Your brand is more than just a logo.
It’s the way your product or service comes to life for your user. And the visuals are a tool to communicate who you are and what you stand for.
Sounds easy enough, but you’d be surprised how many companies pick a few pretty colors, duct tape together a logo, and consider their brand ‘complete.’
Your customer is not one-size-fits all, just passively waiting to hear what service or product you’re offering. On the contrary, people today are cynical when it comes to messaging, marketing and value propositions. Attention spans are getting shorter and attracting (and retaining) good customers needs to go deeper than just a strong call to action. To build a long-lasting relationship with your customer you have to define and embrace the soul of your brand.
Consider this, every single time someone interacts with your brand (lands on your website, reads an article, hears about it from a colleague, stumbles upon a social post, etc.) it is an opportunity to make an impression. Users don’t care who in the company is responsible for product or marketing or customer service. It’s all the same brand to them.
Try this, cover up the logo on your website and ask a customer to guess who the company is. If you can easily swap in or out a competitor’s logo (or worse, any logo in any vertical) without anyone noticing, well, that’s a problem.
But all hope is not lost. Please, keep reading.
Obsess over your customer
For a company to truly succeed, the work has to be put into identifying and nurturing the brand.
This can feel overwhelming. For companies with limited resources and time, what’s the most efficient way to accomplish identifying and proselytizing your brand?
The answer to this massive question is, good old-fashioned research. There are no shortcuts to defining your brand. ChatGPT can give you some juicy buzzwords but the only way to define the soul of your brand is to roll up your sleeves and listen.
Talk to existing users. Talk to prospective users. As many as possible. As often as possible. When you present your business to investors, customers, etc., what are their most common questions? Alleviate those in all of your communications to remove barriers. Understand their pain points, their challenges and how you can uniquely solve these for them. Go beyond just generalized demographics like household income, age and location. What does your customer need most? And when do they need it?
Obsess over this customer constantly. How would they describe your brand in a single sentence to a friend or family member? What does this person do when they’re NOT even thinking about your product? What’s their Starbies order? Who is their favorite Peloton instructor?
Your reason for existing is paramount for not only standing out in your industry but being successful long term. A good brand has defined its culture. Its mission. Its ethos. Its energy. And it all stems from the customer.
We don’t design for products. We design for people.
What should emerge is a clear understanding of your perfect customer. A single, definable persona that everyone can reference internally. A character that should be used to gut check every single touchpoint you build. The beauty of this is that it separates your personal opinions from that of the person you are making this for. It provides necessary objectivity.
Everything you do from this point forth should be rooted in this single customer truth. The ideal customer you are trying to serve.
When this is defined, it’s time to create; logo, website, social content, sales collateral, typography, imagery, messaging, voice and tone, color schemes and on and on out of this information.
Making the brand actionable
Resources are finite. Time, dollars and where you focus your efforts are at a premium these days. Finding the right brand partner is critical to unlocking your brand’s potential.
The right branding partner should be collaborative, provocative and insightful. Each job has a context, and the right partner studies it before they start. At SIREN, when we embark on any brand or marketing campaign, if it looks familiar, we try something else. This is important for ownability.
Most importantly, they should be providing an actionable set of deliverables to make your life easier. A website with good CMS capabilities, a strong brand guidelines document, visuals that can flex regardless of channels.
You should not have to rely on your branding partner every single time you want to create content or update your website. Rather, you should find a partner that can set you up for success with a library of tools and graphics to empower your internal teams and optimize your output.
A cheat sheet of brand outputs that work double duty:
- A brand system (not just a logo, but a brand world. This includes how icons, patterns, images and colors come together in this world you have created). If you only have a logo, you should expand this into a more robust system.
- This exercise should include social backgrounds (Zoom, LinkedIn, and any other channels you are present on).
- Brand voice and tone (get headlines written in this exercise. They are flexible and evergreen). This embodies the personality of your brand. Are you a thought leader, guiding your users into the future? Are you an approachable, upbeat company making the daily lives of your users more delightful? Identifying this piece aligns all of your messaging to ensure it’s consistent and recognizable. A good headline makes people stop and look.
- A Brand style guide to move your team forward on how to be guardians of the brand, ensuring each touchpoint reinforces the next to maximize impressions. It should also have voice and tone, to ensure everyone is speaking the same language.
- A responsive website that is editable. When thinking about a website it’s important to start from the perspective of the audience. Truly. Look at it through their lens and you will find the content creation to be much simpler.
- Who is this website for? (A website for investors and social proof is much different than for a customer or even for the purposes of recruiting top talent. Knowing this will help you create the correct information hierarchy.)
- What do you want them to do on the website? This will influence the flow.
- What else are they looking at and how can you cut through the noise?
- And if you were them, what questions would your website need to answer to take the next step? Often you will know what questions your customers, investors etc are asking when you present your business in person. Take these questions to heart and answer them on the website.
- A pitch or sales deck. Please get your deck professionally designed. This is often the critical piece of the puzzle that can secure that investment, partnership or article. And this is most often the piece that is not professionally designed and looks nothing like the rest of the brand. It is a relatively low spend for an incredibly high return. You can also use the initial deck design and repurpose for any communications moving forward. Truly, a workhorse deliverable.
The rest of the deliverables depend on your product and channels. But the above are foundational assets that every company needs.
A final thought
Like your company, your brand is iterative. Whether you’re creating a company from scratch or evolving something that’s existed for years, you should continuously listen, engage and massage your brand.
Remember, the soul of your brand is a living, breathing entity. An immaterial or spiritual essence which will animate, govern and define your company’s existence.
About the Author
SIREN is a brand experience design studio that delivers award-winning creative for early-seed game changers to Fortune 500 powerhouses.
Firebrand works with a variety of agencies and partners. In this series, we are sharing their perspectives.