Artists on-lineIn our last installment of the Artists Online series I discussed forming an identity for your business.  This week we’re going to talk about how to take that identity and communicate it to the world in a consistent way.  In other words, branding.

Branding is not a word I’m crazy about.  It feels like a buzzword and I’m never crazy about those.  However, the principals behind branding are solid and important.

Essentially, branding is what makes you unique and identifiable in your clients mind and tells them what they can expect when they interact with you.   Another important, but often overlooked, aspect of branding is what makes you identifiable in a current and potential employee’s mind.   That image you are working so hard to project should be reflected in all aspects of your business – internally and externally.

keep it consistent

There are three keys to branding:

  • consistency
  • consistency
  • consistency

Your image needs to run through all your marketing materials: logo, website, business cards, stationery, invoices, packaging, apparel,… anything that represents your business.

The overall look and feel should be consistent. Use the same colours, fonts, graphics on all your materials. Imagery is very powerful and when you keep things like font and graphics the same throughout, your marketing materials can become instantly recognizable. Think of companies like Ikea and Volkswagon – their tv and print ads are instantly recognizable even before you see a logo. You know who it is just by the look and feel of the ad.

Choose a font for all your correspondence: email messages, blog posts, invoices, etc.   Set it as the default font in your email program, your blog stylesheet, your word processing program so you don’t even have to thing about it. (Hint: choose a font that is common on most computers.  An obscure font that you love may not be on the recipient’s computer and they may not see it)

logos

Your logo is your face (we’ll talk about logos in more detail in another article).  It’s what instantly identifies you.   It may seem obvious but, you need one logo.  Not 2 or 3 or 4.  If you have a red logo, use the same red all the time.  If you choose to have variations of your logo for different uses, keep it consistent.  Maybe the logo is the same but the colour changes or the logo is the same but the tag-line changes.  Whatever the case, be careful if you do decided to have variations.   Don’t dilute the visual impact of your logo on a client’s memory by having a hodge podge of logos that all vary slightly.  Keep it the same if you can.   Everywhere.

I know I said this may seem obvious but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen businesses miss the boat on this point.

Put your logo on everything  that goes out to the public: business cards, website, invoices, email signature.  Keep it on your internal materials as well.  I have my logo as my desktop wallpaper on my laptop.   Not to advertise it – few people see it – but to reinforce in my mind decisions I make on a daily basis.  And that brings me to the next point.

consistent decision making

This is a hard one, for me anyway!  It’s easy to say I want to project a fresh, clean image or a dark moody image.  It’s even relatively easy to come up with a logo that reflects that.  And it’s easy to stick that logo on everything.  It’s not particularly hard to find colours or fonts that reflect that either.

What is hard is making sure that your day to day decisions in how you run your business reflect that image or brand.   This goes beyond the “look” of your business.   This is about ensuring that your brand reflects your businesses core values.

Is the work you are producing reflecting your brand?  Are you marketing to clients who fit with your identity?  Are you sponsoring events that embody your businesses values?   Are you forming partnerships with companies who have similar values and clients?

what it all boils down to

Entire books have been written on branding and there is far more to it than I can expound on here.  But the key to it really is being consistent.   Over and over again.   Evaluate everything you do and see if it fits with your identity, your values and your overall look.  If it doesn’t, question it.