The Science of Branding: Branding Rules
When people think of branding, they typically only think of the art behind it. The design of the logo, the illustrations on the flyers, the posts made on social media. The creative aspect of branding is incredibly important as drawing the viewers' attention is half the battle. The first battle, though, is putting your ads and other branding in front of the viewers’ eyes in the first place.
Getting them to notice you is impossible if they can’t see what you’re putting out. That’s where the science of branding comes into play. Branding is all about putting yourself out there while simultaneously catching your audience’s eye. A challenge, yes. Impossible, no.
If you’re looking to brand your company and you don’t know where to start, here are some guidelines you can use to get started. Although this list is definitely not comprehensive, it will at least give you some parameters to help you move forward.
Competitor research is fairly self explanatory. Even if you have come up with a totally new product that’s never been seen before, you’ll have people who provide similar products or services to you.
For example, if you have a completely new and original baked item that you want to sell, you’re still a part of the baking community. More generally speaking, you’re part of the food industry.
The goal of competitor research is to look at people who are running similar businesses as you and find out what is helping them succeed. Here are some steps that will help you complete your competitor research successfully.
First, make a list of all the competitors you can think of. Professionals suggest ten, but if it’s a little bit more or less, it’s okay. Use Google if you can’t think of enough and look up their social media, websites, and other platforms.
Once you’ve found them, study their strategies. Look for patterns in their posts as well as continuing themes in their websites and other branding.
What are they doing well? Put yourself in the place of the consumer. What is making you want to buy with them? Are their colors relaxing? Would you trust them to complete the task or provide the product?
Use this information to grow your own ideas. Competitor research should be viewed like gleaning from a field. Take the good stuff and ignore the rest. Anything you think will be successful at your business, remember and try. Leave anything else.
Working on Multiple Mediums
The world is no longer one dimensional in terms of marketing. People use way more avenues than even a few years ago. Instead of passing out brochures, people are giving out their Instagram handles.
Those profiles have links to their Facebook pages, and their websites, and their mobile sites. People will hand you business cards and flyers that have all kinds of different combinations of social media and website links along with ways you can contact them.
What this means for you is that your business needs to be set up on all platforms and mediums. Your branding needs to be adaptable to print projects, websites, mobile sites, and social media. Your colors, your language, all of your branding needs to be consistent and uniform throughout all of the ways your business is available to the public.
Be prepared for your branding to be tweaked according to the medium you’re using, but try your best to be recognizable and authentically you throughout all the platforms. Learn each avenue of branding, and make sure that your guide works on all of those avenues.
Simplicity is Key
Sometimes, less is more. The goal is to convey as much as you can with as little as you can. The last thing you want to do is confuse your audience. Sometimes you, knowing every little detail of your business, can look at a branding item and not be confused, but someone else who doesn’t have the same knowledge as you will be lost in the web of information they are presented with.
You don’t want to do this to your audience because confusion equals a lost customer. The way to avoid this with branding is to simplify your concepts as much as you can. If they only learn one thing about your from looking at your logo, what do you want that to be? Carefully consider this and then use that answer to condense your branding.
As far as logo specific branding, seriously try to avoid confusing your audience with busy symbols and typography. Whether you are designing your logo yourself or having someone else do it for you, be absolutely sure that an “average joe” looking at your logo will know what you do without being lost in the clutter.
Know Your Audience
Another thing to consider as you work through branding your company is who you are marketing to. Who is your audience? Many companies make the mistake of trying to appeal to everyone in every age group from every walk of life. This simply cannot be done. Although you may be able to hit some secondary groups of people you didn’t expect, you need to focus on your primary demographic.
This means you need to decide who your primary demographic is! Think about yourself. What are all the different categories that you fit into? Your age, your income, your occupation, familial status, your marital status, your hobbies, and many more qualities send you into different categories of people. Using these categories, think about who you are trying to entice.
What type of job do they work at? Are they young or old? Are they making a lot of money or not? What kind of goals do you think they set? What are they interested in? Come up with your ideal consumer, and then target your branding and marketing to that person.
Be Authentic and Real with Your People
People respond to authenticity. No one likes a faker. If you’re trying to be something that you’re not, people will recognize, consciously or unconsciously, and be turned off by you. Use that to your advantage. Although learning from others is never a bad thing, using your own tactics and ideas can make you stand out from the crowd.
The goal is to be recognizable – to make an impression that people won’t forget. The best way to do that is to be yourself. If your whole industry is doing one thing, and you’re doing the opposite, it may be a risk, but it may come with rewards as well. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, and work to make business benefit from how genuine you are.
Tell Your Story
A great way to get people to remember you is to tell your story – your true, authentic story. Through this, you can communicate your business’s message more fully and more impactfully. Really dig deep to find the message you want to spread with your business, and don’t be afraid to let it shine through to the surface through your branding.
The bottom line is that people want to know you. They want to know why you started your business. Telling your genuine story will help them connect with you and with your business. People are more inclined to buy from places they have emotional connections to, and they are more likely to have emotional connections to places that tell authentic stories. So tell yours, and let that be a part of your branding.
