When we think of brands we think of the multi nationals like Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and British Airways etc. When we see their logo, we know whom it belongs to and what it does. They are easily identifiable – the face of the business. We know them by name and remember them clearly. But do we need a brand ourselves?
In short, the answer is yes. Whether we are an SME or just building our own personal brand, our brand speaks volumes about who we are and what we do. It is our brand that people recognize. Globally people know that when they buy a bottle of Coca-Cola, and they hear the fizz as they open it in Dubai or New York, London or Singapore, it will be the same great taste (see what I did there). Wouldn’t it be great if that were how people thought about you?
If you are lucky enough, you may already have a strong brand and just not realise it. The thing is, you do not have to be a multinational to have a strong brand. If you stand out from the rest, you are already there. You want people to identify you easily. As Nurida Bayramova, Managing Director, Indigo Ray Design says: “Design is subtle, but it sets the tone. Small differences in the font and the color palette can make a difference between corporate and casual, exclusive and approachable.”
Be the Story
A brand is the story behind the concept – Be that you or your business. It is what makes people want to buy from you – not the company, or those you associate yourselves with. It is you that they are buying from. Strong means trusted. Build a strong brand, and you build yourself a strong following. A strong following means more – more sales, more business enquiries, more of everything. But most of all, it means more potential.
For people to remember your brand you need a logo that stands out. Think about the colouring that you want to use and then use this ‘feeling’ throughout all marketing literature and the business cards. They should all look and feel the same (yet obviously very different). You want people to associate everything about your brand with your business.
For the marketing literature, you want the business to sound like you. You need to make people understand what it is that you are doing straight away. How many times have you seen posts from people on business forums on Facebook or on LinkedIn but not understood what it is that they do even after their long message about how great their business is? Think of memorable phrases and artwork to convey your message. All of this should be in keeping with your vision. If you aren’t good at writing, find someone who is. “Outsourcing any writing requirements you have to a PR professional is a great way to create more time for yourself to focus on other things, while also ensuring you get your message across in the right way the first time. In the long term, you will save money and gain in quality, as you will get the literature, website and marketing issued correctly right at the start,” explains Ian Hainey, Managing Director, IHC.
As with all new connections, the first impression that you make is the lasting impression that you make. If you are selling your services that you know to be more expensive than your competitors – but you are selling yourself on quality – should you have a business card that feels and looks cheap? These and your literature should reflect your brand. Your pricing should also reflect your brand. Everything should revolve around how you want to be perceived by everyone.
You first impression counts. Your literature must make people believe that you are fit for business; no one wants to be given a dirty crumpled business card that has been found left at the bottom of your bag. You would not place an advert in a publication without a thoughtful design process, so do not give out business cards that have not had careful consideration also. “Every business card, leaflet and brochure is the extension of your company and your brand. Having an up to date, modern website is just as important as, for example, having a well maintained shop. Having a well-designed business card or presentation is just as important as dressing well for an important meeting,” explains Nurida.
Who, What, Where
When we say make sense with your brand, we mean the feeling that you brand brings to your clients and other people. Does all of your company literature make it clear what you are about and what you sell? If not (and often it doesn’t), then you need to start again. In journalism we call this the three W’s, ‘Who, What, Where’. People should know within the first paragraph what the literature is about. Also, think of the style and content that you should be using. It should be broadly in line with your industry sector; Media companies and PR are able to use funky graphics and a much more friendly tone of writing, but finance companies are much more corporate, more old fashioned, more jargon.
Your industry sector will play a big part in your design. Do you want to shake the industry up and get away fro the norm? Then the literature is a great place where you can start this. For example, if you are in finance, you will see a lot of blues. This is because blue signifies trust, loyalty and wisdom, as well as increase in health and status. But if you want to be a disrupter, do you want to signify safe and boring? Maybe you could use another shade of blue or mix it with another colour all together?
Ultimately, you need to think of what your customers want from you. If you are rebranding, ask your clients how they see you. If this is how you want to be portrayed, then you know the colouring to focus on. If not, now is your chance to change.
Don’t alienate anyone by using jargon! We have all seen the lawyers who fill their marketing literature with too much jargon as they think it makes them sound intelligent, but would you rather go to a lawyer who understands you without all the ‘big words’, or a lawyer that you have no idea what they are telling you because of the myriad of industry speak they are sprouting when they talk? Who do you trust to be telling you the right information in this instance – The one who is clear and concise, or the one who talks a great talk, but when you leave their office, you realise you actually don’t know the legal position that you enquired about?
Also, testing your brand can be helpful. Try to target the kind of audience you would be selling to. Go out onto the street and ask 20 people what they think your company is about from the logo and literature you have. Record their comments. Also ask them for advice on how you could possible improve things. Remember, in the future, you may well be selling your products or services to one of them, so their advice could be invaluable. “Visual aspects of the brand are essentially the first impression that any brand gets to portray,” explained Nurida. “Just like you see the sign and the decor before you walk into a shop, nowadays you usually visit a website before you contact the company. I believe it’s very important to pay attention to your brand design.”
Why it’s Important for Business
Yes, building a brand is a marketing technique, but it is also an invaluable HR technique. As an SME, all of your staff are brand ambassadors. If you have disgruntled employees who are client facing, they will show and may even tell your customers how annoyed they are. If your clients be aware of in house politics every time they pick up the phone to your office, will they slowly start to call less? Will this result in lost business over a period of time? Of course it will. It is through your employees that the public’s views and opinions on the company are formed, which is why hiring the right staff can be so important. The brand must go through each and every department, from the board to the person on the shop floor. You must all consider the effects your actions have on a company. Everyone wants to feel as though they belong on one level or another, so use this to your advantage. By getting each of your employees in your company to help you, you are getting their emotional support also.
Believe it or not, white space can add impact – Just not too much of it says Nurida: “Too many images and colors on the page can make it look overfilled – the reader won’t know what to focus on. Too much text or white space and the page gives a impression of being “boring”, so the reader might just flip through it without giving it content even a chance.
“It’s important to first focus on the overall “look and feel” and image, rather than specifics. Once there is a clear vision of what the brand is aiming to portray, then it’s a matter of finding the right combination.” A clear design will give room for the message to breath, so be careful not to drown the message with unrelated imagery or excessive text.
Your Brand is the Blood of your Business
You need to be consistent with your brand and it should touch all areas of your business and those working in it. The brand needs to bring the same message and feelings throughout all of the enterprise. Does your letterhead reflect your business card? Do both the letterhead and business card reflect the website? Does the website reflect your promotional material and presentations? Does your staff use the same language and speak the same way to their customers and their employees.
You need to convey that you are different as being different allows you to formulate your ‘Unique Selling Points’ or USPs – How do your competitors pitch themselves? What language do they use? How do you differ? What do you do that is better? You need to let the customer know what makes you different to the rest of the market and therefore why they should chose you over your competition.
Ultimately you want people to see your logo, know your logo and know what you are selling. More than anything though, you want them to trust that they will get exactly what they are wanting from your brand. Nurida sums up perfectly brand design perfectly, “I guess my top tip would be keep it simple, but lively.”
Read our article for more ways to build your brand and make powerful profiles using LinkedIn