Logos, Colors, and Wearing a Nice Shirt: Branding Fundamentals

Oct 3, 2017 | Jessica P. Ogilvie

So far in this series, we’ve covered creating a brand online and on social media, as well as how to brand yourself when you are the brand. Today, we’re going to take a look at those classic aspects of the brand that are still essential in the digital age. Make no mistake: Your branding — how you present yourself in public, your logo, and your physical deliverables — should be just as on-point as your online presence. Professionalism hasn’t changed that much since the turn of the century, and as a small business, you can’t afford to overlook details. Let’s dive in!

Walk the Talk

First impressions are made in the first seven seconds of meeting someone, meaning you have approximately the amount of time it takes to say, “Hello, my name is…” to communicate who you are and what you stand for. At conferences or networking events, then, you’d be wise to prepare in advance as opposed to throwing your ideas together while shoving a sandwich in your mouth and being 15 minutes late in getting out the door.

According to the good folks at Harvard Business Review, that level of preparedness means going so far as creating talking points. That’s right — like a politician. This holds especially true if you get nervous meeting new people; knowing what you want to say and how you want to say it means you won’t fumble for words, make awkward jokes, or accidentally say something you don’t mean.

And while no one wants to be judged on their physical appearance, your clothing and personal style can say a lot about what your company offers. Are you a high-powered lawyer looking for new clients? You probably won’t dress the same way you would if you were the owner of a new denim line.

Design a Good-Looking Name

Maybe you’re a graphic designer, in which case you probably don’t need a lesson on logo design. But for the rest of us, picking one image to summarize our entire brand can be daunting. There are enough images, fonts, and layouts to make a person want to run fast and hard towards a shameful afternoon of Netflix-binging. But worry not: there are many capable designers (freelancers and firms) that can guide you through the process of finding a look. (We’ll be profiling some in future posts.) What you want is a font and a design that’s in line with your brand. There’s an art and science to logos, for example, that conveys a sense of who you are — whimsical, professional, sentimental, whatever. Customers read a lot into that design. Don’t believe that this can be effective? Think of Coca-Cola, Google, or Disney — chances are, you can imagine exactly what font and style they’re written in. That’s a logotype, a font designed specifically for a company.

There are myriad websites that can help break down all the fonts available to you and how they read to customers, but here’s a good primer. If you prefer to get your information from graphics, check this one out over at the Logaster blog.

Pick Your Colors

When it comes to picking colors for your brand, it’s tempting to do one of two things: Obsess over the psychology behind color (yellow equals happy!!) or throw all the overwhelming information out the window, close your eyes, and pick anything, anything at all.

We recommend neither. Instead, take a deep breath, and relax. Research shows that a person’s reaction to color is so influenced by personal experience that it’s nigh impossible to determine exactly how someone might feel if you choose, say, purple over green. With that being said, what is important is whether the colors you pick match the overall vibe of your product. This infographic shows, for instance, that purple is seen as sophisticated and glamorous. If you’re selling camping gear, maybe that’s not the color for you.

Think About Deliverables

Once you’ve styled yourself with a logo, colors, and visual marketing that works for you, you’re ready to hit the ground running. In order to spread all that great information, though, you might want to have something physical to hand out. That could be business cards, postcards, or keychains. But at a minimum, you’ll want to something pocket-sized to carry the logo along with your letterhead, invoices, and possibly envelopes and packaging slips.

Is it all worth it? Here’s a great read about the difference between having a branded look IRL and not having one — it could mean the difference between getting business or working for nothing.