Making Good Branding Decisions – Your 10 Point Checklist
Let's clear up one misconception right away – your brand is more than a logo. Way more.
Your brand is every touch point you have with your customers. Yes, customer service is a key aspect of branding.
Your brand is the image that people observe, develop, and relate to. Your customer's perception of your brand matters more than what YOU intended your brand to say. Because your brand identity ultimately is created in THEIR mind.
Sure, your brand is also your logo, your trademark, your packaging design for products, your colors, and any symbols you use in distinguishing your work from someone else.
But your brand is also the emotional and psychological connection between you and your customers or prospects.
So, much more than a logo.
The branding process, including the planning and decision process are important. These decisions have an impact on your future success.
Here's a 10-Point Checklist for Thinking About Branding for Your Business
By working through this checklist, you'll be much further along in developing a solid brand, as well as a plan to move forward and integrate it into all of your marketing and sales efforts.
#1 Identify your business vision and mission.
Your branding decisions must remain true to your vision and mission in order to provide a consistent and comprehensive image to prospects and customers.
- You can describe your product or service in a maximum of two sentences.
- You can clearly state the top benefit a client receives from your product or service.
#2 Identify colors that best represent the brand you want to portray.
These colors embody the vision and mission of your business along with the message you wish to convey.
Ever heard of color theory or the psychology color? Colors represent preferences, experiences, cultural influences and can influence or evoke emotions. We have different reactions to red vs. green vs. brown. Don't just pick colors for your brand because they're your personal favorites! (at the same time, don't pick colors you hate because experts say that's THE color to use for financial services/home cooks/friendly bloggers) Do they help tell the story of your work and business mission? Will they help you evoke the right emotions with customers?
Trust me, there's lots of science behind why big brands have chosen the brand colors they have – why certain colors are common in some industries and not others. Our gender, education, upbringing, culture, and past experiences all impact how we interact with colors. Study up a little with these resources on color psychology – because while it's great to be an individual and go your own way, it can also be jarring for your prospects if you're way out of sync with your niche.
E.g. I created a color palette several years ago with the awesome, free tool Coolors – and a combination of those colors appear in the branding for all interconnected websites (here at Mighty Marketing Mojo plus IntelliCraft Research, and Marketing Tool Talk). I use my brand colors in the graphics for all the posts here, for the site's theme, in the logo, and in materials for presentations or webinars.
#3 Choose a brand name, business name, that is easy to remember, easy to spell, and can be registered as a domain name.
#4 Have a solid understanding of who your target audience is.
You need to understand what their needs, interests, and goals are. Know how your branding efforts influence your unique target customer.
- Remember, you aren't serving the entire world with your services – your target audience is not ‘everyone', nor is it ‘moms of young kids'. Get specific so you can best understand needs and translate that to a set of branding elements that will really call out to, or resonate with, that specific ideal customer.
- Different cultures, genders, and ages react to colors differently. They will also have different feelings or connections with the words you use to describe your services or brand. Respect these differences.
#5 You know what differentiates you from your competition.
You know what value you bring to your prospects. Answer the following questions:
- How do you benefit your clients?
- Why do they like you?
- Why do they buy from you?
Now we get to the graphic design part and talk about logos!
If you do not have serious graphic design skills, knowledge of color theory, nor the tools create a logo in all the file types you need – outsource this to someone who does and spend your time on areas better suited for your unique blend of skills. I have some decent skills for creating images to use on my blogs, on social media, and for editing photos. But I hired a pro to create my main business' logo 5+ years ago. I know my limits! This is an investment – treat it like one, and don't choose the cheapest person on Fiverr!
#6 Hire someone to create a logo for you.
Your logo should convey your brand in a way that is simple and easy to understand. Your brand colors are used in the logo and the logo supports your vision and mission. You don't have to write a multi-page creative brief like I did – but do give any designer some guidance.
What to ask or check with a graphic designer:
- Give ideas and suggestions for logos you love to designers you work with – tell them why you like that logo.
- If your logo designer isn't asking you branding questions like this checklist – look elsewhere!
- Ask for versions of your logo in all black, all white, and single color to use when printing on other products.
- Ask for .png (transparent background) files of your logo. (e.g. say you have a yellow logo and you want to print it on a black poster – without the transparent background of a .png, you'd have a yellow logo on a white box on that black poster. Ick)
- Your logo should ideally be a scalable vector image (.svg)- so no matter how tiny or large, it doesn't look pixelated or blurry.
- Get the .eps or .ai files of your logo – you may need these for sending to companies/vendors that print your logo on products. (even if you never open them in Photoshop or Illustrator, others who work in those programs can!)
By the way – I highly recommend the work from my friend Samantha Angel of Advancing Steps if you're a solopreneur looking to develop a logo that fits you, your brand, and today's styling best practices.
Now, let's develop your branding and identity a little further and deeper – beyond your colors and logo.
#7 Write out a brand purpose.
This is a statement that highlights what you provide the market, how your business is different, and what makes your business distinct. This might also be known as your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) or your UVP (Unique Value Proposition).
When you attempt to be known for everything, you don’t become known for anything.
#8 Create your brand personality.
Now draft a statement or list of characteristics that best describe your brand. Your brand personality embraces elements of your personality so that you can create a stronger connection with your audience. A stronger connection results in a stronger brand.
- If your brand were a person -would it be female or male? young (how young) or old (how old)? Is it light-hearted or more serious?
- What 5 adjectives best describe the personality of your brand?
- What is the style and voice of your brand? How will you talk to your audience through your content? What will it sound like?
- Thinking of your brand as a person – where would they live? How is their house furnished? What type of clothes do they wear? What kind of car would your brand drive? What type of restaurant would be their favorite?
All of this helps round out a real persona and helps you (and your customers) understand what you're about, as well as what you're NOT.
Not saying your brand personality has to be like Old Spice guy, but that brand CLEARLY has a defined personality!
#9 Create a brand promise.
Write down an emotional statement that connects prospects to your brand and your company. Your brand promise and message should both evoke a positive emotion. But don't puff things up – you do NOT want a disconnect between your brand message and the actual experience a customer could have with your brand.
- BMW “The ultimate driving machine”
- Nike “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world”
- Starbucks “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time”
- Walmart “Save money. Live better.”
Notice that Nike and Starbucks don't even mention products?! Those are lifestyle aspirations, aiming to tell their customers how to think about them, describing ideal experiences. We aren't all aspirational brands, and that's perfectly ok! But what promise can YOU make and absolutely strive to deliver on every time?
How to take your new branding and integrate it into ALL your marketing.
Integration is the goal, and the point of thinking about branding holistically, and not just as a logo you whip out.
#10 List out all the potential touch points between your branding and your customers.
Create a list for the touch points for your company and your new brand. Ideally, we create a plan for each medium/channel/format, to consistently integrate your brand into various branding opportunities and marketing efforts. Think about everywhere your logo could or should appear, all the touch-points or interactions you have with customers or prospects (online, offline, digitally or physically).
These touch points might include:
- Social media profiles and header images
- Blog name
- Email signature
- Email newsletters
- Phone message
- Presentation templates
- Printed marketing collateral – letterhead, brochures, flyers, business cards, posters, signs, give-away items
- Networking associations
- Product reviews
- If you have a physical location – how does your branding appear on the door, windows, signs, point-of-sale, receipts, decor, staff uniforms
Now you have the complete branding package!
Your brand is who you are, what you represent, and what makes you and your business unique and different from your competition. Spend time creating your business brand and working through this checklist to ensure a comprehensive and clear brand – a brand your prospects won’t be able to resist.
[Orig Nov 2017; Updated October 2020]