Today on the blog we welcome Lauren Hughes of the creative, life and style blog Lolly Jayne Loves, which covers everything from design and fashion to food and travel. She is a trained graphic and web designer currently working for Nordstrom. She has over 7 years experience in branding and design, primarily in fashion and e-commerce. You can see here portfolio site here, and follow her on social media on Instagram and Pinterest. Enjoy the post!
Everyone has their favorite brands, right? Maybe in fashion, it's Kate Spade or Tommy Hilfiger.
In food, it could be Chipotle or Ben & Jerry's.
In drink, you might prefer Pepsi or Jack Daniels.
What's the one thing that these all have in common?
We never refer to them as businesses. We always refer to them as brands.
So let's take it back to basics for a second: What exactly is branding?
In it's simplest form, branding is knowing what to expect.
"Branding is knowing what to expect."
It's not a logo or a color palette, or a great tag line.
It's buying into something and consistently knowing what you're going to get.
"It's buying into something and consistently knowing what you're going to get."
Think of some of the world's biggest brands, Nike, Apple, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, when you have any interaction or involvement with these brands you know what to expect. But you don't even need to go that big, think of your favorite blogs, your local coffee shop, it isn't about the scale of your brand, it's about its authenticity and values. You want your customer to have an instinctive reaction of trust and knowledge. They know you, they know your brand.
A lot of times when people think of branding they think of a logo, and this is totally understandable. Branding and logos go hand in hand, but building a great, sustainable, long-lasting brand goes so much further than having a good logo.
A good logo is great, but the trendiest, sharpest looking logo around, won't make you successful. You have to be able to back it up. Big brands all have instantly recognizable logos, but they don't ever just rely on it, they have a carefully crafted brand behind that logo that we associate with them.
"The trendiest, sharpest looking logo around, won't make you successful"
In my day job as a web designer I work with huge brands from across the fashion world. We generally don't allow logos on our site, brands have to be recognizable without their logo. This may sound kind of crazy, but if you have a solid brand, you can still convey who you are without that logo. Think about styling, photography, copy, art direction. Every day I work with images and copy that align perfecly to a brand's values and you can instinctively tell who you're looking at. Take an editorial Nike campaign, for example, remove the logo and you can still tell who's story it is. Their values and style transcend the logo, you know what to expect from them.
Think of it this way, your brand values are like the bricks of a house, the strong structure that holds everything together. Your logo, color palette, and tagline are like the furniture and accessories that you fill your house with. They're aesthetically pleasing, they showcase your style and personality, they're totally needed because let's face it who wants to live in an empty house? But, they are not the element that's holding everything together. Take away the furniture and you still have a strong brick structure there, take away the brick structure and all your left with is a big pile of furniture with no context whatsoever.
Housing analogies aside, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the terminology floating around regarding branding. But, it's even harder to figure out how to apply those things to your own business. The theory for a smaller business is no different to the theory for those huge companies I mentioned earlier.
Here are some of my top points to consider when trying to turn your business into a brand...
1) BRAND VALUES:
First and foremost before you start anything you need to figure out what your brand values are.
These are the foundations of your brand.
Ask yourself the following questions to get started...
- Why did you start?
- Who is your target audience?
- What values do you hold dear?
- What are you trying to achieve?
- How do you want to be perceived?
- What does your customer expect of you?
- What makes you special?
- Where are you headed?
If you can get some clear concise answers to these questions then you are on your way to having the framework of your brand's guidelines and values. Take your answers to these questions and turn them into your mission statement.
- From the very beginning, you should be thinking in the long term.
- Don't create your brand based on trends.
- Base your brand on what is true to you, be genuine and authentic.
- Think about the future in everything you do with your brand.
- Create a solid, starting point of brand values, but always be planning ahead with them in mind.
- Your brand will develop over time and that's good, growth and setbacks are essential parts of progress, but always try to keep true to your brand's origins.
- Your brand has to be cohesive.
- You have to be recognizable everywhere, that means online and offline and in everything that you do.
- Your Instagram account should look like your brick and mortar store. Your letterheads and business cards should look like your facebook page.
- Your brand should be apparent in everything you do.
- Your customers should automatically know when they see something from you, it should be instinctive, like second nature.
- If you're not consistent in the representation of your brand how do you expect your customer to be consistent in their loyalty to it?
"Your brand should be apparent in everything you do"
- Always remember that it takes a long time to build up customers trust and seconds to lose it.
- That relationship of trust between your customer and your brand is vital to succeed.
- The customer has to believe in the message you're putting out into the world. Is your message real?
- Without your customers trust, your brand doesn't exist.
- Gain trust by not being fake.
- Social media has such an idealistic nature about it, don't succumb to it.
- If you start to put out an altered version of your brand it will become transparent very quickly.
- Don't feel like you have to put everything out into the world, be selective.
- Think before you act.
- Think about how every action will affect your relationship with your customer.
- If something doesn't feel quite right, then it probably isn't.
- Remember YOU know your brand. Be honest and true to it.
Ensure your customer knows what to expect, it's the simplest way to turn your business into a brand.