Branding or Bust: 6 Key Elements of a Consistent Brand

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories that you tell.” – Seth Godin, leading marketing/sales Author & Entrepreneur

Yep, this is true even (or should I say, especially) when it comes to you small business owners. Hey, you’ve got a lot of competition out there with the big dogs. Why not do all you can to set your business up for success? In most cases, your brand tells a story that develops the initial connection and draws customers in to do business with you. So, defining and aligning your brand is one of the most important things you do for your company.

Here are six key elements to consider when defining your brand and ensuring its consistency throughout all aspects of your business:

1. Your Logo – Ummm…Your logo is kind of a big deal. Most often it’s your customers’ first impression of you. It can make you look like an established business or a fly-by-night lemonade stand. Your logo should be clean, well-defined and memorable. Try limiting your colors to only two or three, but make sure they are colors you’re happy with because you’ll continue to use them throughout your marketing materials. Think about what you want your logo to represent about your company and, even if you’re simply using your company name as your logo, make sure it looks stylish and professional.

2. Your Colors – There is a lot of psychology behind colors and how they affect us, but that is an entire article in itself. For small business, I typically recommend two main colors and a third less often used color (I’m keeping it simple here, but you can go more in depth with tones, tints and shades, as well.). It’s critical that your colors fit within a color scheme. If you’re not sure, or you’ve chosen one color you love but can decide on the others, try a site like Canva to help you generate ideas for your colors that work together.

3. Your Fonts – I find that a number of businesses get excited about a font without realizing that, if it’s not part of the basic font pack that comes with most computers (think Books Antiqua, Arial, Calibri, etc), you run the risk of your customers not having the same font. So, what does this mean? Well, imagine you prepared a beautiful presentation for your client and they ask you to use their equipment. If their computer doesn’t have your flowery font as part of their collection, it will automatically substitute that font for something that is. This will muck up the formatting and design of your presentation. The same will happen when you send them an email or document (like Word or Excel). If you must use a less common or even purchased font, use that for materials and documents that can’t be altered (printed marketing materials, PDFs, etc) but choose a secondary “backup” to use on everything else. Here is a good list of some of the most common fonts.

4. Your images – Studies now show that the average human attention span is somewhere around 7 seconds. You guys….that is less than that of a goldfish! So, we’re going to need more than pretty colors and strong fonts to grab people’s attention and, I promise you, clip-art is rarely the answer. Images and videos are what initially attract attention. They can convey emotion, spark a thought, even build trust. Choose your visuals based on what your audience needs to see. If you’re a winery, for example, show images of your vineyard, the process, your customers enjoying your wine. Let them see a true glimpse of what you do; a taste of what they might experience. Just make sure your visuals aren’t grainy or blurred, and please go easy on the filters (unless, of course these are the savvy artistic effects you’re aiming for in your business). Shutterstock is a wealth of images and video clips for purchase and Pixabay offers all free images, though less variety than Shutterstock. In the frenzy of starting a small business and all that comes with it, the next two key elements are often overlooked, but equally important.

5. Your message – I like to think of this as the heartbeat of your brand. It’s your story, your reason and passion for doing what you do and the attitude you take on while doing it. It’s what develops the connection that draws your audience towards choosing you over the others. And this message must be consistent throughout your business.

6. Your Voice – Think of this as your brand’s personality and the tone behind it. Are you direct and informative like Mike Albert Fleet Solutions, or family-centered and cheerful (and delicious!) like Graeter’s? Maybe you’re energetic and approachable like Paycor, risqué but educational like Pure Romance. You could be passionate team-players like The Motz Group or playful and nostalgic like 16-Bit. Take a look at your message, your logo, the type of business you developed, even your target audience to help you decide.

Each of these elements plays a special role within your brand identity. Together, they form a kind of bond that connects your audience with your passion while serving as a guide in all you do within your business. To keep it strong, create a simple brand guideline document explaining each of these elements. Refer to it when making business decisions, place it where it can be seen by you and your team and go over it with each new hire. This is your brand identity. This is who you are. So, what does your brand say about you?