Today, we want to share the complete step-by-step checklist to get your branding right, an area many of you reading this might need help with. Many assume that branding is simply the visual identity. But there's a lot more to branding than that.
Before we jump into what should be included in a branding checklist, we should first understand your brand.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR BRAND
Knowing your brand's vision, audience, and mission will help you outline your branding.
Let's begin with understanding your vision.
You have to know which path you want to take and what you want to achieve. That will help you decide how to set up your business and branding for success.
Consider the following:
What does one year from now look like?
How about three years?
And finally, what do five years from now look like for you and your brand?
A clear brand vision is a first and essential step to building a successful business.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
As a start, ask yourself: Who are your customers? Who wants to buy the product or services you're selling?
Saying "everyone" doesn't work unless you're trying to set up a huge e-commerce business like Amazon or E-bay.
Specificity is essential when it comes to an understanding who you're trying to sell to. For example, selling to customers in Cyprus differs from selling to customers in the UK, and you must understand those differences.
At Ergon Creative, we create customer personas that help us create brands for our clients.
Once you've identified your audience, try and answer the following:
Where does your audience spend their time
How can you reach your audience?
How will you monetise your audience?
What does the buying process look like?
These questions will help you understand your audience inside out.
Remember, you don't have a business without an audience because you don't have anyone to sell to!
UNDERSTANDING YOUR BUSINESS
Now you have your brand vision and audience. You can start to consider the business side of things. There's a lot of preparation to undergo here and again and many questions to answer.
First of all, you'll need to register the company.
Your options are:
To register, though, you'll need a name.
Many companies register one name as their legal name and use a different trading name for their day-to-day business brand.
At this stage, it's essential to consider if a suitable domain name is available.
BRAND STRATEGY CHECKLIST
In this post, we'll give straightforward descriptions of each element. First things first:
WHAT IS A BRAND STRATEGY?
Your brand strategy is the infrastructure of what your brand represents. It brings together the key things about your brand, your audience, and how you will reach them.
Normally, it's wrapped up in a concise presentation document.
WHY IS BRAND STRATEGY IMPORTANT?
Without a solid foundation for your brand, you will be lost thinking about many things and venturing in many different and sometimes wrong directions.
A well-put-together brand strategy keeps you focused and is a focal point for your brand.
If your business could be doing better than you'd hoped and you find yourself distracted, refer back to your brand strategy and remind yourself of what you're trying to achieve.
So what exactly goes into your brand strategy?
Your customer personas help you profile who you are trying to sell to with your business. They should outline the basic information and detailed characteristics of your audience.
Things to consider:
Brands they use
This will allow you to analyse the insights and use them to deliver a relevant experience for your clients.
Ergon Creative's Customer Persona (sharing our secrets):
Don't think of competitors as negative. You can learn from them and see what's working for them and what isn't. That information will help you make a more informed decision about your brand.
Now you know your customers, and what your competitors are doing, you can position your business for success.
Your brand positioning helps you identify where you sit in the market.
Understanding your positioning helps your sales and marketing teams understand where to focus their efforts.
Your brand positioning is usually a straightforward statement consisting of the following: "Our [offering] is the only [service/product] that [benefits]."
Your brand story is unique to you and should spark an emotional reaction in your audience. People buy stories. It's why we buy from our favourite brands. The story must resonate with your customers and help them understand more about you.
Two to three paragraphs are more than enough words to tell your brand story. You might want to present it as videos, reels or posts.
Your brand values are what your brand stands for, why you do what you do and what you believe in.
Three to five brand values are often enough to convey your beliefs. Sometimes, pairing them with summary sentences or bullet points helps break them down further.
The language surrounding the brand mission often needs to be clarified. It can be called brand mission, vision statement, mission statement, or even purpose. We prefer to call it brand mission.
A straightforward and goal-orientated mission statement covers who you are as a business, what you do, and why you do it.
Brand touchpoints are when, where, and how customers interact with your brand. Consider cold leads, warm leads, and hot leads and what they are looking for at each stage of their journey with your brand.
You will need charts specifying the brand touchpoints for different types of leads. For example, your brand touchpoints might be google search, google maps, banners, your website, social media, your retail store, or your customer service.
Your brand messaging is the foundation for how your brand communicates with your audience. Your brand messaging should take everything your brand is about and turn it into words.
To summarise, your brand messaging is the words you use to communicate everything we've discussed in this branding checklist post.
BRAND TONE OF VOICE
Many people struggle to create a tone of voice for their brand.
The reason might be that they're trying to force something they're not.
A tone of voice can be easy to put together if you think about the language you use, what resonates with your audience, and what doesn't.
All you need here is a list of verbal characteristics with a description and some "do's and don'ts."
BRAND IDENTITY CHECKLIST
Now that your brand strategy is checked off let's talk about your visual identity.
WHAT IS VISUAL IDENTITY?
Your visual identity is the visual representation of your business.
People commonly refer to this when they talk about "branding" in general.
Whereas your branding focuses on the strategy, your identity focuses on the visuals. It's how your brand looks and what you look like when executing your brand strategy.
A complete brand identity can be neatly wrapped up in well-made brand guidelines.
WHY IS BRAND IDENTITY IMPORTANT?
How you look is what your customers will remember the most.
Create and develop a unique identity to help connect and resonate with potential customers.
Let's take a look at Amazon's brand identity. It's well-thought-through yet simple enough. The curved arrow cleverly connects the A and the Z with a smile, symbolising what Amazon does and how they make its customers feel.
Creating a visual identity is an in-depth process, and we recommend working with an agency that offers branding services.
So what exactly should your visual identity consist of?
It's important to say that every single brand is different. Each brand will have a whole range of different services and requirements.
