Creating a visual identity and branding for your business is both an exciting and a painstaking, but crucial task.
The image you project and feelings your brand evokes must stand the test of time. It must also have lasting appeal and maintain flexibility for the many media options your company will use as you evolve over time.
Creating a brand and visual identity guide
Given the vast array of marketing strategies available to you and to deliver the impact you want now and in the future, it’s a good idea to create a visual identity guide.
This is a document which includes: your brand framework, your aims, encompasses your vision, your main communications objectives and sets the tone for your visual and voice messaging.
Establishing a visual identity works well when you have a company ‘avatar’ in mind; this is an identified character type, with whom your audience can easily identify.
Your company personality will be someone in whom customers and clients can see themselves, or who they aspire to be.
The strength of your visual identity depends upon your audiences buying into you. So when you create a brand identity guide, your avatar, or brand persona, must be:
- simple enough to make sense in the minds of audiences to engage them
- achieve quick recognition amongst audiences to build familiarity
- convey repeatable and memorable messages
The above is a great example of a visual identity guide for Aston University by London agency Spencer Dubois.
Building the elements of your visual identity
This creative stage of building your logo, identity and brand takes time and consideration. However, to achieve and maintain overall consistency of visibility I advise you think through some of the following issues:
- Plan the overall branding and naming of your business, then check each aspect complements the next.
- Consider how your company image conveys your messages. This includes:
- Logo design (with and without tagline). Does it look professional? Does it look unique?
- Market research. Are you promoting your USP? Is there space for another company like yours?
- Recognition. Is your brand easy to recognise? Is it distinct enough to set you apart?
- Flexibility. Does your identity work across all media in different colours, sizes and platforms?
- Tag line / slogan. Does it convey your true promise? How well does this fit with your logo and imagery?
- Choose appropriate fonts for consistency across all copy in brochures, product branding, advertising and marketing assets
You may find this article on Small Business Marketing helpful »
Stelios of Smooth Detox taking his brand to the people. Getting feedback is essential in all facets of your business.
Using your brand to build customer loyalty
Essentially, your branding and identity are all about how you communicate and fit into the wider picture of achieving customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Communications are a two-way process, so branding is split between how your company expresses itself outwards to audiences and how target audiences respond.
Some marketing commentators, such as Shiva Nandan, divide branding into identity and image, to reflect this two way process. Nandan says:
 Nandan, Shiva. (April 2005). An exploration of the brand identity–brand image linkage: A communications perspective Journal of Brand Management Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 264–278
“Brand identity originates from the company, i.e. … creating a differentiated product … Brand image refers to consumer perceptions and encompasses a set of beliefs that consumers have about the brand.” 
Google have built incredible customer loyalty. An estimated 3.5 billion searches per day take place. That’s 1.2 trillion searched per year globally.
Creating and developing your vision
Whether you want to project originality and innovation, or if you prefer to foster a sense of familiarity can depend upon the age of your company.
So, as a rule, disruptive start-ups want to make a splash with offering something new. Whereas established brands want to build on their existing brand capital, relying on customer trust, loyalty and familiarity.
Your marketing content and visual elements will ultimately be based on the vision of your company, i.e. your overarching mission statement. This requires:
- knowing who your audience are,
- what their interests are,
- how they respond to your market.
The next thing to think about is your business objectives, which will dictate how imagery fits into a campaign.
For instance, companies increasingly recognise the power of using fun imagery, regardless of whether traditionally, theirs is a ‘serious’ seeming profession.
Whilst we can’t foresee funeral directors ever daring to evoke laughs by depictions of hilarious recollections of the dearly departed, more financial service providers are venturing to project a fun image of the company, including tax advisors traditionally perceived as boring (sorry guys).
Here are some examples of brands who have captured what their brand vision is:
10 things you need to do to ensure your brand is successful
So we can see that branding and building a visible identity involves complex issues. In terms of drilling into practicalities of building your brand image, here are some actions you can take to build a visual profile.
- Define in as much detail as you can on who your audiences are. Drill into details about their lives, their likes and dislikes. When you understand their motives, target their emotions in marketing campaigns. And check competitor success by emulating their approach to some degree to achieve market share. Check out how they engage their audiences.
- Know your own value. Your business was probably established to fill a gap in the market; stay true to these core products or services. Perfect your customer service until you are ready to diversify.
- Know Thyself – the words over the Temple at Delphi. Company’s have a personality; learn the psychology of your audience and project their best qualities, or shift focus to take your audiences in a new direction. Do you want to project authority, fun, something else, or a sophisticated ‘well-rounded’ personality?
- Identify the customer aspirations that you want to target.Then build images and messages around this, telling an emotional story your target audience can relate to. Being able to relate to your messages will galvanise them into action.
- Distill down and keep things simple, open and authentic. Include imagery to minimise confusion and engage busy, highly distractible minds. Help them understand why your business is the solution to their problems. Maintain consistency across all platforms and campaigns.
- Test and monitor results of specific campaigns. Split test to really optimise results.
- Stay consistent. Ensure you and your team are speaking the same language and buy into your brand image objectives.
- Rinse and repeat. Create templates and consistently build familiarity with your brand. Build your library of assets and specifications using a style guide. This becomes your checklist for choosing font sizes, colours, type, and imagery.
- Keep a diary. Note significant sales cycles/events to piggy back onto with marketing campaigns e.g. prepare in advance for Christmas sales, Valentines Day, or make the most of working with your preferred charity, ‘badging’ events to coincide with their regular awareness raising campaigns.
- Regularly review your visual identity and brand. Ensure you are staying abreast of shifting trends in your market. When updating your image or visual identity, seek opinions by market testing amongst your fans and advocates.
One more thing… Have fun with this creative process… Any questions?