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Eight rules for branding your business

Finding your brand voice and direction is the most important part of establishing a successful business. Iconic branding that has the power to stay always has a few things in common; simplicity, relatability and personality.

There are many brands, businesses and even countries we admire for doing this so well; see Nike, Converse, Coca Cola and Japan. But there are also many that have failed miserably, the one hit wonders of the brand world, if you will. Avoiding a branding disaster, and executing those three key factors isn’t as difficult as it seems.

It all comes down to eight key elements of building a brilliant brand:

  1. Be human

You’re human, and your customers are human so your brand should show that. People want to be able to relate to you, to see that there is a human element behind your products. Talk to them, show them how you work, and engage them in your conversation. If customers feel they can contact you, make a complaint or ask a question, and they will be heard and responded to by a human, that will work wonders for your brand. Also, it never hurts to try thinking, if your brand was a person, who would they be?

  1. Be honest

Transparency is a huge buzzword in business right now. Customers want to know where their products are being made, by who, and how. Australian fashion brand Gorman recently found itself in hot water after posting a photo of a worker in a Chinese factory with a sign reading ‘I made your clothes’. While the brand was trying to be transparent, they were slightly off-mark, since they used the hashtag  #whomademyclothes. This hashtag is linked to the Fashion Transparency Index, which released a report on transparency of the supply chain in fashion companies. Gorman’s parent company Factory X, has supplied no information on its supply chains. So the lesson here? Be honest and transparent from the start, and you won’t damage your brand later on.

  1. Get competitive

The best way to figure out what works and what doesn’t is to look at what your competition are doing. What are they doing really well and where are they lacking? Why? This isn’t saying you should copy your competition, not at all. But you should learn from them. If a competitor has excellent marketing, but the customer experience in store is lacking in service, this is an area you should be able to do really well and win over customers with quite easily.

  1. Cover all of your bases

It’s pointless going all out with the branding of your website, when your business cards or packaging are still lacking. When building your brand identity, ensure you’re addressing all the touchpoints of your company. If you have a packaged product, you’ll need that as well as the digital branding for a website and advertising. You might need flyers, business cards, discount cards, or booklets. Write a list of what you need before you start the project, so your design team can craft a visual language that will work across all platforms and marketing collateral you need.

  1. Build a brief

Your designer needs to know who you’re selling to, and what you want to communicate, it’s as simple as that. Designers are brilliant, but they’re not often mind readers, so if you want to get the best work out of your team, for the best price (read: less changes needed later), you need to give them as much information and details as possible. This includes (but is not limited to) who your target market is, where they live, how much they earn and what other brands or hobbies they might like. It also includes your vision for the brand, what emotions you want to evoke, or the style you’re trying to achieve. If it’s a new project or rebrand, be clear on what you want to achieve first, so you can communicate this with your creative team. And finally, the brief your give the creative team should always include examples of other brands that you like,  listing exactly what you do and don’t like about them. Sending your designer a website saying, ‘I like this’ but really, you mean you like the logo but not much else, won’t help you when they come back with similar imagery, or layout to that site. Be clear and detailed.

  1. Don’t forget the brand language

How you communicate your brand is equally important as what it looks like. Your brand language should match your imagery in tone and style, so if you have a sincere legal practice, trying to lighten it up in your language may actually do more damage than good to your image. Always be clear and concise, with our attention spans having dropped to less than that of a goldfish, waffling rarely works these days.

  1. Be flexible

As with anything, branding doesn’t always go to plan. Legalities surrounding business names, trademarked imagery and copyright laws mean you need to be very careful of what you settle on when branding. You may also find that your target market doesn’t actually respond to the brand the way you thought they would, requiring a change in direction. Flexibility allows you to reach the branding you need to be successful.

  1. Be unique

This cannot be said enough, yet it’s all too uncommon. We’re so inundated by stimulation from everywhere that it’s almost impossible to do something completely new. But that doesn’t mean you should copy your competitors or other brands you admire. The best place to start is with your gut instinct, and go from there. Whatever it is that you, personally, really like, is often a good platform for your brand style to start off, then allow your designer to give it a unique and strategic twist.

About the author

Nick Sammut is the Founder and Managing Director of leading Australian design agency Toast Creative, and Founder of 20/20 People. Toast Creative specialises in creative branding and marketing, having worked with a host of  iconic Australian companies, Government agencies and NFPs. 20/20 People, opening in 2016, is a collaborative workspace for creative entrepreneurs in Sydney’s Surry Hills. 

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