A clear, cohesive brand can separate your company from competitors. While it’s not uncommon to think of a brand as a logo and color palette, a truly impactful brand involves much more and can be pivotal in turning customers into loyalists.
In one of my previous branding articles, I suggested visualizing a brand as an iceberg: The part above the surface is the logo, and beneath the surface are elements including brand voice, values and personality. The latter are the parts that really make a brand meaningful.
On that note, consider beginning the branding process with what’s beneath the surface. Solidify your brand messaging before creating your visuals.
Why Try This Approach?
Your brand voice creates your brand personality, which, ideally, should drive your visuals. For example, a professional services firm that chooses a bold tone might take on a brand personality that evokes excitement or exploration. Meanwhile, the firm that keeps its voice more conservative would likely be building its personality around qualities such as sincerity and honesty. These are two different paths that yield different aesthetics. The bold voice pairs with bright colors and uplifting imagery. The buttoned-up voice lends itself better to deeper hues and professional portraits.
When you get to the core of your brand, the visuals are typically more connected. Your messaging may also lead to a brand promise — typically synonymous with a tagline or slogan — that you can incorporate into your logo and marketing materials.
How To Build Your Brand Messaging
Putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) with the task of creating an entire brand messaging map from scratch can be overwhelming. Begin by focusing on the basics:
• Headers: What are the five key selling points you want customers to know about your products, services and company as a whole? Write them down as they come to you and edit from there until they are clean, clear and concise.
• Supporting copy: During the exercise of editing your headers down to a short phrase or sentence each, you will likely naturally feel the need to explain further — and you can. Beneath each header, write one to two sentences elaborating on the selling point at hand. Your supporting copy might include commentary about your unique approach, qualifications and experience.
• Calls to action: The key to any copywriting is a call to action encouraging the reader or customer to do something next. “Get started,” “Learn more” and “Contact us” are a few of the most common examples, and you can certainly tailor some of your own based on your headers and supporting copy. Keep words like “now” and “today” in your back pocket for times when you want to create urgency.
• Brand pillars: By writing just five blocks of copy each, including a header, a supporting line or two and a call to action, you have created the base of your brand messaging to use on your website. Now you can continue with additional brand pillars. While your headers are sales-driven, think of your brand pillars more as values and promises that you will uphold. You can use the same header-plus-supporting-copy formula, minus the call to action.
A Guide For Your Designs
There are certainly some cases where it makes sense to start with logo design, such as a startup company needing a visual identity fast or an established firm looking for a simple brand refresh. However, the majority of branding projects can and should start with messaging.
By doing so, you can give your graphics team a detailed blueprint to guide their designs. Simply telling them to be “bold” or “outside the box” leaves too much room for interpretation. Provide them with a solid brand messaging document that enables them to focus their creative minds on the subtleties that truly make a brand powerful.
Remember that a brand’s visuals are designed to attract eyes so that its messaging can inspire minds.