If you are like a good number of budding entrepreneurs, you probably have a killer idea, the right people and connections, and a detailed plan of action. You are ready to pull the proverbial trigger, but before you do, you have to call this thing-of-yours something. Anything!
And that’s where it gets tricky. It’s times like these where it’s easy to take a short cut, find something do-able and tell yourself you can always fix it later. But like most things done in a rush, they can come back to haunt you.
The good news is that great branding is often accomplished by small groups with a shared vision. The key is to make sure that vision, that seed of an idea, is woven properly throughout all the touch points of the brand experience.
Here are the six branding essentials that will keep your new company brand on track and on target.
1. A Unique Company Name
Of all the brand building blocks, the company name is the key component. It sets up the tone and feel of the company and determines the initial conversation you will have with each and every customer you deal with - so make sure the name is distinctive. Ideally the name should speak to your company’s core value proposition, your competitive advantage, and help to single you out from the masses. Avoid trite, descriptive, and overused language and look for ways to tell your story from a fresh perspective. Aim for names that lend themselves to further discussion and a deeper conversation about your company.
Wholesale Landscape Supply found their original company name descriptive but all-together forgettable, and rebranded to Big Earth - a more fun and evocative name. Sales volume doubled the following year.
2. A Telling Tag Line
If your company brand name is a ship, then the tag line is the rudder. Instead of using it to tell what you do, employ the tag line to tell how you do it. From Apple’s “Think Different.” to Nike’s “Just Do It.” great brands let customers know what separates them from the rest of the bunch. Don’t waste this valuable bit of marketing real estate by telling potential customer the obvious, or making a meaningless claim such as “We are the 3rd largest manufacturer of widgets east of the Mississippi.”
Instead, let them know how they will benefit by buying from you. For children’s reading development web site EarlyMoments.com, the tag line highlights the value of parent/child bonding by proclaiming “Sharing the gift of reading.”
3. A Memorable Logo Design
In the case of company logos, less is more. Keep your designs simple, focused and to the point. Look to further reinforce your company’s core value by introducing one design element that highlights your key benefit.
In a classic example of great design Herb Lubalin used the “i”s and the “l” in the word Families to make a simple, but powerful statement, and all-in-one color. Refrain from adding multiple elements and colors in an attempt to get more for your design dollar. It will only confuse clients and cost more to print. Make sure to reduce the logo down to business card size to see how it will print small. If you can’t make it out, start over and simplify.
4. Matching Collateral Materials
The key to great branding is consistency. Customers trust brands that look and behave in a predictable manner. So make sure your initial brand identity (logo, colors, tag line, etc.) also plays out in your business card, letterhead, envelope and marketing materials.
Be sure to ask your branding firm or logo designer to supply you with a set of complementary colors to use in your advertising. If funds permit, have them also provide a branding style guide, detailing the proper use, formatting and presentation of your brand image. That will help your vendors (such as printers, sign makers, and car wrap companies) know exactly how to apply your logo and branding design elements in a cohesive fashion.
5. A Branded Web Presence
If you’ve invested in a great name, a compelling tag line and a memorable logo design, you are well on your way to creating a high impact brand. Make sure you involve your web designer in the process so you don’t just end up with the new company name and logo on top of a generic web page. If you have the brand style guide, share it with your web designer, so he or she will know which set of colors and which design elements to utilize. You can also ask the branding firm, graphics company or logo designer your hire to create the initial home page look and feel, and one interior page, as a template for adding future content. That way your site can grow and develop, yet still retain your brand image.
6. Customized Social Media Pages
No brand would be complete these days without matching social media pages. The advent of Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ has created new opportunities, as well as new challenges, for extending a company’s brand message. The goal here, again, is consistency of experience. Make sure that each customer touch point communicates the overall look, feel and message that you have established for the brand. This is where logos get compromised (squeezed, flattened, stacked, etc,), colors switched up, fonts get changed, and the brand feel gets lost. Engage your designers to ensure their original intent is followed through to the very end. Customers will be pleasantly surprised and impressed to see that you’ve taken the time, energy and effort to create a consistent experience for them all across the web.
Successful start up branding requires more than a name and logo. It requires a holistic approach to the entire company identity, from the brand name and message to the brand design, colors and social integration. By creating a unique and compelling brand, aligned with your competitive advantage, you can stand out from the crowd and own your own “space” in your industry. Implementing this strategy in a clear, consistent way will ensure that your new identity continues to shine for years to come. And from a branding point of view, that’s not just smart, it’s brilliant!