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Branding is not reserved for the international conglomerates of this world, it is just as important for smaller businesses to build a unique brand. It can be an essential tool in developing trust with an audience and it can lead to an deep affinity and loyalty from your customer base. Not to mention it can be really fun too! We’ve also included a free brand guideline template here to make creating your brand a breeze. 

1. What is a brand and how does it apply to my business? 

A brand is about who you are and the direction you want your company to take. To identify what your core values are think about the below questions, not only will this inform your brand identity it will keep you focused on your goals. 
 
Why did you start your business? This is your mission statement, the why behind your business can get lost in the day-to-day so it’s good to have this written somewhere you can see it often. 
What is the USP (unique selling point) / POD (point of difference) of your company? What you’re doing has probably been done before however what makes you stand out? It could be your service, it could be your style caters to a particular audience, it could be you! Whatever it is - identify it and stay true to it. 
Who is your ideal customer? This will help give direction to your product ranges, inspire you to find ways to improve your products/services and help you understand the nuts and bolts of your business e.g. price point, location, availability etc. 
What branding do you like? Look at companies, competitors, personal inspiration sources and/or social media accounts you like. Marry this with your product/service and you will have the aesthetic of your brand. This point may also help you identify your POD. 
What is the businesses tone of voice? This may sound a little out there but it’s designed to get you thinking about your business as a separate, objective entity. It makes writing promotional copy, social media posts and newsletters easier as well. Creating a company vernacular helps build recognition with your community and adds to your brands distinctive identity. 

2. How do I create my brand? 

Branding is your logo however it is, or should I say it can be, so much more than that. Branding evokes an emotional reaction in your customer, it can turn people from total strangers into your biggest fans. In a saturated market it can be the difference between someone choosing you or a competitor. This is why it is important to spend some time developing your brand and really thinking about how you want people to feel when they see it. Using your answers from question 1 write down a few words, aesthetic choices, colours, icons, motifs and key elements that define your business to create a brief to design your branding from. 

3. How do I brand on a budget? 

Once you have your brand brief you will need to decide who will realise it for you. There are a few factors to consider including; your budget, your personal design abilities, your timeframe and what your physical brand needs are. Don’t forget you can use a combination of the below. 
 
DIY! If you feel comfortable using design software such as Photoshop or Illustrator, have the time and the inclination to create your own branding, this can be the best way to go. You can get exactly what you want and save money. 
Budding designers – finding a design student, a friend with creative flair or someone that does design in their spare time can be a great option to keep costs low and get quick results. Always pay students and be clear about requirements and budgets from the outset to ensure it’s a win-win situation. 
Freelancers – sites such as Fiverr, UpWork, peopleperhour and LinkedIn are amazing resources to find design freelancers. Trusted recommendations, transparent budgets and clear briefs are essential to this process, don’t forget to ask to see portfolios or past examples of work to find a good fit. 
Small design agencies – if you have a little more budget consider using a local design agency. You will be able to meet with the people designing your brand, have a guiding hand through the process and (usually) end up with a solid, professional looking brand that fulfils your requirements and allows you to hit the ground running. 

4. What does my company need to brand? 

The below list is not exhaustive but it’s a good start when thinking about what you can brand. Include each point that applies to your business in your brief to inform the design process. 
 
Logo – this can include your name but it’s good to have a visual element to it that can be used by itself. This can be turned into a sticker or stamp without your name and people will still associate it with you. 
Typography – keep this modern, include clever design elements and show your personality but remember to keep it legible and clear. 
Packaging – this doesn’t have to be a bespoke design, you can buy generic and add a stamp or sticker to personalise it (see logo above). Other considerations for packaging should include environmental impact, ensuring the product arrives in it’s best condition if posted and personal touches like printed tissue paper, confetti and even sweets can give you that ‘unboxing video’ wow factor. 
Label – adding a branded label to your product can help your customer remember you and enable them to recommend you to others. This will also add a polished finish to your products. 
Merchandise – your main business may be a food vendor for example but if your brand is aesthetically pleasing enough and your customers become fanatical about your product, you can translate your branding onto all manner of commodities. This could come in as a handy extra bit of cash as well. If this isn’t the main part of your business, creating small batches using pre-orders promoted through your website or social media ensure you don’t end up with dead stock. 
Stationary – for example branded letter heads will reassure your customers about your level of professionalism. 
Equipment / vehicles – large vinyl stickers are easily produced and can be added to your companies assets. This provides advertising and adds a level of professionalism to your service. 

5. What are and what should be included in brand guidelines? 

Brand guidelines are a visual summary of your brand. It can be an A4 sheet or two depicting your branding foundations setting a clear tone for all communications both written and visual. These are good to have saved down to refer to and use as a resource. Any visuals can be saved in png files to use for advertising, printing, content creation and social media promotion. The list below outlines what you should include to get you started. 
 
Your principle logo – including your business name and logo (if separate) in full colour. 
Visual logo – you may decide not to have your name as part of your logo and instead use a purely visual representation for your brand. Example, the tick from Nike. 
Mono logo – a black and white version of your logo. 
Colour palette – the core colours with pantone references for your brand. 
Vertical and horizontal layouts – your logo needs to be versatile. For example, it may have to go at the bottom of a page meaning a horizontal layout would work better. It’s good to have these layouts ready to go so you don’t have to edit in the moment. 
Typography – state what fonts you will use. This could include the font of your logo along with one or two fonts that work well visually with your branding. 
Tagline – these can be cheesy but if it works for you it’s good to have a short sentence that sums up your business. 
Mission statement – the why of your business. 
Key words – when thinking of these it’s best to think about how you want the customer to feel about your service and company as a whole. You may also use words from your tone of voice ideas. 
Don’ts – if you have any major ‘don’ts’ include them alongside the example of the ‘do’. Any colours, words, or layouts that you would never want are to be included as an annotation. 
 
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