In today’s business world, few terms or concepts are as pervasive—even sacred—as branding. Your company's brand is how you communicate with and build emotional connections to the people around you—your customers, your employees, your partners, even your competitors.
Whether you are a new business looking to build your brand from the bottom up or an established business looking to improve your branding and brand identity, Tribute Media can help.
Essentially, your brand is all about how people perceive you. A logo is an important aspect of brand identity, but branding includes so much more. Your brand also includes how others relate to your business through:
Your brand has visual elements (logo, color palette, fonts), and it has written elements (slogan, tagline, brand voice). Your brand should tell a story, and it should feel familiar to your customers. Think of the brands you know best. What do they have in common? Consistency and visibility, sure, but successful branding also has a clear focus, a target audience, and good communication.
When it comes to your brand identity online, there is so much more to think about than just your website. Your brand must shine—and be consistent—across many platforms and media.
Though every brand has different elements and every company places different levels of importance on the various aspects, you can still consider these three main components for every brand identity.
Your brand should be firmly rooted in your "Why"— meaning, why your company exists and what you bring to the table. Along with conveying the values of your brand, your website should quickly be able to answer questions like these:
In addition to what you do, your brand includes how you do it.
The impression that customers have of your business—innovative or traditional, classy or down-to-earth—is a major component of your brand. Factors such as these play a role in conveying your brand’s personality:
If a company doesn't seem to know its own purpose or identity, it won't inspire trust in its prospects and customers. That’s why consistency is crucial when it comes to building a brand. Among other things, this can mean:
Consistency can build brand loyalty. When customers know what to expect from your brand, and they consistently have positive experiences with your products or services, they're more likely to stick with you over time. This means they'll be more likely to recommend you to their friends and family, and they may even become brand ambassadors.
On the flip side, inconsistency can make it hard for prospects to remember your brand, and it can confuse your customers. If your branding is all over the place, it can be hard for people to connect the dots and understand what you're all about. Inconsistent branding can also give the impression that your brand isn't professional or reliable, which can turn off potential customers.
The short answer to this question (should be): EVERYWHERE.
Now here’s the longer answer. Your brand is online via your website, social media accounts, and where your customers share it. It's also offline, in collateral, print materials, signage, and so forth.
Obviously, your website is where many (if not most) customers or potential leads will interact with your brand. That's why having a well-designed, intuitive website is crucial. Beyond the design and usability of your site, you can think about how you're expressing your brand identity in some key areas:
In addition to your website, brand identity shows up in plenty of other places (whether you like it or not!), including:
You have less control over some of these, which is why your branding matters. Your messaging and imagery are pieces that can be broken up and used in various ways, but having consistency helps ensure your company is intact in any context.
Part of building your brand means thinking about how the elements function on and offline. Your branding beyond internet might include things like traditional advertising (in print or on TV, for instance), your office or brick-and-mortar location, pamphlets and brochures, or any other IRL items your customers interact with.
While everything we've covered so far is part of brand identity, let's reframe things for the sake of answering this question.
Brand identity is the visual, written/verbal, and sensory elements that make up a brand and help it stand out from other brands. It includes everything from the logo to the color scheme, typography, messaging, packaging, and more.
Creating a strong brand identity comes from understanding who your customers are and what they like. This will help you design a brand identity that resonates with them and communicates your unique value proposition. Consistency, again, is key so that customers know what to expect from your brand and can easily recognize it.
Your brand identity is a fundamental part of your overall marketing and business strategy. By creating a memorable and consistent brand identity, you can connect with customers, build trust, and ultimately drive business success.
With all that in mind, let's get into the specifics.
If we were to break down the elements of your brand identity into two categories, we could say it's all about how you look and sound. The visual elements–like logos, colors, typography, etc.—do the work of communicating personality, building brand recognition, and separating you from your competitors. The other parts–messaging, tag lines, ad copy, and so forth–help establish your value proposition, showcase your solutions, and tell interested parties what they need to know about your brand and offerings.
These two broad categories work together to build, establish, and maintain your brand, which means they need time and attention throughout the lifetime of your company. Let's look at some of the key pieces more in depth.
In case you're at the very beginning of your branding journey, let's talk about your business name. The primary difference between naming your company now compared to pre-internet days is that your brand is entering a world where billions of words are used in the same space every day. You absolutely need to consider how your company name will appear online if you rely on the web for any part of your business (which, let's face it–who doesn't rely on the web for anything?).
Here are a few questions to keep in mind: Is your potential name being used elsewhere? Even if it's a different industry altogether, you'll always be in competition. Is it a commonly used word? You might be up against searchers trying to discover something unrelated to your business. Is the domain available? This last question is crucial–if you can't get yourbusinessname.com, you'll have to devise another solution, which may not work well for your branding.
Keeping search engine optimization (SEO) in mind as you create your business is a great way to get ahead if you are going to invest in digital marketing–or even if you just want an online presence. For instance, using a keyword in your name can be a simple way to start. A coffee company called Brewster's Coffee Roasters is clearly identifying itself as a coffee company and targeting keywords all in one.
The logo is one of the first things businesses create, and for good reason. A brand's logo is a visual representation of a company's identity, values, and mission. A well-designed logo is a crucial element of a brand's visual identity, and it can influence how consumers perceive the brand. It's the best way to visually build and maintain brand recognition.
Designing a logo today involves a combination of traditional design principles and modern design tools and technologies. Logos are used across platforms and in different contexts, so a logo design must account for size and other restrictions. For instance, a logo that is very tall might take up too much valuable space in in a header on your website or print materials. A logo designed to be horizontal only, may not crop well into social media profiles and other places it might appear as a thumbnail image.
