Have you had a chance to read through our branding series? If not, be sure to check it out before reading this post. You’ll probably start to understand that your logo is not your brand. Your brand is your entire business … It’s the values you bring to the table, and it’s the experience and service you give your clients from beginning to end. Your brand is the thing that cannot be copied … No matter if someone rips off your logo and website. It won’t matter … Your brand is the piece that will create advocates out of your clients.

I know I’ve focused so much on the fact that your logo (or brand identity, as we call it around these parts) is not your brand. With that said … It’s still a big part of it. Having a professional identity that represents your brand is like the icing on the cake … or the Sriracha ketchup on your fries. Sure, cake is still cake, and the fries are still fries … but man, when you top it off with that deliciousness, it changes things quite a bit.

Why a Strong Brand Identity is Important

Helps to Define & Filter: I’ve spoken a lot about filtering and choosing clients that are best for your brand. Using your brand identity is yet another way of filtering. By being deliberate with your design, a graphic designer will be able to incorporate the brand values into a tangible representation of your brand. Your logo/identity shouldn’t appeal to everyone … it should appeal to the clients you’re hoping to work with. Your logo will help define who you are. By being specific about color choices, layout, typefaces, graphic elements, you can attract the right clients and potentially repel those that don’t fit your ideal client profile.

Professionalism: If you’re asking someone to invest in your service or product, it’s important to showcase your business in the most professional way possible. There’s an element of trust that’s immediately established when your clients can tell that you’ve invested in your business. Why should they spend their money on your service when you aren’t willing to do so yourself?

It Sets You Apart: Chances are, there are tons of other people who provide the same service that you do … It’s also likely that more than half of them don’t have a strong physical presence for their brand. You’re automatically ahead of the pack when you have a way of establishing trust and reliability from the beginning. I know before we moved to Portland, I had a really hard time considering apartments that either didn’t have images, or had really crappy images. I was most attracted to the listings with high quality images … I could tell the property manager cared, and I equated that with a better relationship in the long-run.

It Speaks for You: Your brand identity is oftentimes the very first part of your brand experience your potential clients come in contact with. If you’ve created a cheap looking logo using your word processing software, what does that say? Honestly, it will most likely say you’re cheap … average … and you’ll just get the job done without going above & beyond. A professionally created logo and brand identity suite will say that you’re professional … care more about your business … and they’ll immediately start to interpret the values of your business, because your logo will be created with those values in mind.

Creates Consistency: I’ve often felt I use the words “consistent” and “cohesive” a bit too much, but those two words are so important when it comes to your business. Not only does consistency help create a more memorable experience for your clients, it also creates a more efficient workflow for you. There are so many ways to incorporate your brand identity into your workflow. Your brand identity doesn’t need to stop at a business card and a blog banner. Sending custom, branded thank you cards after you’ve delivered your product/service is a great way to remind your clients that choosing to work with you was the right choice. Packaging materials leave tons of room for incorporating branding, and every invoice/contract/email/receipt should be branded. Your website/blog should tell the clients as much about your work as the actual work does!

Where to Start

Build Your Business Profile: Every strong brand starts with a strong business. In my opinion, a strong business needs to start with a solid foundation of values. Your designer should take the time to understand why you do what you do, and what values and feelings need to be incorporated into your brand identity.

Figure Out Who Who Your Ideal Client Is: It’s all about them, remember? Once you know who you’re trying to appeal to, you’ll have a better idea of how to gear the design towards them.

Gathering inspiration: Inspiration can be found in the unlikeliest of places. Starting with the keywords you’ve developed for your business, start looking for photographic inspiration that represents those feelings. Pinterest is a great place to gather inspiration pieces. Think about colors, textures, photographs, other logos, typography … Basically, if you look at a photo and it makes you feel amazing … It’s worth keeping for inspiration.

Work With A Designer: I think it’s super important to work with a designer. We understand what it takes to create a strong identity that’s built around your business. When you work with a designer, we are required to stick to the timelines you’ve established in the contract … that means, things will get done! When trying to tackle projects like this yourself, it’s easy to get distracted and push it off. A designer also sees your strongest traits … It’s easy to overlook the best things you bring to your business. Designers will give you access to high quality files that can be used for marketing materials. We often have access to amazing printers and can help you develop a strategy for marketing so you can have your business enhancement and start thriving with profit.

Be Willing to Invest: Branding is not cheap. At least, it shouldn’t be. The person you hire is essentially creating the piece of the business that will represent you to potential clients and be one of your biggest filters. It’s worth investing in … There’s not really much else to say about that, except: cheap design is often quite trendy. Within a few months or a year, your logo is outdated. Paying more for professional design ensures that the trendiness factor as been considered. It’s a long term investment.

Be True to Yourself: If you are true to yourself, it’s hard to go wrong with your branding. There are trends that pop up (birds, chevrons, old keys, etc) every few months, and hundreds of logos are cranked out using those elements. Unless you can own it … unless you really connect with every piece of your logo, be sure to consider a different direction. When you truly connect with every part of your brand and identity, you’re going to be more successful … because you’ll be proud of it.

I think this is going to wrap up our branding series. As you can tell, we are really passionate about branding, and helping creatives & small business owners connect with potential clients. There are probably 100 more blog posts we could write, but we really just wanted to scratch the surface and provide a little perspective. If you’re an independent business owner, it’s worth using the last couple weeks of 2011 to focus on your branding to see if you’re sending the right message to potential and existing clients. If you feel you’re missing the mark, sit down with a pencil & paper and really focus on getting to the core of why you do what you do. Again, when you put enough of yourself into your brand, it’s almost impossible to go wrong.

We are currently offering one-on-one brand reviews and consultations. If you’re considering rebranding, let’s talk first. Maybe you just need a little help with strategy, or you’re not sure about how to best represent your brand visually. We can talk on the phone, Skype or in-person to give you some perspective. Just send me a hello, and we can talk about the details.
We’re currently booking brand identity clients for 2012. Though, we don’t accept every client that comes our way: we love working with creatives who are passionate about what they do. We love clients who are crazy about design and understand that branding is more than a fancy logo. If that’s you, let’s talk!