When you think about your brand, what kind of things do you think about?
The first answer is usually a company’s logo. Sometimes, people mention graphics and the colors that represent the company. In all fairness, those are typically the things we remember most about a company.
While it’s true that a logo is an important representation of the brand, your brand is far more than a logo, colors, and design. That’s just a small piece to the puzzle.
Rather than thinking of your brand as a tangible item, think of it as an experience.
A brand is the people associated with a business. It’s the products and services you sell. It’s your strategy and values. Even the way you speak and write to your customers is your brand.
Branding is a concept—it’s the foundation of your business. Designing a logo is like taking a concept and painting it on a canvas. It’s a small piece of that concept, captured and put into a visual form.
So what kinds of things do you need to consider when you create a brand?
The Purpose of Your Brand
Before you do anything else, think of why you started blogging or why you want to start a blog.
I often talk about writing with purpose because to achieve something with your writing, you need to know why you’re writing.
A blog, like any other publication or company, needs to answer the “why.” Why does it exist in the first place? What’s its purpose?
Sometimes people confuse “purpose” with a goal. Purpose is a driving force behind everything you do—it’s the reason you set a goal. It goes beyond getting readers and making money and explains the very reason your blog even exists.
You don’t have to overcomplicate this part. A purpose may be as simple as wanting to teach people, make something more accessible, or make people happy. There are always people to teach, things we can make more accessible, and people we can bring happiness to. Purpose doesn’t have an end.
Mission Statement and Values
While not everyone publishes a mission statement, writing one out for yourself helps keep you on track.
A mission statement should state the purpose of your blog, as well as how you plan to work towards that purpose. Many mission statements talk about purpose, but rarely the journey there.
Mission statements are usually accompanied by values. Since values influence how you work towards a purpose, this is important to include with your statement. List out the values you consider most important and talk about why they’re important.
Don’t worry about how it sounds—this isn’t something you have to immediately publish. (Many blogs never publish a statement like this.) Put it on your wall, on your desktop, or somewhere where you can reference it often. For now, this statement is just for you.
You’ll want every aspect of your brand—the style of writing you use, the graphics, the way you interact with readers, and any products you offer—to reflect this statement.
Brand Promise and Expectations
When you buy a product, you usually have some expectation of quality. The same goes for when you pick up a magazine or book.
Think about some of the blogs you follow and the expectations you have of the content they publish. You expect them to deliver helpful or entertaining information and maintain a certain level of quality.
But if you change topics or deliver content that seems out of place, readers don’t know what to expect.
Wendy’s made a simple commitment—to deliver quality food. They go on to talk about how they fulfill that commitment, such as using fresh beef and produce.
Your “promise” as a blogger can include things like the level of quality readers can expect, how often you deliver content, as well as the topics you’ll cover.
Style and Voice
Style and voice usually are just that—the style of writing and tone of your “voice.” This is the way your brand communicates across various platforms.
A style and voice guide can include grammar rules, how often you use passive voice, and how you handle abbreviations and acronyms. For an example of a detailed style and voice guide, check out this guide by MailChimp.
Maintaining a consistent voice is tricky if you work with many writers. But each writer using their own voice is a branding decision as well. If your blog showcases different writers, outline what you don’t want to see in writing. (For instance, some sites I write for want me to use my own style, but they don’t want any jargon or acronyms that the audience is unfamiliar with.)
Brand Messaging and Persona
Brand messaging extends beyond words. While it does include how you write and communicate to your customers, it also covers your graphics, colors, and other designs.
What kind of message do you want to send to your audience? How do you want to come across to them?
Consider this—if your company was a person, how would they act? Would it be friendly? Professional? Casual? Sarcastic or snarky? It all depends on how you want your audience to view your company. If you want them to talk to you like a familiar friend, your writing and graphics should be casual, friendly, and use colors that convey a sense of comfort.
Sometimes, this messaging changes from platform to platform. You might not address your audience on Twitter the same way you address this on Facebook. Different social media platforms often mean different audiences. It’s up to you to research what fits well.
Colors, Logos, and Other Design Choices
This section is about the “face” of your blog. Your colors, logo, website design, and graphics should reflect the things we covered.
Colors impact how we process information, as well as where our attention goes. We can also use colors to convey a message.
Blue, for instance, is often associated with business, technology, trust, and peace. There are tons of studies and articles on colors and how they influence people.
On Logo Design
Your logo should also tie in these colors. Most logos have one or two colors as the primary focus. Too many can detract make a logo seem busy, confusing, and sometimes even stressful. Your logo should reflect your values, personality, or other messages you would like to convey to your audience.
Text-based logos have become increasingly popular, often featuring script or brush fonts over a shape or stroke. These can work well, but you risk making your logo hard to read. If you go this route, consider using a piece of your logo (or even a secondary logo) for situations where it’s too small to read.
Other Design Choices
When designing your website, keep your audience and the intent of your website in mind.
If you’re trying to get lots of information across that requires careful processing, reduce distractions on the page. Don’t run ads and banners that are big, bright and detract from your content.
Many news sites and magazines run lots of ads and have tons of information in the sidebar. It’s obvious they don’t intend for you to read the entire article—there are too many distractions. Rather, they shift the focus to other pieces of content, including advertisements.
Entertainment sites don’t get paid based on how much content their audience read. They get paid for ad and link clicks. So, they design their sites and articles so that readers will skim through articles and click on ads and other outbound links.
Colors also have an impact. Many minimalist-inspired designs feature lots of white space, dark text, and little to no color. Other sites use bold, bright colors throughout the site to lead attention in a certain pattern. Again, it depends on what you want people to do and what kind of message you want to send your audience.
Neutral colors provide little distraction and allow you to focus on the content and process information. Bright colors aim to encourage action or invoke an emotional response.
Above all else, make sure your branding efforts are consistent. Stay consistent with your brand in everything you do, whether it’s sending an email or creating graphics for social media posts.
Take a look at Nike. While their marketing and advertising have changed over the years, their core message remains the same. They’ve created such a strong brand experience that all we need to see is that Swoosh logo and we immediately think of Nike.
If you decide to change your branding, it’s important to market those changes. Better yet, communicate these changes to your audience beforehand to see what they think.
Remember when Gap tried to change their logo? The new logo was only around a week before they scrapped it and went back to the old one due to backlash from customers. The branding change involved a lot of internal talks, but they forgot to go to the people that really matter—their customers. Lesson learned: stay in touch with your audience.
Rebranding sometimes does more harm than good, especially if it doesn’t resonate with your audience. So when you’re creating a brand, make thoughtful branding decisions. Sticking to these branding choices will help make a consistent, memorable image.
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