The following visual identity checklist consists of the things we get asked for the most.
The primary logo mark will become synonymous with your brand, just like Nike's Swoosh, Tesla's T, and Starbucks' Siren. You need an effective logo design to convey your brand strategy.
Logo variations may seem like a bit of a curve ball. But often, your primary logo design will need to be revised.
We often find it helpful to construct the following:
Main logo design
Black and White version
This way, your logo is flexible, and you'll always have options when faced with different scenarios. Ensure you have them in various colour profiles suitable for both print (CMYK and Pantone) and the web (RGB).
SCALING, SPACING & SAFE AREAS
Your logo designs should always have a good amount of white space (safe space) around them.
Make sure you consider sizes for both print and web. That way, your logo will look great no matter what document you're working on.
You will need diagrams outlining the guides on the scale and safe areas around your logos.
TYPOGRAPHY AND FONTS
If you are working with a professional creative agency on your visual identity, they will provide you with a typography duo or, better - trio.
One common mistake we see is that brands use the font from their logotype as their primary brand font. Trust us; this can look pretty messy.
Try and choose type families that complement each other well.
If you get stuck here, try looking for suggestions on Google Fonts and Adobe Typekit.
Remember to consider the sizes and weights you use on different platforms.
Colour can be a tricky beast.
You need to establish the following:
A primary colour scheme - your most used colours
A secondary colour scheme - supporting colours
Print and web-safe colours
Colours codes for RGB, CMYK, and Pantone references
Not all colours look great online and printed, so check and cross-reference your colour schemes.
Does your brand use icons, photography, illustrations or patterns? If it's illustrations, what style do you use? Do you use photos of people in your photography, or is it more conceptual?
It could be a combination of all of the above.
Finding brand photography that hasn't been overused can be tricky. Some of our favourite stock photo websites:
Burst (by Shopify)
You need to consider all the stationery you need to use for your business.
For example, if you run a restaurant, you'll need company forms, flyers, brochures, banners, notepads, menus, coasters, placemats and many more.
Also, consider print finishes here. Are you "glossy flyers" and "as cheap as possible"? Or something more premium will fit your brand?
SOCIAL MEDIA ASSETS
First, choose which social media channels will have the most presence.
The right answer here is "all of them." However, being present on all social channels at once is time-consuming and not always possible.
Once you've got an idea, you must establish what you need for each.
Typically you'll need a profile image or avatar and cover image for each of your social channels. Post templates for each are always useful too.
OTHER BRAND ASSETS
Depending on what you do, you'll need a list of other branded assets you need. You may need store signage, animated videos, ebooks, whitepapers etc.
The list is endless!
When wrapping up your brand identity, it's easiest to do this in one brand guidelines document.
Guidelines keep your branding straight and ensure everyone working in and around your business knows exactly how you should look in all situations.
Brand guidelines usually come as a PDF document that outlines your entire brand identity and supporting assets.
A website is one of the key pieces of your marketing mix, as it acts as your digital 24/7 shop window.
You have a few options: you can create it yourself, pay a freelancer or work with an agency.
BRAND MARKETING CHECKLIST
We've now covered the two main items of the branding checklist.
But it's all good having a well-thought-out brand strategy and awesome-looking visual identity, so what is next?
You have to take your brand to market!
WHAT IS BRAND MARKETING?
Brand marketing is how you take your brand and business to market.
The premise essentially is:
"Create amazing content. And your audience will find you."
Rather than making everything overly "salesy", try to think like your ideal customers, create content they want to see, and the rest is straightforward.
WHY IS BRAND MARKETING IMPORTANT?
Without a marketing plan, you will end up paying for expensive advertising campaigns that won't work. Put your brand first and create content your customers want to interact and engage with.
That's why at Ergon Creative we:
Write blog posts that are relevant to our audience
Create Instagram Reels showing our creative process
Looking into creating our own Networking event
People have moved beyond the age of randomly throwing an advertising budget at something, hoping it converts. These days, people want to feel an affinity with brands and work and shop with brands they have that connection with.
When considering your brand marketing, one thing to remember is the customer personas you created earlier.
ONLINE - OFFLINE
The most important decision to make when it comes to your marketing is where you will spend most of your time and effort.
Online is the obvious choice. But can you be sure that others aren't?
Online advertising is made up of a range of different channels. As a start, consider the following:
Being active on social media
Creating written content (blogs etc.)
Filming videos and films
Paying for Google ads or other channels
Another endless list.
To evaluate your options, spy on your competitors. If they're all doing the same things, consider moving in the opposite direction. Or is there a good reason they're all doing the same thing?
Again, opportunities outside of the screen are endless.
You need to evaluate your offline options.
So how will you spend your time and budget?
Billboards and crazy marketing campaigns
Inbound marketing is a business strategy that allows you to grow your brand and build meaningful, lasting relationships with clients and prospects by offering them valuable advice and insights for free.
Potential clients coming from your inbound efforts are typically more informed about your products or service and more ready to buy from you.
Materials you might need to could consider:
Whenever you're going out to your audience, it's technically outbound marketing. Again, a vast range of options and opportunities are on the table.
You could consider the following:
Trade shows and other events
Email blasts and newsletters
Like your inbound strategy, get a list of your key opportunities together. If you're planning to attend trade shows, you'll need an impressive stand and excellent brand collateral.
Whatever you do with your brand marketing, staying focused and going in one direction is essential.
Getting your branding right without professional help is tricky. We always recommend working with a professional branding agency to help. If you want to go that route, check out our list of branding services.
Our Big Branding Checklist has given you an idea of what goes into branding your business. Remember, know your vision, know your audience, and understand your business. From there, creating your brand strategy, identity, and marketing is the case.