Having a brand identity is extremely important to your business’s success. However, many business owners have misconceptions about brand identities that can damage their businesses.
“Brand identity” is the result of the combination of consistent visual elements that are used in your marketing materials. A basic brand identity consists of a logo, business card, letterhead, and envelope. It can be extended to include a website, brochure, folder, flyer, or any other professionally designed pieces.
I’m not a big company: I can’t have/create/build a brand.
Just because your company’s not huge doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from creating a brand identity. Even for the smallest company, a brand identity will make you look bigger than you are, will make you appear more professional, and will make your sales process easier. You’ll also have a starting point for designing all of your marketing pieces, and your brand identity will make your marketing a breeze as well.
You might not be able to create a branding program that is as comprehensive and self-sustaining as those of some of the big companies, because you won’t be able to educate your clients like they can. Big companies with immediately recognizable logos and brand materials have made those logos and materials recognizable by spending a lot of time, money, and effort on educating the public about their brands. This is mainly done through advertising.
But this isn’t to say that you should jump out there once you have built a brand and start advertising; for many small businesses, advertising is expensive and doesn’t offer a good return on investment.
I run my business in a personalized, one-on-one way: building a brand would make my business impersonal.
Building a brand identity isn’t necessarily a depersonalizing tactic. You can build a brand that’s very personalized, and even centered on you and the way that you work with your clients. You can even use the personalized way that you run your business as a differentiation tool. That personalization can be one of the pieces of your business that makes you different.
Some major brands are built with this personalization. For example, Mrs. Field’s Cookies is built all around her story, techniques, and recipes.
Having a brand identity shouldn’t change the way that your business works. There might be some slight changes when you start working on the inner layers of your brand, but brand identity just changes the face of your business to the public, making it look cleaner and more organized and professional. You can even design your brand identity to look personalized by using a signature, initials, or even your photo in your logo or Visual Vocabulary.
Creating a brand is too much work.
There is a lot of work involved in creating a brand identity and then creating the rest of the brand to match it. But it’s all part of the overall work that you should do when you begin your business: determining your differentiators, creating your brand foundation and creating some of your brand basics, and positioning your brand.
Doing this work will give your business a clear path, and will make all aspects of your business easier. You will have the groundwork for your business laid out, and you’ll be able to build on that groundwork to create success.
Beyond this groundwork, you shouldn’t have to do much work; if you pick a good designer, you should be able to take more of an advisory role. Beyond answering some initial questions about your business and brand, you should be able to sit back and make the choices between options presented to you by that hired specialist, throughout the development of your logo and brand identity.
Your level of involvement in the design process will also vary depending on the amount of personalization that you have in your business. If you’re running a very personalized business, then you will probably want to guide the design process closely, since in a personalized business your logo should reflect your tastes and style. If you’re building a bigger business, then the style of your logo should reflect the industry and what’s best for your business; often, a designer will guide those choices.
I can’t use a symbol that’s been used before: I have to be entirely unique.
By using a variation of a symbol that’s been used before, you’re leveraging the recognition and meaning that the symbol already has. This is often the best course of action for small businesses, because you won’t have a large budget to spend on educating your audience on the meaning of a new symbol.
What should be unique about your brand identity is the way that you use these symbols. You can develop new combinations of symbols to communicate your message. Or you can arrange the symbols in a different way, or use them in place of letters in your logo to make it more unique.
Another way that you can make your symbols unique is to draw them using different techniques or effects, such as calligraphy or paint strokes, or using different proportions. These techniques make your symbols unique and interesting, and can also communicate more of your brand’s personality.
Erin Ferree is a brand identity designer who creates big visibility for small businesses. As the owner of elf design, Erin is passionate about helping her clients stand out in front of their competition and attract more clients. Her “Define Your Difference Branding Workbook” will help you with your brand definition – the most important step in the brand identity design process.