How Do You Stand Apart?
Once you are recognizable with your community, you’ll want to consider standing apart with your brand. Whether it’s an image or a slogan or even something else, consider what it is that people know is your business. For example, the Olympic games use five rings all interconnected and individually colored as their logo. Everyone around the world knows when they see those rings what they stand for. Athletes even have the rings tattooed on their body. What is your stamp? What do people remember about you?
Branding is about bringing together all that is your business in a way that creatively and effectively communicates all of that to your audience. What this means is that every single aspect of your branding from color to images to typography sends a message to your clients. You want that message to be clear and consistent as to build trust with your consumers.
The way to do this is to be consistent. Consistent does not mean identically uniform, though. In the words of many grandmas, “It doesn’t need to match – it needs to go together.” It’s not about doing the same thing over and over; it’s about making your branding all fit together compactly and cohesively.
So what does cohesive branding look like? It looks like using the same colors on all of your business’s things. It looks like having a few fonts that are specifically approved for your brand. It looks like having a style of typography and illustration that is preapproved to represent your business. Using these tools in different combinations and ways will allow your designers and branders to be creative while maintaining the integrity of your brand.
What are Your Rules?
An awesome tool that many people use to make sure their brands stay consistent is a brand guide. Basically, a brand guide is a little booklet that contains your branding rules.
The goal of a branding guide is to steer whoever is working on a particular marketing project towards what you want and away from anything that would upset your balance. You want to tell them what manipulations you’re okay with and which ones you aren’t.
So what basics need to be included in a brand guide? Anything you deem important should be in there, but here are some simple inclusions that will give you a good idea of what a designer will need to know.
1. Your mission statement and/or slogan.
2. Your business’s unique color palettes and what translation to use (CMYK, RGB, Pantone).
3. Your acceptable fonts and how to use them properly.
4. What your style is. Examples help a lot in this area.
5. Anything that you are absolutely not okay with. Again, examples will aid quite a bit in this area.
The more information you can give your designer or marketer or whoever is working on your projects, the better. Your branding is about communicating your business to your audience, right?
Think of your branding guide as the handbook on how to introduce your company. You wouldn’t expect someone to read your mind, right? So put your thoughts down in a way that is clear and concise thus making it easier for the people around you to produce a product that you are pleased with.
Create a Flexible Brand
One of the biggest and most important lessons to learn while branding is that no one knows it all. There will be things that you are spectacularly good at and things that you are absolutely abysmal at.
Don’t be afraid to fail, but never fail in the same area over and over again. Learning is all a part of the process, so don’t be afraid to exchange old branding strategies for new ones as you learn more about the process and more about your business. Being adaptable will help you grow faster and more sustainably in the long run.
Additionally, it is important to consider that your company may change and grow! Branding should be one of the first parts of opening any business, so it is very possible that your business will change as you move further into your industry. Don’t be afraid of that change.
Embrace it, and allow your branding to reflect those changes. Although large scale rebranding should come few and far between, and they might be a challenge, as long as you remain authentic and open with your audience, they will be right there following and waiting!
Work for Attention
The last guideline that we have for you is to work for your attention. Success doesn’t happen overnight, and neither does branding. You can have the perfect logo and marketing strategies, but building trust with your consumers will take time.
Not only that, but you’ll have to work for their attention as well. You may know how unique your product or service is, but no one else will if you aren’t able to communicate that effectively.
To gain traction, you should use creativity combined with hard work and statistics. Any campaigns you run should be creative yet true to your brand. They should catch the eye and make the viewer want more.
Maintain your brand’s integrity, but allow your creative team to use their talents to your benefit. They have expertise and good taste. That’s why you hired them! Make sure they stick to your brand guide, but trust their instincts as well.
You want your viewer’s attention, but it doesn’t come easily. Each person sees thousands of posts, advertisements, updates, and news articles every day. With social media and the web booming more than ever, your business is not the only one seeking your audience’s attention.
Getting people to stop for even a second to learn more about your business is truly a challenge. Many successful businesses will tell you this themselves. This means that you will have to work harder than ever to be recognized. The best way to do this is to stand out from the crowd.
This is why we encourage you to be yourself. Working for attention can consist of buying ads, working harder on your designs, or even rebranding yourself, but ultimately, you are what makes your business unique. Because of your story, your experience, and your background, this company exists. Pour time and effort into making people see that.
As we have said in the past and will continue to say in the future, branding is an ongoing process. It doesn’t happen over night, and you will have to maintain your standards and consistency moving forward. You may even have to change your approach completely like we talked about earlier in this article!
Growing your customer base, learning new marketing strategies, understanding your target audience more, and just continuing on this journey of branding will help you build your business and make more sales.
The best advice we can give you is to never give up. Even if you’ve failed over and over again with branding, don’t let it discourage you. Keep learning from your mistakes and from those around you!
Find mentors and talented team members to help you with the aspects of branding that are outside of your skill set. Learn the algorithms. Put the effort in. Branding is tough work, and maintaining your branding can be even tougher, but the sales and success that come with it is worth all of the hardship.