August 2, 2021

BRANDING BASICS FOR SMALL BUSINESS

Once reserved for the big players with marketing budgets and branding agencies, today it’s easier than ever to create a quality professional brand for your small business. 

Here I break down the key parts of the brand with some key information about how to create one for yourself…

  • Brand personality
  • Brand inspiration
  • Colours
  • Typography
  • Graphical elements
  • Logo
  • Brand aesthetics
  • Word bank
  • Tone of voice
  • Signature copy

BRAND PERSONALITY

Your brand personality is a culmination of your purpose, vision, mission, and values. Once you have defined these, think of your brand like a person.

What characteristics do they have that you want your brand to emulate?

If your brand was a person – what car would they drive? What perfume would they wear? What designer would they wear? Where would they vacation? What sort of restaurant would they favour? What would they be like in a corporate setting? What would they get up to at the weekend? Would they be a young single executive, a stay-at-home mum or dad, a family and so on…imagining your brand as a person will help to develop its personality. If your brand is based on your personality, this is a lot easier to do.

What are your brand characteristics?

Feminine | Masculine | Playful | Serious | Luxurious | Affordable | Modern | Classic | Youthful | Mature | Loud | Subdued | Casual | Corporate | Friendly | Direct | Functional | Innovative | Inviting | Informal | Human | Fun | Friendly | Formal | Energetic | Fresh | Flexible | Custom | Creative | Familiar | Exclusive | Elegant | Efficient | Delightful | Cutting edge | Easy | Cool | Convenient | Unconventional | Contemporary | Conservative| Classic | Cheerful | Casual | Calm | Bold | Approachable | Accessible | Warm | Versatile | Trustworthy | Sophisticated | Sleek | Sincere | Serious | Secure | Playful | Reliable | Plain | Personable | Reliable | Unique | Quirky | Professional | Polished | Playful | Plain | Personable

BRAND INSPIRATION

Now that you have an idea of what your brands personality it, it’s time to look to existing brands both in and out of your industry for inspiration.

If you haven’t already started creating a mood board for your personality, now is time to create a document that amalgamates your brand inspiration visually in one place,  

Useful tools for mood boards and inspiration:

  • Collect App – a great tool for creating boards and collecting images, notes, screenshots, links, videos etc. in one place.
  • Pinterest – inspiration for practically any topic. Create boards and simply add pins to it to refer to later.
  • Canva – with all of your inspiring images, create a mood board from a template in Canva

You can create a mood board that brings the logos, images, elements and style of the brands that inspire yours together in one visual palette and this should really help inspire the direction for your visual brand identity. 

You can find inspiration from the following places:

  • Leaders in your industry
  • Competitors
  • Complementary brands and services
  • Your personal favourite brands

COLOURS

With a clear direction for your brand personality and some inspirational mood boards in front of you, now it is time to start looking at your brand colours.

You can have a lot of fun here playing around with palettes – but the underlying factor in your choice of colour should be the emotional connections associated with each.

According to neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, how consumers feel about a brand has more pull than what they think about a brand. With that – your brand colours can have more of an impact on your sales than the product or service itself.

Have a look at the brand colours you have in mind and what they mean here:

Choose your colours

You can choose one colour – but it makes branding and communication more challenging, and it is a lot easier to become inconsistent as you start to add other colours to break it up.

We recommend two to four brand colours including a base, an accent and a neutral. We add a ‘highlight’ colour to incorporate when highlighting or adding a fourth colour to branding.

BASE

This should be the colour that epitomises your brand personality and at the same time appeals to your audience the most. The other colours will be chosen based on how well they match this.

ACCENT

This is the secondary brand colour and should match your brand personality but should also pair visually with your base colour.

NEUTRAL

This is more of a background colour – something that avoids attention but complements the others.

HIGHLIGHT

A bright colour – usually a brighter shade of an existing brand colour. Used sparingly but to add a pop of colour or to draw attention to something.

Uses of colour

To fully utilise your brand colours and develop a strong and consistent colour association for your brand, consider using it across as many touchpoints as possible including:

  • The logo, branding and aesthetics.
  • The website, online channels, and social media.
  • In your storefront, factory and offices across the design, signage, interiors and branding.
  • Staff uniforms, back-of-house, company vehicles.
  • All advertising and communications.

TYPOGRAPHY

Before you choose a logo, it is important to choose your brand fonts. Some brands use one font throughout, but to make your brand more unique and to give more flexibility in branding font pairing incorporates the use of two or more complementary fonts – usually from different categories.

Brand fonts should:

  • Be unique & memorable.
  • Communicate your brand personality.
  • Legible.
  • Work on most platforms.

Depending on what design software you use (Canva for example) you can experiment by pairing different fonts and seeing what works well for your brand.

For an added unique touch, you can buy your brand fonts inexpensively from sites like ETSY – they are easy to download and then upload into Canva / Wix etc.

If you choose a font on a system like Canva, check that the font exists on the website platform that you will use – otherwise there could be a major disconnect between your online and onsite / printed marketing material,

Font categories – personality traits

  • Serif fonts are classic, traditional, and trustworthy
  • Sans-serif fonts are modern, clean, and help create minimal designs
  • Slab serif fonts are bold, quirky, and confident
  • Script fonts are elegant and unique
  • Handwritten fonts are informal and artistic
  • Decorative fonts are stylized, distinctive, and dramatic

vennage.com

GRAPHICAL ELEMENTS

Sometimes these are selected after the logo, but I select them before choosing a logo because they should be defined by the brand personality more than the creative confines of the logo and I find that some elements even come to feature in the logo – often completing it – something that may have been missed when building the brand, the other way.

