Brand…a word that excites some small business owners but strikes fear in others. How on earth can you try to represent everything you are as a business in just a Logo?
Well, first up, a Brand is much much more than a logo. But to answer the question, it takes self-awareness and market awareness. It also takes a willingness to stand out from the crowd, to be seen and not to try and safe in the comfortable bubble of what everyone else is doing.
This is where brand strategists and designers often come in, it is always easier to look at someone else’s business than your own. To be able to “talk you up”. To challenge you to look at it differently. However, many small businesses, especially at startup can’t afford to do so.
So I’m here to tell you it is totally possible for you to create a DIY brand and on a very tight budget! I know, because I have done it myself for this very site and for a number of small businesses I have worked for. And I am definitely NOT a graphic designer!
To help, I’ve also put together an EPIC DIY Branding Cheat Sheet. This free, 15 page fillable pdf includes prompting questions to help you define your brand and your style, a list of awesome (and free) resources that you can use to create your brand identity and a cheat sheet for typical image sizes! It’s everything you need to make the best start possible. To get your hands on it, click here! (no email address required)
10 Steps to DIY Brand success
1. Know what a Brand Is
A brand is more than your logo, more than your colours, more than your fonts. It’s even more than your website or your shop front. It is all of these combined and so much more!
It is the essence on which all of that is built. It is the message you are sending out to the world. It is the emotional connection made with your audience. It is what people think and say about you. It is what you say and do as well as what you look like.
“A Brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” Seth Godin
No wonder everyone keeps saying how important it is!
But before I freak you out, it can actually be quite simple. In fact, often the simpler the better.
2. Know the Ground Rules
There are four key rules to remember:
Be Consistent – This is what makes you recognisable through the crowd of information out there. If your imagery is consistent and unique, it will cut through eventually. Additionally, changing up your brand regularly creates uncertainty which people try to avoid.
Be Purposeful – Whenever you create something, do it with your brand in mind. Does it fulfill your core message? Does it help your audience or customer move further along the path into being ambassadors for your business?
Be Real – Making an emotional connection with your audience builds trust and makes you relatable.
Be You – As a small business, your brand is an expression of your individual strengths, personality and passions so let them shine through!
3. Identify your Unique Selling Point
Compared to the Competition what do you do better? What makes you Great and Different? What can you give your Target Market that no one else does?
It is one thing to say you provide service quickly and with a smile, but these sorts of messages have become commonplace and no longer cut through. Besides, isn’t this something everyone strives for?
There are 3 Areas I would encourage you to look at to try and figure this out:
– Your Strengths (as an individual and as a business): what can you bring to the table that no one else can?
– Your Passions & Purpose: why your business exists
– Your Target Markets Wants & Needs: what need are you fulfilling for them that they would be willing to pay for?
Putting that all together is where you will discover your Unique Selling Point – the place where the 3 of those elements overlap.
4. Create your Core Message
Next up, it’s all about translating that Unique Selling Point (USP) into a Vision, a Core Message which you are putting out to your audience. Basically, you are flipping that USP into words that you would actually say to your audience and customers.
Use words and language that they would use in everyday conversation to describe their challenges, wants and needs.”
“Isn’t X so fun?” or “Feel X for doing Y” or “X is challenging for many people because of reasons A & B but we will be there by your side to face them with you. And we know we can do it because XYZ” or just a simple expression of “we get it”
What do you want to be getting across whenever you speak to your audience? What journey do you want to take them on?
5. Name your Style
Now that you have your core message in place, it’s time to have some fun! Let’s begin the process of translating all those “words” into vibrant, visual imagery!
In order to do that, you need to discover your style.
To do this, ask yourself these 2 questions:
– What do you want people to feel when they encounter your brand? Do you want them to feel understood and comforted? Motivated and Energised? Sexy and Confident?
– How would you describe your brand’s personality (if they were a person)?
And now translate it into a “style”. How would you describe it? Try for 3 words. Bold? Feminine? Professional? Clean? Airy?
If you get stuck, move onto the next step and revisit this afterwards.
6. Get Inspired
With that Style in mind, begin to find graphic examples of what you are looking for. Bookmark some web pages, create a scrapbook, take photos or create a private Pinterest board. Pull together as much inspiration as you can.
A few key places to look:
– Other Websites – what sites do you like and what elements do you like about them?
– Instagram and other Social Media – What images bring around the vibe you are looking for?
– Your Wardrobe – How would you describe your clothes? What colours do you like to wear? How do you accessorise?
– Your Home – How have you decorated your home or room? What feel are you going for? What’s important to you about a space.
Pull out any elements you believe reinforce the “style” you defined in the previous step.
7. Choose your Basics
Now to get really practical and to choose the foundations on which all the rest of your graphics will be built!
