Building a brand can sound like a vague process. It’s not like building a house or a bridge, or even a piece of software. What’s involved? In this post we demystify the idea of brand building by breaking it down into 5 actionable design steps.
1 What are we going to call this thing?
The first thing a company needs is a name. This can be a really difficult process. You want something that describes your business, something that’s unique and memorable, good for SEO, but also original and not already taken. There aren’t too many good names that fit all of those criteria. It’s hard! Before you set your heart on a favourite name check to see if the web domains and social media handles are available - you’re going to need those later. Make life easy by using a site like namecheck.com.
2 Logo and Colourway
Ok, so now you have a really cool name. Woo! Now you need a logo. The logo is like the gravitational centre of the brand - everything else is held in orbit around it. Developing logos comes with new challenges in the digital era because they have many more potential use cases than ever before. A logo needs to be effective at large scale - e.g. on the side of a building, but it also needs to be legible as a favicon in your browser. Think about all of the ways you might want to use your logo when you’re choosing a design.
The colours you go with need to be sympathetic to the aims of your company. There are some pretty obvious rules of thumb here. For example, if you’re a high end consultancy you’re not going to go with pink and yellow (I once saw pink and yellow work pretty well on a taco van, but I really wouldn’t advise). Similarly, if your business is focussed on being eco friendly and carbon neutral you won’t want to go with threatening colours like red and orange. Keep basic colour theory in mind.
Once you have a logo design and a colourway the last part of this phase is to develop a set of brand guidelines. This is so that everyone knows how to use the logo, fonts and colourways, and it's really important for maintaining brand consistency as you proceed.
3 Basic Corporate Assets.
The next thing you should do is use it to start building up your essential corporate assets. This is the first stage of brand deployment and it means taking care of all your customer-facing materials.
Digitally, this means branding your website, however basic and MVP it is, your company email signatures, etc. You’ll also need a set of templates for producing slide decks for investors and prospects. You’re going for consistency, so you don’t want to let your people show up to events and meetings with slides they’ve thrown together by themselves. The horror! You’ll also need banners for all of your social media accounts. Twitter, LinkedIn, Insta, etc. all need to be projecting that same brand consistency.
In the real world you’ll need signage for the office and if you’re a bit old fashioned or in a traditional industry you still might need stuff like notepads and letterheads. Business cards too.
By the end of this stage everything you use in your day to day operations should be recognisable as belonging to you and no one else. Oh, and make sure you get coffee mugs. Nothing runs without coffee, so to my mind mugs are definitely “basic assets”.
4 Sales and Marketing Materials.
At this point you’ve got all of the basics in place. You have a functional brand for your regular business ops. Next on the list - sales collateral. Explaining and marketing your product will require sales literature in some form or other. This can be short and sweet, like A5 postcards, or longform copy like white papers and case studies. Whatever the format, it needs to maintain the visual identity you spent all that time and money on back when you were developing your logo.
Now things are starting to get really fun. Building your brand will mean attending conferences and events and giving your staff and potential customers cool giveaways and swags. You can really go wild here. The potential list of things you can put your logo and name on is pretty much endless. The Boring Company famously released their own brand flamethrowers a few years back - basically merchandise as a PR stunt. I’m sure you’ve all gone home from a conference with a tote bag full of pens, socks and stickers, so try to be original (but maybe not quite flamethrower original). A fresh swag idea is hugely effective as a marketing tool because people will always like and share cool stuff with their network.
These 5 design steps on their own aren’t a magic formula for a billion dollar brand, but they should give you an idea of the creative processes you’ll need to go through to give your company the best chance of being successful. Good luck and have fun!