Branding. A big word that has approximately 10,782 meanings depending on who you're talking to. I cannot tell you the number of times I've been asked:
But what does a brand really need to get off the ground?
The simple answer is - very little.
In this post I'll go into a bit more detail about what, from our experience, are the key elements that a team actually needs to launch a new brand out into the world. Spoiler, your logo isn't as important as you think it is.
In reality, the list isn't as big as you might think:
- Product / Service
- Brand Language
I know, I know. If you're familiar with us already, you're probably sick of hearing this but it really is so important. For small businesses, authenticity is one of your biggest advantages, so work out early on why this business is exciting to you, over and above making you money.
There are a few different ways to think about business, but for me I think about sending an email.
Your purpose statement should be big and broad enough that you could have it in mind when sending a run-of-the-mill email. Earthfound's is unearthing authentic foundations. So you can see quite easily how, based on that purpose, one of our core values is to ask questions and listen. Even in day to day conversations with suppliers or within our own team, we're seeking to unearth things, to learn, and to use that knowledge to build a better way of working.
Purposes don't have to be about social change or making the world a better place. But they should be a big, ambitious dream somewhere on the horizon that you're striving for.
We attach an awful lot of significance to names. After all, they are how we label the world, and how we distinguish one thing from another. But the truth is, they aren't as important as we think. The main considerations with a name when we're building one at Earthfound are the following:
- Can it be easily pronounced and spelled by our audience?
- Is there a usable URL we can purchase for it that makes sense?
- When viewed on our homepage or on a business card, does it align with and represent us?
What's important here is that your name doesn't need to do everything. We have a habit of expecting a name to communicate everything about us to our audience. But instead of that, think of your name as one word in the sentence that people might use to describe your business. It needs to make sense, but it's not the whole picture.
Hate to break it to you but your logo isn't as important as you might think, especially at a very early stage. But it is useful to have one that looks polished and professional, and there are a few basics to adhere to there (if you need more help specifically on logo creation, check out this blog post on how to make a great low-budget logo).
One of the main mistakes I see people make with logos is not to have a version that will work on social media profiles (i.e. at about 2mm high on someone's phone). If you have a longer name, find a symbol or use initials just for those specific cases, so there's consistency. No one is going to be able to read a 20 letter name in that tiny Instagram circle.
This is the one that people often fall down with. Websites don't have to be complicated or require a ton of expert help, but they do need to reflect you and draw your audience in.
I'll be doing some more specific posts on building your first website, how to choose the right platform for you and key considerations but for now, remember that your website is a marketing tool. Just like anything else, it needs to have the right amount of information for your audience, in the right places.
Which brings us to the final and most important piece
If you don't know who you're talking to, then stop building a brand right now and work that out first.
And before you say it, your business is NOT relevant to everyone. It's just not. When we start out, our highest chance of success is determined either by:
- Expertise in one niche area, or
- Massive budgets so we can wallpaper ourselves all over the internet.
And when I say massive budgets, I mean massive, like millions of dollars a year.
So, if you want to grow and start building a reputation and a client base, pick a niche. And make it as narrow as you can. If it helps, remember:
- Nike started by creating custom sneakers for one high school track team in the US.
- YouTube started as a dating site.
- Netflix started as a mail-order DVD rental service.
- Facebook was an attractiveness comparison website for one university campus.
The reason these companies are so successful today is because they became known for doing one thing well and were then able to expand into other areas once they had built trust and revenue.
For more help in building your audience persona, have a read of the beginning of this blog post.
Product / Service
You might think this needs to be higher in the list, and it's true it's certainly possible to build a business around one specific product. But in our experience, no one is selling anything completely unique. So the best way for you to stand out and become successful (whatever success means for you) is:
- Have an idea of your products or services,
- Create that bigger picture purpose and audience,
- Test, iterate and refine your products to fit them exactly.
Also, and it might sound obvious, make sure you can simply and concisely define exactly what it is you do. There's nothing more frustrating as a consumer than finding a new company and trying to work out what exactly they are selling me.
Make it as easy as possible for your audience to come across you and say, "I need that."
This one can be as simple or as complex as you like really, but as a basic toolkit you need some colours, a photography or illustration style and a typeface. Again, if you're starting out, keep it simple right now. You can always add to it later.
Keep accessibility in mind here, make sure that everything is easy to read with plenty of contrast, and leave space around things. We see and absorb information much better when there's some space. Choosing an image style helps build consistency, even if you're using stock photos (make sure you have the licenses for these if you are going to use stock). I recommend choosing from the Google Fonts library if you're not sure about lettering, and keeping it simple with a maximum of 3 sizes for your text. Again this is something that you can evolve later on, but right now you need people to read and absorb information about you, so consistency and clarity are key.
When in doubt, delegate to an expert
Being a business owner, even a creative business owner, does not mean you need to be a designer. And creating a great brand doesn't need to cost the earth, it's all about the value you will get from having a brand that works. If you can get a handle on your purpose and audience, then any good brand designer should be able to take that and create an incredible brand that will resonate and make your passion into a profitable business.
Need help creating your brand but don't know where to start? Let's chat!