Your blood is pumping…
A name has been chosen, paperwork signed, and your initial plan is ready to roll. You just launched your first business!
With excitement and enthusiasm you begin to spread the word to your community, yet are immediately asked a question: “Can I have a business card?” or “What’s your website?”
Those questions stop you in your tracks… you have no professional identity to show! “You really need to work on your brand if you want people to recognize you,” a friend recommends.
While their recommendation is partly true, you should work on your brand, there is a distinction between your brand and the identity systems people recognize you by.
Start with Your Promise.
All too often “brand” and “logo” are terms used interchangeably.
While they are both extremely important for your business, they must be understood as two separate things. You might be thinking, “Ok great, now I need to invest in two different things instead of one?!”
Well, yes, you do. The good news is you’ve already started.
You have already started investing and developing your own brand. But how? You haven’t spent a dime on a slick logo or modern website yet…
That’s because your brand is not visual in any way. Your brand is a person’s gut feeling about you, your product or service, and what they expect when interacting with your company. A brand is the intangible, unspoken, and emotional relationship customers have with a company.
Another way to think of a brand is “what your customers say about you when you are not in the room.”
Every conversation you have with people about your business, every elevator pitch, every customer service request, you are building the foundation of your brand. It is how you choose to show up and portray yourself that makes you unique.
It is the promise you make to people about how your company fits into their lives. Your brand matters. It should not be something you ignore or neglect.
Create an Identity.
Now you have the beginnings of you own unique brand, consider how people will recognize it. This is the point where you should start thinking about visual representation.
Many people start here, thinking that by designing a logo their brand will evolve around it. This is backwards. Successful companies develop the promise, the message, and the voice behind their brand before any sort of visual design takes place.
A logo is simply a mark or visual identity system that communicates an idea. The idea is your brand.
The brand strategy should inform all aspects of your identity design.
Consider how you conduct business: Are your customer interactions very formal, or are they more intimate? Is the voice you portray in your communication upbeat and happy? Maybe it is very direct and curt?
Hone in on the true promise you’re making first: Are you offering a premium service emphasizing customer relationships? Does your product minimize the time people spend with your company, focusing on speed and efficiency above all else?
The answers to all these questions inform the visual design process: Are we using soft and muted colors? Or maybe highly saturated, vibrant colors? Do we use sharp, heavy shapes or more delicate lines? What typography is being used? Is it very modern or more classic?
A quality design studio will know the importance of asking questions that inform the brand strategy, not just the visual design.
If you’re talking with a designer and the first thing they ask is, “What colors do you like?” Run.
No matter how much you think you’re saving on the cost of a logo, if your identity fails to communicate your brand promise to your customers it will harm your business.
Being able to articulate your brand promise effectively through design has immense value for your business.
It increases the alignment between your company’s offer and your customers. It communicates your position in the market and where you fit in. It informs all messaging and interactions with your business. It communicates your value, and how much people are willing to pay for your offer.
While your brand and your logo are two separate things, they have an intimate relationship: Your identity system should ultimately be informed by your brand, and your brand should be communicated through your identity system.