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How to Build Your Brand Identity from Scratch

June 29, 2022
Carynn Tey
6 MIN

We’re all familiar with branding. It’s almost impossible these days to not be plastered with branding imagery even inside your own home. We see brands everywhere. They’ve become such a constant in our lives that the average 3-year-old recognizes over 100 brand logos.

Those long-term impressions are exactly why branding is so important for building a sustainable business. Brands stick in more ways than one. They leave a lasting impression on us and we begin to naturally build associations with brands over time. Our impressions of a brand eventually come to include what we think about their trustworthiness, reliability, ethical stance, and more.

Once you’ve taken into consideration how much a brand sticks with a consumer, it becomes apparent why branding is so important to small businesses. Branding is why people repeatedly go back to big box stores—they trust the names, they trust the products, they trust the brand.

What comprises a brand?

But a brand is not just visual.

When we think of brands, we mostly think of their logos or other trademarks because the visual component of a brand is the most apparent. Every company’s visual branding has apparent components like their brand name, and trademarks (including a logo). It can also include subtler components that have variation but are generally consistent like:

  • Color palette
  • Font choices
  • Imagery

A huge component of branding is your brand’s personality. The vibe you give off is a huge part of what attracts the right customers to your metaphorical door. Creating the right personality involves all of the visual components of your brand and the word choice you use when you publish anything for your customers to read (except, of course, legalese).

What are important aspects of a successful brand?

Memorability

If your brand doesn’t stick, you’re not building a reputation! Memorability is key.

Uniqueness

Your brand must be distinct, especially from your competition.

Consistency

Your brand must be reliable. This is crucial because it represents your company at all times, in all cases.

Relevance

It’s crucial that your brand appeals to your specific audience.

How to build your brand identity broken down

Research your target audience

If you’re going anywhere with your branding, it may as well be down the road to your target audience’s preferences. Over time, you can shape your brand to include new segments or changing tastes but the best starting point is right there with your first customers. Do some research into their tastes and make your branding align.

It helps to create a customer profile when you’re defining your audience. Imagine your ideal customer and then take note of important characteristics—how old are they? Are they a specific gender? Do they like certain colours or certain styles? Are there any trends for people like them that you can relate to for your business?

Research your competition

You want to be sure that your branding is unique and the only way to do that is to know for sure what else is out there. You’ll also likely find similar words or branding elements between your competitors.

They have probably found that these common elements are very attractive to your target market and you should consider applying those to your own brand in a unique way.

Choose common elements

Settle on a colour palette and specific fonts. Pick an identity around the imagery you’ll use (will it mostly be people or things? Will you lean more heavily on photos or cartoons?) Create a basic guide as to why you’ve made these style choices, what you think their appeal is, and specific use cases. Adhere to this brand guide for everything.

It’s ok to modify your brand guidelines over time or even bend the rules to make individual publications pop, but consistency in your style is important. Funnily, that means if one of your brand guidelines is to be inconsistent because that appeals to your audience, you have to be consistent about your inconsistency.

Brainstorm a name and tagline

Some people get a flash of inspiration but most of us don’t. The rules are generally the same for the rest of your brand as for your name and tagline. You’ll want it to be memorable and unique, catchy if possible. It’s also important for your name and slogan to hint at your business operations because you’ll want people to immediately lock on to what you’re selling from the first time they lay eyes on your brand.

If you’re having a tough time getting started, try using a business name generator. You don’t have to take the suggestions, but it can be a good jumping off point.

Don’t be afraid to get feedback, too. Brainstorm in a team and wherever possible, try for anonymous feedback so that you’re getting responses unfiltered by your personal relationship with someone.

Take your brand online

If you intend to have an online presence, it’s important to snag up relevant accounts, names, domains, and so on. The reason being that you’ll want to grab associated keywords before they’re snatched up by someone else. In the worst cases, you might encounter domain squatting—when someone maliciously registers a domain specifically for the purposes of denying you ownership, to create a negative web presence, or even in the hopes that you’ll pay them for it.  

It can be a painful process claiming or reclaiming a domain (and there’s no guarantee of success), so it’s important to stay on top of your registration renewal.

Creating a brand is not an exhaustive process. You don’t have to make sure you’ve researched every last little detail. Companies mould their branding to fit changing expectations all the time and it’s good for business to do small updates and refreshes. It helps stave off assumptions of stagnation. So don’t get hung up on being perfect. You’ll get feedback as your business runs and you can always work with it as it comes in and adjust your public persona.

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