Everybody knows how important branding is to the success of a business. You already know, for example, that part of your promotions should include branded products that you give away at trade shows, mail to prospective clients, send as thank you gifts, etc. Nobody is going to argue that your branding needs to be on point if you want to be able to turn a profit. Where most people get tripped up, however, is in their brand development. Too many startups and entrepreneurs rush this process.
The rush is understandable. You’re excited! You want to get your business up and running as quickly as possible. Surely using clip art and free stock photography can do the job well enough for now, right?
We get that you’re excited and impatient but trust us: branding–especially the artistic parts like your logos, web design, labelling, etc–that needs to be conceived slowly and thoughtfully. Using free stuff now will make you look like everyone else and it is more expensive to rebrand with your unique look later on than it is to get it right the first time out.
There are several key components to making sure the art you develop to help you build your brand is successful: consistency, authenticity, and originality.
Your logo and font choices need to be consistent across the board–scaling them for size is fine, but make sure you are consistent in your presentation. Use the same label and font choices for your product labelling as you do for billboards and fliers. If part of your brand is built upon the idea of DiY or artistry–something that, according to a white paper published on the QuickLabel website is preferred by 30-40% of European consumers–that’s fine. Draw out your logos and write out your labels longhand, scan them in and then print them out en masse for your product containers, mailers, etc. You can vary a few aspects of the design slightly between your products (background colours, etc) but for your “big picture” company branding, everything needs to look the same or people will get confused.
Do not be tempted into the world of low-cost stock photography when you’re looking for website graphics or professional looking photos for your business communications. Customers can spot stock photography from miles away and they will be less likely to choose your company over your competitors when you use it. This isn’t opinion, it’s science. According to studies done on the subject, companies that use photos of their actual employees and work spaces are more profitable and more popular than companies that don’t. Even snapshots you take with your phone will be better received. Showing your audience who you actually are and how you actually work provides authenticity that stock photos and clip art just don’t.
Speaking of clip art; this is a tool you should use very sparingly and never as a part of your official brand. Clip art–especially the simple graphics you can find via Google search are the opposite of original and, if you use it, you increase your odds of being confused with another company. Take the time to develop a logo that reflects your brand and the message you want to convey. Trust us, it is worth the cost of hiring a professional artist or graphic designer for this.
Originality isn’t just limited to clip art vs. original art. It also plays into your messaging. Relying on cliches and popular jokes will work against you more than it will work for you. Cliches are cliche for a reason and are best avoided. As far as using current pop humour or references in your messaging, once in awhile is fine but don’t build your brand on it. If you do, you immediately “date” your brand and will effectively render it “old” or “tired” once pop culture moves on to a new idea.
It’s easy to get caught up in all of the little working parts of branding–crafting messages, buying branded merchandise in bulk, etc. Before you think about any of that, however, you need to work on the three ideas talked about here. Once you’ve figured those out, you can move on to the rest.