding your blog or website, then I highly recommend downloading my Branding Resource Guide. In this guide, I talk about all of the tools I use for all of my branding projects including which platform to use, where to find beautiful free fonts, and which software to use for graphics. Download it now!