Let us paint a picture for you. It’s Saturday morning at the local supermarket. You’re in the meat section deciding between porterhouse and rib eye when you spot a familiar figure. You immediately recognize the person in front of you as the girl with the blue hair from high school. You haven’t seen her in over a decade, but she still dyes her hair the same color. It only takes you a second to remember her name because that shade of blue is burned in your memory. Her name is Lucy, and she always knew all the answers in geometry class. In effect, the way this scenario played out is how branding works. You remembered your former classmate because of her blue hair. It made her stand out back then, and it makes her stand out now. If she had dyed it a different color now, chances are slim you would’ve recognized her. Branding works the same way for businesses. Branding is the combination of distinctive, visual features that make your business recognizable and memorable—features that are unique to your business. Your logo is your main branding feature, and there are a handful of other visual elements that also contribute to your branding (which we’ll get into later in this post). For your old classmate, blue hair is the cornerstone of her personal “brand.” That’s the touchstone by which people remember her. So what’s your brand? How do you lead people to recognize and remember your business? That’s what we’ll discuss in this blog post. Keep reading!
Branding Is What Makes You Memorable
Let’s use a well-known business as an example. Take a look at how Yelp introduces its own branding on its Brand Styleguide page:
This brand guideline is like Yelp’s closet: all the pieces go together to form an outfit. And building a cohesive brand identity is like finding a sense of style. We want to be easily recognizable, so every choice we make at Yelp is deliberate and thoughtful, from our logo to Yelp Red.
The key line here is, “We want to be easily recognizable.” In a nutshell, this is the purpose of branding. To achieve this, Yelp uses a specific shade of red and a big asterisk that pops for its logo. People respond strongly to these kinds of visual elements. Even if they don’t recognize the name “Yelp,” they’ll recognize the bright-red asterisk that is its trademark. You want people to recognize your business instantly, the way you recognized your old classmate. When people see your logo on a truck, a business card, or even on Facebook, you want them to remember your name and what you do. That means following Yelp’s example and creating a signature brand of your own. Now, let’s go over the different elements (or “assets”) that compose your business’s brand.
1. Have a Meaningful Logo
Arguably, the most important asset of your brand is your logo. You must design an original logo that has a distinctive font and captures the spirit of your business. Entrepreneur.com states rather succinctly, “Your logo is a visual representation of everything your company stands for.” Therefore, you need to think long and hard about not only your products and services, but also what your mission is. What makes you different from your competitors? Unlike Nike or Coca-Cola, two of the best-known brands in the world, your growing business can’t rely on an abstract “swoosh” or a swirly font. Most people don’t know what you’re about yet, so you’ll need to be more literal when designing your logo. Find a way to incorporate what your business actually does and the essence of what your business stands for. Entrepreneur.com cites a great example:
Consider Allstate’s “good hands” logo. It immediately generates a warm feeling for the company, symbolizing care and trust. With a little thought and creativity, your logo can quickly and graphically express many positive attributes of your business, too.
So, let’s say you’re a plumbing business, for instance. What’s something that sets you apart from your competitors? Is it your dedication to trustworthy customer service? If so, you might design a logo that includes a wrench being held by two different sets of hands. This logo literally illustrates what you do (the wrench) and also symbolizes trust and dependability (helping hands). Again, visual representations are most effective, so your logo should make a statement with pictures, not words. Highlight your business’s positive attributes with a high-quality illustration. Pro tip: Be sure to trademark your logo once it’s complete! This will protect you from other companies trying to use it. (And remember, if you’re having trouble, Prospect Genius offers graphic design for custom logo creation!)
2. Choose Fitting Colors
You probably don’t often think about how colors are used in marketing. Yet, there’s an entire field of study devoted to understanding how colors affect the human brain. It’s called the “psychology of color.” And, as it turns out, color has a giant impact on branding. Generally speaking, people associate different emotions with different colors, whether they’re conscious of it or not. Some studies of color even show certain physiological effects, like hunger and anxiety (red) or relaxation (green). The two or three colors you choose for your branding will depend on what kind of emotional (or physical) associations you want to evoke. For example, the blue family of colors is often associated with reliability, stability, and cleanliness. Meanwhile, green denotes growth, health, and finance. And orange triggers playfulness and energy. For a complete breakdown of all the color groups and their associations, check out “How to Create a Distinct Color Palette for Your Brand” from Elle & Company, LLC. It’s a super-informative resource that will help you narrow down your choices. But the bottom line here is that you should think about which traits you want to highlight in your branding. Then, choose colors to support those traits.
3. Reflect Your Personality
Although personality isn’t a tangible, visual element, it’s an essential part of your brand. You have to develop a character for your brand so customers can attach their own personalities to yours. On Help Scout, Gregory Ciotti explains there are five potential “dimensions of brand personality” for businesses. Most businesses will be dominant in one of these five dimensions:
- Competence—characterized as reliable, intelligent, or successful
- Sincerity—characterized as down-to-earth, honest, wholesome, or cheerful
- Excitement—characterized as daring, cool, imaginative, or up-to-date
- Sophistication—characterized as upper-class or charming
- Toughness—characterized as outdoorsy or rugged
If you’re having trouble focusing in on your dominant personality, try thinking about how your target customers self-identify. People are more likely to connect with brands that reflect their own values and personalities. This is a helpful trick in choosing the most effective brand personality for your business. Once you’ve zeroed in on your brand’s personality, start using it as the basis for all the content you produce. Whether it’s your ad copy, social media activity, blog, or tagline, make sure it reflects this personality. This way, your business will have a consistent, recognizable character your customers can connect with.
4. Promote Your Tagline
A tagline isn’t just a summary of what your business does. A good tagline distills down the unique benefits of your business and the value they deliver to customers, all within a short sentence or two. Charles Gaudet, a contributing writer to Forbes, says the key to creating an effective tagline is first understanding your business’s “unique advantage point”:
This consists of three questions entrepreneurs need to ask themselves about their business.
- What is the ultimate benefit I want my customer to gain?
- How will my product make my customer’s life better?
- Why is my business better than my competition’s?
A great UAP builds a moat around your business that your competition won’t be able to easily replicate.
Your tagline doesn’t have to be all that clever or witty, but it must be memorable. A simple, straightforward tagline will be more memorable than one that’s trying too hard to make a play on words. Moreover, your tagline must reflect your brand’s dominant personality. If your personality is small-town sincerity, play that up in your tagline. Perhaps your down-to-earth sensibilities provide a unique benefit to your customers. Once you’ve created a tagline you’re proud of, don’t forget to use it! Since it’s a bite-sized version of your brand’s mission, you should make it as visible as possible. Put it on your website, social media pages, business cards, company vehicles—everywhere. Promote your tagline as much as you promote your business itself. Doing so is the most efficient way to build a link between your company name and the value you bring to customers.
Display Your Branding Everywhere
Of course, branding only works if you use it everywhere, across all platforms. You have to be consistent and hit people over the head with it in order for it to stick. Once people are exposed to your brand enough, they’ll begin to prefer it more and more. This is a psychological phenomenon known as the mere-exposure effect (also known as the familiarity principle). Generally speaking, people will start to like something over time purely because they’ve been exposed to it a lot. In other words, use all of your brand assets—logo, colors, personality, and tagline—as often as you can. Use them in social media, on your website, and on all of your advertisements. Moreover, use the assets together to reinforce their link to each other and to your business. When you put all this info into action for your local business, your brand will gain momentum. People will remember the big logo on the side of your truck or see your tagline on their Facebook news feed and be one step closer to calling you. Good luck!