I remember when all that “brand identity” meant was your logo and a color palette. Maybe you’d have a tagline, but that was about it.
Anything more than that was for the big brands like Coca Cola. They had (and still have) 50-page style guides for everything – logos, fonts, images, graphics, placement, scale, proportion, ads, brochures, storyboards, radio, TV, web, print…all of it.
But a style guide for a small brand? That was just redundant. As a small business your marketing was maybe a trade show booth, a brochure and a quarter-page spot in a local magazine.
Building brand awareness on a massive scale just wasn’t affordable for smaller brands.
Now everything has changed. Today every single brand is a publisher.
Think about it. You are a publishing company. It doesn’t matter if you’re a team of one or a team of one hundred. You have the potential to reach the exact same audience as Coca Cola. You can build your online brand and get massive exposure for your business on social media and search engines.
What this means is that as a brand, you need a whole lot more than an identity and a color palette. You need an entire branding system for everything so that all your brand elements work harmoniously together and are consistent everywhere.
If you look at all the places where people will experience your brand: your website, emails, landing pages, sales pages, CTAs, ads, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest… It’s a lot. And you need a documented system for things like social media posts, images, content, calls to action, web copy so that you can put everything on autopilot.
Here’s what you need in your branding system:
- Tone. How do you want people to feel when they experience your brand? Loyal? Creative? Bold? Humorous? Pick three words you want to be known for and use them to set the overall tone of your brand.
- Logo. Your logo should be simple, bold, and instantly recognizable (especially on profiles and favicons). It should work equally well in color and in black and white. For more on designing a logo, check out this post.
- Fonts. Choose a font or font pairings that speak your brand. Think about what fonts you want to use for your logo, and what fonts to use for headings, body copy and emphasized text.
- Colors. What colors support the tone of your brand? Bright and airy, warm, vibrant, dark and edgy, neutral and balanced?
- Image library. What types of images and textures reflect your brand personality? Smooth, soft, edgy? Start creating a library of images so that you have them handy. There are tons of free or inexpensive stock photo sites with amazing images. A few of them are listed here.
- Graphics. Same thing for graphic elements. What graphic elements will you use for your brand? Circles, squares, icons? Freepik and Flaticon are great sources for icons and graphics.
- Blog. Think about your short term and long terms goals for your business. How will you use blogging to achieve them? What types of content will you share? What content themes will you work with to provide the most value to your audience? I drill down on 14 ways to grow your blog audience in this post.
- Social media. Who is your target audience and what channels will you dig in to to reach them? Create profiles on each and mark down specific goals for each site. For social media profile and cover image sizes, check out this post.
- Share images. Use Photoshop or Canva to create image templates for social media. Make sure you brand the share images with your logo, fonts and colors so that people can instantly recognize your brand.
While you’re brainstorming your brand system, spend some time researching other brands that stand out to you. Look for quotes, images, textures, fonts, and so on that catch your eye. Pinterest is great for this. You can create a private board where you gather and refine your visual inspiration.
Once you have your branding system together, your next step is to document it in a style guide (yes, you need one). Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But at some point you will, and here’s why:
- Posting on social media will take you minutes instead of hours.
- Your ideal customers will easily recognize your brand.
- Your image library will make creating blog title images effortless.
- You will know exactly what to blog about, why and for whom.
- You won’t get caught using off-brand colors and fonts. You will know exactly which fonts to use, how you want to juxtapose them, and what colors to use for each element.
A brand style guide gives you the confidence to hit the ground running knowing that your brand is consistent everywhere and that everything works seamlessly together.