A short, practical guide
At SketchDeck we work with many companies who have no brand, or have yet to work out what their brand is. We often help move them forward in defining their brand as a side-effect of designing for them.
Recently I was asked about the branding process, that exchange grew into this article. It’s based on the companies we’ve worked with and SketchDeck’s own evolution.
What is a brand? When does it matter?
A brand, simply put, is the person your company seems to be. People experience your company through its written communication, its visual design and its actions.
Just like a person, people may like or dislike your company. They may feel many different emotions towards it. They may remember it, or forget it.
If you don’t have any customers, branding’s probably not that important. If founders spend a lot of time with most customers, they’re doing the job of branding. If many customers interact with your company then branding is probably useful, proportional to the volume of customers.
Brands most of all need to be authentic — they need to seem real and honest. Otherwise people cannot trust them.
The corporate world is full of brands that have lost their authenticity. During the Super Bowl so many commercials carried heavy emotional stories, then ended with a three second flick of a fast-food/car logo. The disconnect between message and product was painful, and evoked laughter.
The most authentic situation is a single person talking directly to you. That’s why many company’s brands are partial extensions of a founder (e.g. Apple, Space X, Virgin). As a company grows, it gets diluted and becomes third person. This naturally makes it hard to find something believable.
How do you make a brand?
It’s not being a branding rockstar. You probably don’t need to spend lots of time and money on branding consultants and workshops. It’s about endless constant improvement.
You’ve two things to achieve:
- Work out the voice and look of your company
- Get everyone to consistently follow 1
To answer 1. you need to try things out and keep polishing. Try designs, try writing, see what you like and what resonates. Get friends and colleagues to help if they’re better at designing or writing.
Brands are subjective. They resonate with one pool of people — some like it, others don’t. You have to choose who that is. Start narrow.
Touch up the little details and polish the new content you create; it’s hard for a strong direction to emerge from work that’s sloppy or inconsistent.
Once you find what works, you’ll have more improvement and revamping to do. You’ll need to get everyone using the brand consistently.
Someone needs to care enough to make all this happen. They’ll forever be protecting the consistency and quality of the brand.
Brand rules that everyone can follow Brand book with examples of what is good and what is forbidden Pass all materials through one person for comments and approval to publish
That’s all for this short guide. Like so much in life, it’s 95% effort: refining, testing, discovering what fits, growing it. Happy Branding!
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