Don't Skip These Steps When Starting Your Brand

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Your brand is more than just your logo. Yes, a logo is probably the easiest way to distinguish yourself from the competition, but it does not act alone. Just because you may have a “prettier” logo than a competitor doesn’t mean their clientele will be flocking to you. Effective brands evoke a feeling and an idea their audience can connect with.

When most think of a personal brand, the face is seen as the logo. It’s the most recognizable feature of a human. But every guy with a gorgeous jaw-line doesn’t always have the personality or values to match.

Knowing where to start in building a brand can be overwhelming. How do you begin to figure out what your brand is, how it should look, and what it should make others feel?

Step 1: Identify Your Real Audience

a group of people walking through New York City
Photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash

First things first, who are you trying to reach with your brand? What audience are you looking to connect with?

Not knowing who you are targeting is like fishing in the middle of the ocean. Infinite options, but you’ll have to rely on pure luck to catch anything.

Identifying your real audience is a little more detailed than saying “people who love chocolate”. Start the process by developing a full profile from the top-down. Determine their likes, interests, where they eat, etc.

With a basic idea of who your audience is, continue down the funnel. Refine your market by asking these questions:

  1. Are they men or women?

  2. What’s their age range?

  3. What are their overall interests? (Keeping with the above example: Do they like dark or milk chocolate? With or without nuts?)

  4. What do they do for a living?

  5. What type of person are they? (Fun, serious, playful, genuine, etc.)

Include as much detail as possible to determine who your ideal users are. You can use these identifiers to target your audience on social media and incorporate it into your overall marketing strategy.

Step 2: Discover Your Brand Attributes

three men sitting while using laptops and watching man beside whiteboard
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Your brand is what attracts your clients. Therefore, it’s important that it reflects your values and personality. This is the way you want people to speak about your brand when you’re not in the room. These attributes will lead to your logo design, font choice, color palette, voice, tone, etc. It gets to the core of your brand and its purpose.

To identify these attributes, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What are the three words that describe your brand?

  2. What brands capture a similar voice or feel as you do?

  3. If the brand was a personality, how would it talk in different situations?

  4. What attributes do you want to avoid in your brand?

Once you identify how to describe your brand and its personality, you are ready to put together similarities. Refining this list of attributes and feelings will help to focus the direction of your brand development.

Step 3: Determine the Look of Your Brand

man and woman sitting side by side by the table
Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

With the brand attributes locked and loaded you’re now ready to translate those into a visual design element like a logo and website. Here comes a mighty brainstorm. This is where we research other competitors, trends, and reference photos that appeal to the look and feel of the brand.

The words you associated with your brand can narrow its look:

  1. What colors are reflective of your brand? (Knowing the psychology behind colors is very useful here)

  2. What icons and imagery are symbolic of your brand?

  3. What design elements do you like about similar brands?

With a better idea of the visual elements, it’s time to put together the stylescape! This is where we solidify color palette, font choice (serif vs. sans), present users, and imagery that evokes the brand style we are going for. Seeing these visuals all together in a cohesive space will give us an idea if we need to make any changes to fit the overall feel of the brand. If not, the stylescape provides direction throughout the rest of the process.

We typically create 2–3 stylescapes that show different approaches to the brand. One is directly in tune and exactly what the brand is expected to look like. The other approaches stray on either side, giving a broader view of what the brand could be (more colorful, less flowery, etc.). You can also create a Pinterest inspiration board that will give the same effect.

Step 4: Develop Your Voice

person holding Android smartphone
Photo by Erik Lucatero on Unsplash

The visual elements are what others use to identify your brand. The brand voice brings that to life. The personality of a brand is manifested through that voice. Bring your stylescape or inspiration board to the table and start to think about what voice your ideal client would respond to. Should it be whimsical, professional, playful, nurturing?

This will take practice and many adjustments to get just right. One of the easiest ways to determine brand voice is through the brand’s social media posts. That’s direct to the customer! You can receive immediate feedback from your audience and you can take note of what they respond to. Take your time with this piece. Patience and persistence are your best friends.

Step 5: Bring It All Together

a person holding a Starbucks coffee cup
Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Now is time to collect all the pieces you’ve created and combine it into the brand style! You’ve determined key attributes, developed the design aesthetic and working on the voice (which will be a process in itself). Now you need to finalize the logo. Take any source photos from your website, social media, or other promotions. Develop the copy for the website and social media. This final step is about cohesively bringing together these multiple elements to assemble a strong brand style.

Remember to have each piece refer back to the attributes and reflect the brand as well as speak to your ideal client, directly. This will ensure you leave a lasting impression.