Graphical elements are essentially all the small details that really build a branding system. A texture, a line style treatment, a use of white space or colour block, the use of an object, sketch or design detail or a unique interpretation / presentation of spelling (always using a lower case first letter).

LOGO

There’s an abundance of guidance, techniques, applications and more to help you generate a logo so we will keep this very top line.

You should already have your brand personality nailed, your brand colours, typography and brand elements so lay all of that ingredients out and start baking yourself a high impact, visually pleasing logo.

  • Keep it simple.
  • Use a brand fonts, colours and graphical elements where possible.
  • Create something that represents your brand personality.
  • Make sure it is not too small, too big and that it is scalable.
  • Have a logo alternative for light or dark backgrounds.
  • Don’t be afraid to create alternatives and ask others for their favourite.
  • Don’t get lost in creating a logo that looks pretty if it’s at the expense of the logo’s clarity or meaning..
  • Strike the right balance between what looks distinctive and reflects the brand with what is functional and speaks to the audience.
  • Sometimes it is best to start by putting all of your fonts and colour variations / graphics onto a mood board and playing around from there.

BRAND AESTHETICS | IMAGE STYLE

Your brand aesthetic are the visual look or appearance of your content and marketing materials. It helps establish a mood, tone and style that is unique to your brand and its personality and ensures that you achieve consistency throughout your social media channels.

Research conducted demonstrates that consistent branding can increase revenues by 23% – a high number considering that only 10% of brands consider this.  

Not only this – a strong aesthetic can make your brand more memorable and recognisable – important considering that 60% of consumers prefer to purchase from brands they are familiar with.

Considerations for creating a brand aesthetic:

1. Understand your brand personality and your audience

What is your brand personality and what is the audience’s persona? You can see your audience from your insights – so make sure that you’re creating an aesthetic that appeals to them. If you’re targeting men for example and your aesthetic is pink and girly, there will be a disconnect.

2. Get design style inspiration from other brands

Take a look at the marketing material and feeds of those existing brands around you – take note of any styles, designs, images or ways of presentation that appeal to you.

3. Choose a powerful colour that is memorable and stands out

We did some work previously on your brand colours – use these to define your brand’s aesthetic as well as your fonts and other graphical elements.

4. Choose your filters, fonts and graphical elements carefully and use them consistently

Don’t just choose a filter or style and apply it – experience and see what it looks like in different ‘settings’. Once you have defined the styles that you will use, use them consistently,

5. Create an aesthetic toolkit

Keep everything in one place on your laptop / phone / library / google drive / drop box to give you quick access and ensure that you are using them. You can even create templates to use.

6. Incorporate aesthetics into your brand guide

Include your brand aesthetics and guidelines for it in your overall brand guideline.

WORD BANK

This is a useful tool to have for your brand, content, and promotional materials (social media captions, ad copy, landing page CTAs, blog posts, product descriptions etc.)

Using certain words repeatedly will build familiarity with your audience. A word bank can also be used to define words that cannot be used – shortened versions of the brand name (Maccy D’s (McDonalds) and Sparks (M&S). It is one thing if the audience give your business a nickname, it’s quite another to promote this (unless it’s part of your strategy).

Start by listing everything that springs to mind for the following (write it all down – you can come back and define it later).

  • Words to describe your business and its purpose
  • Words that define your brand personality
  • Phrases that describe the business
  • Short product descriptions
  • Short service descriptions
  • Tag lines
  • Headlines
  • Call to action

TONE OF / BRAND VOICE

It is advisable to put some thought into your tone of voice / brand voice at this stage and set a standard and tone, but the truth is – your brand voice will evolve and be easier to define once you have started communicating.

The following steps can help you to define it:

  • Take your existing content or content from your brand inspiration board and identify the styles and elements that you would like to adopt.
  • Describe your brand as if it were a person: sassy, quiet, crazy, demure, feisty. Now look at how these characteristics show up in your content and word bank.
  • Look at some of the core areas of your business and create some powerful sentences that you will use to describe them (your service, the product, the people, the place, the promise and so on). This will form the basis of your brand / tone of voice.

SIGNATURE COPY / DESCRIPTION

The best thing to do when establishing a brand is to create your signature copy – an overview that covers all areas of your business.

This is important because:

  • It serves as content that can be used and repurposed consistently across the channels.
  • It saves a lot of time – having to keep rewriting content for different purposes.
  • It can be broken down into parts and used to form the basis of your social media content calendar / captions.
  • It helps to establish and define your tone of voice

Start with an overview / intro paragraph that summarises everything – you can use the principles of press release writing here to cover the  W’s the: Who, What, Where, When, Why (and how.)

Now for each part / section / key area of the business, hash out the description a bit more until you create an overview that defines your brand and communications your tone of voice,

Now break this down further into descriptions of 50 | 100 | 250 | 500 words. These will be useful when branding and completing your social media profiles later on.

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About the author

Katie King is the founder and CEO of Katie King & Co. – a branding and marketing agency that specialises in start-ups, lifestyle & hospitality.

Regarded by her peers as the ‘queen of marketing’, she is renowned for delivering high quality results with budget savvy techniques garnered from years of global luxury marketing experience in some of the world’s most competitive markets.

She is also a guest lecturer in personal branding, a professional marketing mentor for The Sounding Board Charity and she is a marketing advisor to London Rock Partners.

Katie King & Co. empowers other ambitious businesses and professionals by…

  • ​Bringing start-up brands to life and online with flexible start-up packages.
  • Turning lifestyle and hospitality businesses into brands that customers love.
  • Transforming personal brands into professional success stories.

Get in touch to see how she can help transform your brand vision into a beautiful yet affordable reality.

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