Starting a new business is daunting! There are a lot of considerations, many of which are likely foreign to you and not in your wheelhouse. But, you know to start strong and be successful, you’ve got to tackle all of them in some manner.
Just as an attorney guides you through your business formation, a branding professional guides you through the creation, implementation, and maintenance strategies of your new business. The most successful young businesses are those that included a branding professional at the very beginning–not just to design a logo but for all the strategies that can help influence your customers’ experiences, like in-store flow and mood. Your branding professional can also help you identify service providers for all the messaging and visual materials. Often, getting a branding pro on-board early can save money in the long run.
If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.
Branding your business means it’s not about you
Branding is a very broad term. When businesses without a branding professional DIY their branding, they focus on only a small segments of the term and miss out on the most important aspects. Typically, DIYers assume branding means their logo, so they focus on that one piece and on themselves.
Yes, it’s indeed your business. However, without clients, your business is broke or just a hobby. You’re going down the wrong path if the most important things to you are that:
- You use your favorite color(s) in the logo.
- The logo includes an image of your favorite place, thing, or person.
- It reflects your personality.
While those things might be important to you, are they important to your ideal clients? Will they resonate with them?
Let’s step back for a moment.
You ideal client, do you know who s/he is? Maybe you have a few ideal clients, do you know what motivates each one?
For a lot of new business owners, identifying an ideal client is foreign. “I sell to everyone. Everyone can by my products!” The problem is that when you “sell to everyone” no one buys. Why? It’s because you aren’t speaking clearly enough to identify who needs your product or what problem your product solves for them. For example, I design websites. That’s pretty clear on what I do. But, not everyone needs a website. If you’re not in business, you don’t need my services. That’s one, still too broad, way to narrow my focus.
Old-school sales and brochures were simply statements like, “Here’s our product. It does X, Y, Z, and XY and XZ! When you use our product, you get ABC.”
That’s nothing more than a product description. Today’s consumers are more sophisticated. Therefore, we need to know more intimately who truly needs our products or services. Who needs them the most? That doesn’t mean that you’re rejecting all others; although, it very well could mean that if your niche puts you in high demand! It simply means that you’re speaking directly to your ideal client. Others will listen in and maybe even join in on the conversation when part of the conversation turns to resonate with them.
This is what a branding professional can help you understand and learn to do well–speak to your ideal client. Your branding professional can also help you understand that you may be marketing to people who are very different from you.
Your ideal client matters most. Now, you probably see why when it comes to branding, you ideal client matters far more than you do. This is the most important step in the branding process that is typically overlooked by new business owners.
Understanding psychological and physiological associations and responses
There’s a lot here to discuss and understand. Ultimately, you need to know that these things matter more than most are conscious of:
- Color meanings and cultural associations
- Shape meanings and context with other shapes and color
- Typographic styles and historical associations
Design considers far more than “pretty” when it comes to communicating. These are all considerations of your branding professional, who can move through these interactions thoughtfully but more quickly than the lay person. For example, a service solving sleep problems for children would not be served well with color combinations that are hard to process and create tension. Magenta and green appear to vibrate when touching. This creates a sense of tension, stress.
This phenomenon is called simultaneous contrast. When two colors influence each other, changing our perception of these colors (more or less saturated, more or less bright). It can be observed both with different hues, or luminosities.
The fact that the after-image or simultaneous contrast is a psycho-physiological phenomenon should prove that no normal eye, not even the most trained one, is foolproof against color deception. He who claims to see color independent of their illusionary changes fools only himself, and no one else.
—Interaction of Color, Josef Albers 1963
Color choices, proximity of those colors to others (spatial relationships), and intensity of contrast affect us whether we are aware of them or not. Colors have meanings. Adding a color element that touches or overlaps the first changes the overall meaning of the design. Adding space between the color elements changes the meaning yet again. Proximity affect the context of colors in a design.
The elements that contain colors are shapes. Those shapes might be geometric, in the form of letters, realistic depiction, or abstract image. Just like colors, every shape in design has meaning, and the shapes next to them alter that meaning.
Typography is the study of letter forms. Letters are shapes. Each shape affects the other just like color. Also, like color, typefaces have cultural and era-specific associations. For example, Art Deco typography is associated with a specific time period.
“Art Deco developed into a major style in western Europe and the United States during the 1930s…. Art Deco design represented modernism turned into fashion. Its products included both individually crafted luxury items and mass-produced wares, but, in either case, the intention was to create a sleek and anti-traditional elegance that symbolized wealth and sophistication.”
Choosing this style for a Western Wear retailer might provide some confusion for passersby on the street or in cyberspace. While this is an extreme and the most recognizable typeface and era, all typography has a place in history and meaning. Your conscious awareness of it doesn’t matter; it’s part of your subconscious historical association. While you likely don’t know these associations, your branding professional designer does and uses these associations to subconsciously influence your ideal clients and set the mood.
This one is the easiest to explain but the hardest for many to do. Why? It should be easy, right?
When you go through the branding process, you get all the color, typography, photographic, voice and tonal style information for your brand known as your brand standards. Implementing your brand standards and monitoring all communications for adherence to them are time-consuming. Many businesses hire full-time or contract “brand managers” that do just that; it’s their sole responsibility.
Of course, much of it could be remedied with some technical training. However, many new, small businesses don’t have the bandwidth to do so. They “guess” or get “close” to what was set forth in the brand standards. Just like the childhood game “Rumor” or “Grapevine”, what comes out down the line is much different from the original. That begins the muddy waters of confusion for your would-be clients.
You don’t know what you don’t know
This information is meant to expose what you may not have considered. It’s also to answer the question I hear often, “What’s the difference between my sandwich shop and the really busy one down the street? My sandwiches are better.” It’s not about the sandwich; it’s what you’re saying, what you’re not saying, and the messages you’re sending in between. This information is to help you know the other ways you’re sending messages and how those can influence your ideal clients and your bottom line.
Hiring a brand professional, even just as a consultant, can help you grow more quickly and save you from the expensive mistakes and pitfalls of not hiring a branding professional. A confusing brand message can be clarified, but at what cost?
Now that you’re aware of some of the elements that affect your brand, you have a basic understanding of the depth of knowledge your brand strategist and designer should have.