Smart business branding is critical today to stand out from the competition. What is branding? In a nutshell, business branding is about creating a comprehensive marketing message for your company and product, using names, logos, slogans, and other collateral. This can include website content and advertising materials.
When you want to know how to create a brand identity, understand the do’s and don’ts.
26 Do’s & Don’ts of Branding in Marketing
When coming up with branding strategies for your branding business plan, keep it simple. Business branding isn’t rocket science, but it is partly an art. Sometimes, you will just hit that magic spot with your customers. Sometimes, you will have to work at it to find the right brand voice. Here are some business branding ideas to get you started:
1. DO Get a Professional Logo Designed
Unless you are a super small, one-person business, you should hire a professional graphic designer or advertising agency to create your logo. The best creative agencies that work with the top brands will charge hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, for brand development.
For a smaller business, you can expect to pay a few thousand dollars for a good logo. Sometimes, you can find cheaper graphic designers online, but keep your expectations in check. Don’t expect champagne on a beer budget.
2. DON’T Overthink Your Logo
Small business owners that run companies such as independent consulting firms really don’t need a super fancy logo to survive. In these cases, you need to decide whether spending another couple of grand is worth tweaking a logo when your main source of business is probably personal referrals and networking.
3. DO Get Inspiration from Other Brands
Take the time to review what your competitors are doing. Notice what they are doing right, and what they might be doing wrong. Perhaps they are using imagery in a certain way that can inspire what you do with your own brand.
4. DON’T Rip Off Other Brands
Getting inspiration is one thing, but outright plagiarism is another story. You cannot steal or use another brand’s logo. This may seem like common sense, but it isn’t. You would be surprised at how many people think they can just go ahead and use a logo because, well, they aren’t in the same field or a competitor.
This is a big no-no. You are setting yourself up for a big expensive lawsuit, which you are sure to lose. Likely that company spent thousands, if not tens of thousands, to develop that fantastic logo. It is not fair or right for your company to steal it.
Another tactic is to try to confuse people by making your branding very, very similar. This could also set you up for a lawsuit. As in this example, you would be obviously ripping off Starbucks if called your coffee shop “Bucksstar Coffee” with green and white in your branding.
5. DO Create a Slogan or Tagline
A slogan or tagline is a short phrase that exemplifies the brand. It does not have to apply directly to your products. For example, one of the most famous business slogans is Nike’s “Just Do It.” Those three words have nothing directly to do with shoes, but the slogan is memorable and provides the essence of the brand.
6. DON’T Make Your Slogan Too Long
As you can see, a successful slogan can be very short, like the three-word Nike slogan. Imagine, then, if Nike had tried to over-explain with that slogan. Which sounds better: “Just Do It” or “Just Do It in Our Top Quality Athletic Shoes”? An inspiring phrase suddenly turns into a double entendre. You get the picture.
7. DO Give People Inspiration
Millennials, in particular, tend to like brands that have positive causes. Don’t underestimate the value of giving your customers “warm fuzzies” by supporting causes like animal welfare or other humane initiatives.
8. DON’T Get Overly Political
The mistake many companies make today is in becoming too political or partisan when supporting or promoting causes. Studies have shown this can hurt a business. The line may be fine. For example, supporting the local Humane Society to promote animal welfare is probably safe. PETA, on the other hand, is a highly controversial organization despite also being an animal welfare non-profit.
9. DO Research Current Trends
Especially when you are creating a new brand from scratch, you should do market research to see what is appealing to your target market.
10. DON’T Get Too Caught Up in Trends
The caveat to the above “DO” is that you shouldn’t get so caught up in trends that you forget your core business. If you are a business selling something that appeals to people who are nostalgic, then you want to look more towards traditional designs than trendy ones.
11. DO Keep Your Brand Up-to-Date
Brands and logos often can and should change and evolve with the times. For example, during the 1970s and 1980s, Warner Brothers had a very stark logo with a white stylized W in a black oval surrounded by red. This was then updated to a more classic logo, a variation of which is still in use today. Warner Brothers has actually changed its logo hundreds of times.
12. DON’T Throw Away a Beloved Brand Just to Be Trendy
In 2015, Celestial Seasonings, a popular tea brand, launched a redesign of their tea boxes to try to appeal to younger customers. The backlash was immediate. People missed the cozy feel they got from the old boxes. In response, Celestial Seasonings returned to their classic, kitschy branding, which has been known and loved for decades.
13. DO Have a Brand “Personality”
“Bland” doesn’t work too well with “brand,” unless you are marketing spiceless geriatric food. Your brand should have a personality or attitude, even a subtle one. Think about some adjectives that might describe your company, and use that as a basis. For example, does your consulting firm focus on “excellence”? Then that should be a part of the brand personality.
14. DON’T Try Too Hard
However, don’t go so far with personality that your brand becomes a joke. The stereotypical used car salesman advertisement comes to mind.
15. DO Develop a Unique Business Culture
A unique business culture can become part of your overall brand and brand personality. What we mean by “culture” consists of how you do business. How do you treat your employees and customers? Does your company value teamwork and collaboration? Is being family-friendly, including generous maternity leave, a part of your corporate culture? This can all become a part of your brand.
16. DON’T Be Hypocritical with Your Own Values
Once you have developed a business culture, you need to live it. If you don’t, then you can hurt your brand in sometimes subtle and not-so-subtle ways.
For example, Google’s corporate motto used to be “Don’t be evil.” Since coming under fire for potential privacy violations and other monopolistic concerns, this slogan has been turned around by Google’s critics as “Google is evil.” No wonder they dropped the motto.
17. DO Trademark Your Brand
Once you have your brand name, logo, and slogan, you should get it officially trademarked. This involves filing a trademark application with the government. The official trademark designation will protect you if someone tries to steal or copy your brand assets.
18. DON’T Put TMs on Every Correspondence
Regardless of whether you trademark something or not, it can be in bad form to put a TM after every mention of your brand name or product. For some reason, smaller businesses are more likely to do this, and they end up looking silly.
If, for example, you have a product called “My Big Product” and every time you mention it on your website it says: My Big Product™, you won’t be protecting yourself from stealing so much as looking like a tool. Don’t overdo it.
19. DO Set Up a Style Guide
A branding style guide will have information about your brand name, logo, brand colors, and preferred fonts. It will help writers, designers, and web developers share your brand in a consistent way. For example, is your brand name spelled My Brand Name or MyBrandName with no spaces? This needs to be specified explicitly.
20. DON’T Over-Complicate Your Style Guide
While a style guide is important, don’t overdo it. Simplicity is better than too busy, or too complex. For example, with website design and print materials, you should generally choose no more than three main fonts. If you had a different font for every header on a page, it would end up being cluttered and hard to read.
21. DO Use a Consistent Voice
Related to your style guide is the voice that you use for your communications as a brand. Is your voice casual or professional? Are the blog articles on your website in first person, second person, or third person? For a financial business, such as an accounting firm, you might want to err on being more formal in your communications…unless you’ve gone the other direction and branded yourself as “The Wacky Accountant.” Hey, it might work.
22. DON’T Change Your Voice Too Frequently
So, let’s say you run an accounting firm, and you want to set it apart by branding it as a fun, “wacky” accounting firm. This is all fine and good, but you may need to give this new voice a try before switching gears suddenly. (Unless, as in the case of Celestial Seasonings, the response is uniformly bad.)
23. DO Rebrand When Absolutely Necessary
There may be times when your brand is utterly tarnished due to a horrible misstep or marketplace flop. Or, perhaps you had a brand that used to be fine, but as times have changed, the meaning of the word has become a bit offensive to people. When it is necessary, rebrand.
24. DON’T Panic at Bad Press
On the other side of things, you do not need to rebrand at every bit of bad press. You cannot panic or balk at every bit of negative feedback, especially in this world of Twitter mobs. Even some brands with “offensive” names choose to keep them. With 9 out of 10 Native Americans not being offended by the Washington Redskins name, the football team has chosen to keep the name.
25. DO Boost Your Brand
Once you have your brand name, logo, and slogan set, make you sure advertise it. The prettiest logo won’t help a darn bit if no-one sees it. Make sure you have a marketing plan in place and implement it. This should include social media marketing, online advertising, and perhaps billboards if you have a local business.
26. Don’t Be Shy About Your Brand
Finally, don’t be shy about your brand, especially if you are a solo entrepreneur. Let people know about your brand and advertise it proudly!
What are your favorite business branding tips?
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