Developing a consistent brand

By Jessica Romero

Overwhelm is often inevitable when it comes to developing a consistent brand.

Social media outlets, websites, ad copy, posters, merchandise, infographics, store design, business cards, email signatures, invoices, letterhead, oh my gosh there are a million things!

You have every right to be overwhelmed. The list of brand-able materials is nearly endless.

But here’s the deal. With a little work on the back end, you can eliminate that anxious hair-pulling and consistently create content that captures the emotion behind your business and works together to tell your unique, one-of-a-kind brand story.

So let’s get started first by setting the scene.

BUILD YOUR BRAND NARRATIVE     

Every business has a story to tell and a reader to tell it to. You need to dive deep and find your narrative before you can move forward on to any design or copy decisions. (I know, I know. You want to do the fun stuff. We will get there, I promise.)

Ask yourself:

  • What is my company mission?
  • Who is my perfect customer?
  • What do they think about my company? What do they like? What emotion do they feel?
  • How is my company different than my competitors?
  • Where am I reaching my customer?
  • What kind of lifestyle does my customer live? What do they do/wear/buy/talk about?
  • How do I want to fit into the lifestyle of my perfect customer?

Some of these questions may be tough to answer. You may feel compelled to say “my ideal customer is anyone who wants my service/product!” or “I am reaching my customers across every possible social media outlet in order to reach the highest amount of people possible!”

You need to be specific.

My ideal customer is ultra-feminine, social media savvy, up-to-date on lifestyle and fashion trends. She likes the unique, colorful, photogenic qualities of my store’s inventory. She browses my company’s Instagram feed and online store for style inspiration and one-of-a-kind gifts to give her girl tribe. She sees my company’s unique goods in photos across Pinterest and is compelled to shop for products to create the same atmosphere in her life. My company makes her feel understood as a working woman, looking to live an exciting, adventurous, stylish lifestyle that fits her budget and fulfills her needs in her home and closet.

Write down your answers to these questions, keep it nearby. [Bonus points if you turn it into a eye-catching graphic and hang it next to your computer.]

Now it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty.

PLAN + SCHEDULE (for YOUR customer)

You know who you are talking to now, which means that with a little leg work you know:

How to talk to them. + Where to talk to them.

Once again, ask yourself a series of questions, now with your customer in mind.

  • What social media platforms make sense for me to use?
  • What advertising methods make sense for me to use? (Magazines, newspapers, radio, online ads, sponsored posts, etc.)
  • What types of content should I be sharing? (Videos, inspiration quotes, photos, text heavy content?)
  • What style of language should I use? (Are you wanting to follow trends in casual-slang or keep it more traditional?)

When you are asking yourself these questions don’t be afraid to dig around and look at what types of users are where.

Check out this article for some basic information on social media platforms to start.

Don’t be afraid of a little old-fashioned social media stalking. Look at brands you are inspired by. How are they talking to their customers? How are customers responding?

Now you know where you need to be and how you need to present yourself, so you can make a schedule (and stick to it).  In my experience I’ve been most successful working off of two types of schedules.

A Content Rotation: I create a schedule of what types of content I am posting where. This keeps a variety of content flowing through multiple channels. This is a resource that I typically don’t adjust unless I am looking to switch something out or test a new rotation.

For example:

  • Instagram: 1x photo a day – rotate between shared photos, inspirational quotes, client feature, landscape/wide angle image, product feature, person/people photo
  • Facebook: 2x a week – link to website content, featured content or Instagram
  • Newsletter – 1x a week
  • Pinterest – update unique content from website 1x a week

(Note that this does not include exactly what I am posting but rather what type of content I am posting. Also, please note that every business has a content rotation that works best for them. Do some research, decide what works for your company and test it out. Don’t be afraid to change it and test again!)

A Weekly Schedule: Using my content rotation as a reference, I schedule anywhere from 1 week to 10 days worth of content using my weekly content schedule. 

Personally, I keep things pretty traditional and go the pen-and-paper route, but you could easily use a spreadsheet or organization app of your choice.

For my clients who have a heavy Facebook or Twitter use, I schedule everything in advance to post automatically. You can do this with a media managing site like Hootsuite.

Once again. Make a plan, test it out and tweak as necessary. With some time, you’ll find your sweet spot.

So, now we know who we are talking to, how we are talking to them and where we are doing it. As promised, it’s time for the fun stuff – the visuals.

DESIGN YOUR MOOD BOARD

Drumroll please.

You did the dirty work. You made a plan. You wrote your narrative. Now you get to create you brand identity’s visual counterpart.

It’s time to dive into the world of Pinterest, color swatches, design magazines, font books, all the pretty things! You can shop for logos, business cards, packaging and super-stylish supplies for staging your Instagram-worthy photos.

Hold the phone.

You’ve made it this far with me. I know you know what’s coming.

Settle in, take a good look at your narrative from Step #1 and your Content Rotation from Step #2. Take a breath and ask yourself a few questions once again.

  • Who is my perfect customer?
  • What do they think about my company? What do they like? What emotion do they feel?
  • What kind of lifestyle does my customer live? What do they do/wear/buy/talk about?

Now it’s time to start looking for visuals that match this. What colors does this customer respond to? What fonts do they enjoy seeing? What textures match their personality?

That ultra-feminine, trendy, working gal I explained back in Step #1. What do you think she would like?

Berry and blush tones. Ivory and pops of black – for power and elegance. Friendly and feminine script font matched with a sharp, simple modern text. Photos that highlight the bold colors and patterns of products, showing personality and creativity. Playful pops of accent colors throughout promotional and printed materials. Fun conversational text and unique hashtags throughout. Nothing too powerful – she wants to relate and feel a sense of joy and friendship with the brand. Keep it casual.

Pull it all together. Like I mentioned before, I’m old school. I create my first mood board with a cork board and push pins (The original Pinterest, if you will.)  You can use Pinterest, create a graphic or whatever works for you creatively. Collect things that make you feel the emotion of your brand.

Take a look into the psychology behind colors and typography. Dig deeper into what exactly the brain is doing.

Once you compile everything, you can start making decisions. If you are working with a graphic designer, let them in on what you did. Convey the message to your team.

Now you can narrow it down. Opinions vary, and every business is different, but I’d say keep your final colors at no more than 3 main colors and 5 accents. For textures and patterns, no more than a few – and make sure they all look good together.

Think about throw pillows on your couch. Would you put every pattern and color you used to represent your business on one couch?

It’s time for the real deal. You’re creating your Facebook profile and cover photo, designing an ad for a publication or deciding what filter to use on your Instagram photos.

Look at your mood board. Look at what you are creating.

Did you stick to your guidelines? Does it look like it belongs?

That’s what makes your brand stick out. That’s what makes your customer stop in their tracks to look further. Everything fits. Everything belongs on that couch.

The road to a consistent, effective brand can be mind boggling, but it doesn’t have to be.

Take the steps to make a plan, do your due diligence and make guidelines for yourself and for your team to eliminate the overwhelm and bring the focus on to the exciting, creative stuff!

Your business is offering something unique that needs to be shared, now get out there and do just that. 

After 4 years of carefully developing her own successful small business in an even smaller town in the USA, Jessica Romero discovered a passion for branding and a love for the little guy (that's you!).  She found that a commitment to a thoughtful, stylish brand strategy can add that "WOW!" factor and create a buzz around a business. She believes every business needs a cohesive, concise, strategic and stylish identity and works with clients one-on-one to develop and maintain websites, social media sites, local event campaigns and more. Learn more at her website or connect on Instagram

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