Key elements of a good logo design include:
If you're considering designing a logo yourself, or you want some insight into the process, here are the general steps required for logo design.
Many businesses get outside help for logo design, which is a good idea! Keep in mind, though, you get what you pay for. If you go to a gig site and pay, say, FIVE dollars 👀 you could someday find yourself with legal issues if the designer is starting with something stock that they don't have the correct licensing for, or if they don't take into consideration how it will render in various environments or in compliance with ADA requirements. We recommend hiring a reputable designer who will take the time to get to know you and your business while following design (and accessibility) best practices.
Though it tends to be overlooked, typography places an important role in branding. Typography is more than just the fonts you use; it's typefaces, point sizes, line lengths, line spacing, and letter spacing, among other elements.
The typography your brand uses can help to convey things like the personality, tone, and values of your business. A good rule of thumb (to borrow from a common design principle) is that people will notice bad typography and won't notice good typography. The fonts you use should really just follow a few key principles: they should be legible, work together, and be versatile enough to use on and offline. It's good to remember that A) overly trendy typography can feel outdated after a while, and B) unoriginal typography won't be enough to help you stand out from the competition–the key, of course, is to find the right balance between those two poles.
Imagery can communicate a brand's values, personality, and tone through visual cues. This includes the images you use on your website or share on social media, as well as any other imagery you use anywhere that's attached to your business. However, it's fairly simple to stay on brand with imagery if you set up some best practices early on.
Images you use should be:
While not every image will hit all of those–after all, you probably have a finite number of images you want to use for blog posts–these are good guidelines for image use.
Related: The 5 C's of Selecting Imagery for Your Website
Imagery can do a lot of work in creating a strong and memorable visual brand identity. By intentionally using imagery that is in line with your brand, you can create a visual identity that effectively communicates your message and resonates with your target audience.
Just like you, your brand has a voice. Your brand voice is basically how you speak to your audience—it's the personality of the brand expressed through words. Some components of voice include the tone, style, language, and vibe, as well as the emotions it conveys and promotes. Paying attention to voice, and ensuring it's consistent and in line with your brand, can help you stand out, connect with your customers, and get your message across.
Having a style guide (more on that later!) can make sustaining your voice easier. To create one, you first have to define your voice. Do you want to be perceived as fun and friendly? Formal and serious? Quirky? Trustworthy? Knowing the personality of your brand can help dictate how you want to communicate across channels.
Your style guide, then, can highlight the tone, style, and language to be used in all your messaging. As with every element of branding, consistency is key. A good brand voice can help you create a cohesive and memorable brand identity.
Your company's content is made up of all these elements, so it's no surprise that it is one of the most–if not THE most–important parts of your brand. Your content appears everywhere your brand does, so it's crucial to ensure the messaging is (you guessed it) consistent and in line with everything you've come up with related to branding: the voice, the tone, the imagery, the type, etc.
So how do you create content that accurately reflects your brand identity? That's where your style guide comes in.
Style guides provide a clear framework for how your brand should be presented across channels. It's how it should look and sound to anyone who encounters it. It can cover everything from colors, fonts, and other visual elements to the tone of voice and language. Style guides can be general guidelines, or they can be more in-depth if you have certain expectations you want everyone to follow (like, using the oxford comma or not using particular words).
The point of a style guide is to share it with everyone involved in your business. They ensure that everyone involved in creating content, from web designers to your social media manager, are on the same page and have a clear understanding of what the brand stands for and how it should be represented.
Visual branding guides are also called brand guides. These are specific to how things like logos should be used, how and when to use colors from your brand's palette and typography guidelines.
Ideally, you will create your style guide as you're building your brand. This can then help with early efforts to establish your brand, such as website design, content creation, logo design, and so forth. But if you're past that point, it's not too late! Whether you're rebranding or just trying to get a handle on your brand identity and presentation, now's the time to create that style guide.
At minimum, your guide(s) should include:
You may have separate style/brand guides for visual and written communications.
Additionally, you should consider including:
Here are Tribute Media's brand guidelines.
HubSpot has a list of 21 brand style guide examples.
Designing with accessibility in mind is a crucial part of your branding strategy. We've covered the basics of web accessibility as well as the link between accessibility and SEO, so we'll just talk briefly here about what to know when it comes to ADA compliance, accessible design, and branding.
Here's an overview of some of the key accessibility features you'll want to incorporate into your branding:
Colors: Your brand's color palette should be accessible to individuals with color blindness and visual impairments. Avoid using color combinations that are difficult to distinguish (like white and light grey), and provide alternatives, such as patterns or text labels, when necessary.
Typography: Fonts should be easy to read, even at smaller sizes. Use a font size of at least 16 pixels for body text and ensure that there is sufficient contrast between the text and the background. Provide captions or transcripts for any audio or video content.
Website: Your website should be designed with accessibility in mind. Clear navigation, alternative text for images, and captions or transcripts for video content are just a few of the features to include. You should also add additional accessibility features, such as keyboard navigation and screen reader compatibility, whenever possible.
Staying informed and up to date with accessibility guidelines is the best way to create and maintain an inclusive brand identity. With the landscape of accessibility constantly evolving to be more inclusive, it's important to consult resources such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and ADA Standards to ensure that your designs meet the latest standards.
Creating and maintaining brand identity is a huge undertaking, and there's no shame in asking for help! Whether you want someone to take the reins on developing visual branding (like logos or website design) or you need someone with expertise in creating style guides, Tribute Media can help.
Here are just a few examples of how we've helped companies with branding for the web:
Other branding services we offer include: