This article is brought to you by Spark & Bloom, a mindful branding studio helping ethical business owners integrate their environmental values into their brand.
Let's get into it:
Be clear on your brand strategy
Brand strategy is the precursor to brand design. It is the compass that gives direction for all branding decisions. It includes:
* your brand foundations - why you exist, your mission, your values
* your positioning - what makes you different compared to others in the same field and who you're talking to
* and your brand personality - how your brand communicates with its employees and audience
What are your values / purpose / mission?
Your brand foundations are essential to define your brand visually. Indeed, they dictate which industry your business will navigate (that will be important for the second phase, where we'll look at the other field players) and what stance it will take within this industry (which will dictate what your audience will expect from you and your brand personality).
Does it lead grassroots activist movements? Then it will need to motivate and energize your audience in the long run.
Does it teach health care practices? Then it will need to listen and create safe spaces for your audience.
We'll refer to these examples in the third section about brand personality.
Look at what the other field players are doing
Keeping an eye on what the other field players in your industry are doing is an excellent way to notice trends and regain clarity and confidence in the uniqueness of your brand.
Here's my process when I do competitor analysis for my clients:
First, gather data
Create a spreadsheet where you input the companies' names, websites, and social media links, so you can easily access everything. Create additional columns to take notes about their:
* User experience
* Brand design
Screenshot their website's landing page and Instagram profile and upload them in a folder.
Once all this data is clearly laid out, it becomes easy to notice industry trends and understand what's working for your competitors and what they're doing well. This will help you identify gaps and what would help you stand out.
How would you define your brand personality?
A brand personality starts emerging once you'll have a good and clear understanding of your brand foundations and what makes your business so unique. Defining it will help the brand designer choose shapes and colours to express it accurately. Let's go back to our example from the brand foundations section.
Imagine you sell zero-waste clothes for women and non-binary people with an inclusive size range. You support and lead an activist movement around body sovereignty. Your brand personality is quirky, bold, and irreverent. Curvy shapes and a strong and contrasty colour palette with an overall lively website would probably be an excellent visual solution to express your brand personality.
Now, imagine you sell sustainable meditation and yoga products for all genders, and people are coming to you to heal and feel better. Your personality is calm, wise, and strong. You might opt for fluid yet robust shapes, a light colour palette with a website that breathes with white space.
Being clear on all these aspects of your brand strategy helps to create a language that will be visually translatable by your brand designer, so it's aligned and sustainable.
Your visual identity is composed of 4 main elements
Your visual identity is your brand design. It is how your brand expresses itself visually, through graphics, colours, and more. In this section, we're going over the 4 main elements of your brand design.
Your colour palette
Colours strongly impact people's emotions, as it's often the first thing that people notice. But they are also a tremendous help when navigating an array of choices!
Let's take the colour green, for example.
In the supermarket, a customer sees green and immediately thinks it is the healthier, safer option. In this instance, it is beneficial to use green to distinguish yourself from others and be more recognisable.
Suppose you specialise in a niche where people are already educated about sustainability, or you're super local or a small company. In that case, the brands gravitating around you (and your ideal clients) will use a lot of green.
The problem is that you won't stand out! Your sustainable brand will be less distinguishable from others at first sight. In a world of first impressions, this is a big missed opportunity.
So consider your brand colour palette as an essential tool to stand out. Look at all the screenshots you took from your competitors. Look at the environment your brand will be seen in by your audience and build a strategy around this context while ensuring it fits your brand personality.
This is another essential tool to distinguish yourself!
She Thinx made a lot of noise when they came out with their evocative photography campaign in New York. They were one of the first companies in the industry to not use a blue liquid to talk about menstruation, to show diverse bodies, and take their imagery towards an artistic route. This was a turning curve in this industry that raised their brand awareness!
Stock photography is convenient, but chances are, many other field players are using the same images as you do. Branded photography and/or custom illustration are a long-term investment that helps make your brand more cohesive and distinguishable.
Fonts are fantastic for showcasing your brand personality. And there's a plethora of choices!
Here though, the thing to keep in mind is legibility. If you choose a unique but unreadable font, your user experience will take a hit. And although you'll stand out and be memorable because of it, it won't be in a good way... Quality fonts are often not free, but plenty are affordable.
Your logo, like your colour palette, font, and imagery, is a tool you use to make your brand recognisable. And like we mentioned before, for logos, too, there are industry trends.
When you look in the sustainability space, you'll notice a lot of trees, leaves, recycling signs, and planet Earth. In the water conservancy, you'll find waves. So again, depending on where your brand will be seen and where your audience comes from, it might make sense to use one of these iconic elements.
I'm not saying that you shouldn't follow trends, though! One or two might be relevant to use, either to be recognisable or to position yourself in a certain way in the eye of your audience. The industry is growing, which is a good thing. But companies have to be more creative to showcase their uniqueness and value. The key to standing out is choosing the strategy that makes the most sense for your business, brand, and audience.