In the Branding Cheat Sheet you will find a list of FREE Resources which will help you find, choose and create these foundations.
What colours will you be using throughout your materials? Choose up to 5 that will work well together, some will be your main colours and some will be feature colours.
There are a huge variety of combinations you can choose from, but here’s some common combinations:
Monochromatic – Blacks, Whites & Greys
Monochromatic PLUS a highlight colour – Blacks, Whites & Greys with one colour that “pops”
Different Shades of X – Choosing one colour and then going stronger or lighter in various degrees
Different Colours, Same Tone – All different colours but they suit nicely together because they are in a similar tone family
(e.g. pastels or brights)
Choose at least 3, a “Header” Font, a complementary “Text” font and a “Highlight” font. You want to mix between 2-3 style families if you can to create a visual impact.
Common choices for the Header Font and Text Font are in the Serif or Sans Serif style families.
The Highlight Font can be almost anything but common choices are cursive, calligraphy or handwriting styles.
You’ll probably want at least two different versions – A “Landscape” version and a “square” version (that fits in social media profile pics and for your websites favicon).
You might even want to add in a few extra colour combinations.
Make sure you have the final file in two formats: .jpeg so it has a solid white background and .png so there is no background and therefore you can overlay it over any image.
8. Invest in a Few Key Pieces
Like your wardrobe, it is a good idea to put investment into some key staples. This is what you will use the most and build the rest of your graphics around. These are your “signature” pieces that you will become recognised for.
If you can swing it, it could be useful to hire a graphic designer for a couple of hours to design your ideal logo for you. If you go in with a fairly set idea in mind and just want them to translate it into the correct graphics formats, it can be done even quicker.
Ask for recommendations in your local area or online. Or look someone up on Upwork. At the same time, you could also get them to create a custom banner for your website if you prefer a graphic image to a photo background.
Purchasing a good theme for your WordPress site (the platform I recommend) is pretty much a must-do. For two key reasons:
- It will make your life so much easier! When you carefully select a theme that has the power you need and a look you love, you will save so much time setting it up.
- It will help you to stand out! If you just go with some of the freebies that are out there, you can begin to look like everyone else… and the whole point of a brand is to be instantly recognisable as you!
A few places to look:
- Creative Market (Note: If you sign up to their weekly newsletter occasionally they send out free promo themes!)
- Mojo Marketplace
This is even more important if you and your business are really synonymous such as a coach, consultant, trainer or even a blogger. Getting some really nice photos of yourself done, gives a professional edge. Even if it is just a matter of finding a friend with a good DSLR camera!
The free stock photo sites listed in the downloadable cheat sheet are really useful, especially if you are churning out a lot of graphic content. But they are also used by a lot of people and you will begin to see them everywhere. Kind of like when you get a new car, at first you think it is amazing but then you start noticing how many others are driving the same one!
So for your signature photos such as your website header, landing pages, packaging and core pieces of content, it is probably worth investing in some unique photography. This could mean getting a photographer (or that friend with a DSLR) to take some relevant photos.
Alternatively, you could look at some of the paid stock photo sites like Stocksy or Shutterstock. Each photo will cost you a few dollars but will be used less (and they have the bonus of a bigger range). There are also 1000s of photographers online who sell their photos for commercial use, you just need to search for them with a type of photo category in mind.
9. Create Great Imagery
So now you have chosen your colours and fonts. You have an amazing logo and great photos. You even have a solid website layout in place. But how do you pull it all together into all the images you will be using on a day to day basis?
The Answer? Canva! One of the loves of my life.
This awesome website provides all the “canvases” and templates you need for your website, social media, blog, email headers and printed materials. And did I mention it is free to use?
They do have a very reasonably priced “Canva for Work” option but this isn’t necessary for the bulk of what you do. As long as you don’t try to use any priced images or fonts of theirs (but don’t worry there is a huge free range), you are good to go.
Basically, all you have to do is pick the “canvas” you want (say for example an Instagram post) and a blank canvas comes up. You can then choose from a range of pre-existing templates for the layout you desire. Switch the colours, fonts and text to your own, add images, tweek and download! You can even copy one you have already done so it’s easy to come up with a template for each type of graphic you regularly use.
10. Create a Journey
Even though you now have all the pieces together that comprise your Brand, it is important to talk about one more thing and that is the Journey people will go on when they discover your brand.
Remember that message defined in Step 4? How will they discover it?
Use all these pieces you have created to tell a story, but do it with a starting point and a destination in mind. When they first discover you, what first impression do you want to make? What will make them “click” to discover more? Then once they are there, what will make them want to make contact with you or sign up to your email list? And then from there how will you turn them into customers and finally ambassadors?
At each step along the way you should be reiterating your core message and using a consistent look, feel & wording. All of this, together, creates meaning and belief in your brand. And ultimately will make people find you and come back for more.