Understanding the basics of branding and the four things that you actually need

Article: Understanding the basics of branding

Branding can get very confusing, very time consuming and very expensive; it’s hard to know what you need and what you don’t and how deeply you should think. If you run a small business that’s looking to rebrand, or are about to start a business and don’t know where to start with branding, I’m going to break down the 3 basic things you actually need. Everything beyond these 3 things is a choice.

#1 – A LOGO

Every business needs a logo, we all need something visual that is recognisable and belongs to us. Think about some of the biggest brands in the world: Apple, Nike, Mercedes. None of their logos feature their names, but we know it’s them just by looking at the image. Now as a small business, it might seem hard to identify yourself and your business up there with the likes of these powerhouses, but you can still build a recognisable brand in your logo area.

So the first thing you need, whether your starting a new or going through a rebrand, is a logo. Now there’s no right or wrong with any of this, your logo can be simple, it can be complicated, it can be bold, it can be thin, it can be in colour, it can be black and white, it’s entirely up to you. The only thing it needs to be is high resolution.

If your investing in a logo you want to make sure you can use it everywhere, that means the resolution and technical quality needs to be high enough that you can not only use it on your website and social media, but that it also prints well on a roller banner, on a brochure, on business cards, that it works on a T-shirt, a hoodie, a hat. There is a myriad of ways you can use a logo so make sure it is multi-purposeful.

#2 – COLOURS

This is where you can go down a rabbit hole, but I’d strongly advise you don’t. Every business needs a selection of colours it calls its own so that it can create digital content, promotional items, advertising campaigns and more. Ultimately these can just be colours you like and that work well together. You can certainly do your research on the psychology of colours and how they make people think and react, and that’s totally fine if you want to, or you could just develop a selection that work aesthetically well together and that fits you and your personality.

#3 – FONTS

As with colours, every business needs a font that they use across everything. Some businesses have one font that they might perhaps use in both bold and regular, and others will have a couple of fonts that are used in different ways. Similarly to colours, there is no right or wrong, have one font, have two, but choose one that represents the personality of your business and that you like the look of. A professional graphic designer can help you pick something that works aesthetically with your logo and compliments what your business does.

Now this is important, whilst you should choose a font you like, it needs to somewhat make sense for what your business does. For example, if you’re a plumbing firm, choosing a font that is very Shakespearean with a calligraphy vibe, doesn’t necessarily say PLUMBER to someone looking at it. Whereas for a vintage style florist, that would work really well. So make sure you choose something that aesthetically feels right as well as something you like.

#4 – BRAND GUIDELINES DOCUMENT

At some point you will be working with another person or company who will be in charge of working your branding into something they’re creating for you, this might be a printed brochure, a Facebook marketing campaign, some T-shirts for you and your staff to where. Whatever it is, they need to know the rules under which they’re working. If your brand is too loose, or has no rules then your business becomes messy and inconsistent, and whilst your name might be the same across all of your activities, the visual representation is what people really remember.

It is therefore important to get some kind of brand guidelines document created. Now this doesn’t need to be some 47 page War and Peace novel, a simple 1 page document that outlines your logo and how to use it – perhaps you have a version for dark backgrounds and a version for light backgrounds, your colours and how to use – this would primarily be the hex codes that a designer would use to ensure you’re using the exact same shade, but you might also use certain colours for certain activities or products, and then your font and how to use it – again you might use different fonts for different things, or perhaps use bold for headings and regular for everything else.

It doesn’t need to be super complicated, but it’s helpful to have it all written down and recorded somewhere so that everyone is on the same page, be it your internal team or your external suppliers.

EVERYTHING BEYOND THIS IS A PERSONAL CHOICE

So that is the four basic things you actually need to think about when created a new brand or refreshing an old one. Everything else beyond these are subject to your own personal needs and choices. For example you might have or need unique icons for different service lines you have, or require different colours for them.

Don’t let yourself get carried away unless you really need or want to. Stick to the basics first and then build on them as and when you want or need to.

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