Grafica colorRome was not built in a day. Nor will your brand or image. You need to consistently invest in that brand and image over time to see the results. As many businesses go about the process of building their brand, they often take the easy way out and don’t put a lot of thought or effort into the visual representation of their business or brand. This can potentially be a serious mistake. Your customers and prospects are able to tell the difference between a well thought out, consistent brand image and one that may have been hastily thrown together. Taking the time to develop your brand image is important, and there are good reasons why investing in high-quality graphic design makes good business sense.

It makes you look professional  

You don’t have a lot of time to make a good first impression on potential customers. It’s usually less than 10 seconds. Often that first impression is your website, business card, brochure or catalog. And even though your potential customers may not be experts when it comes to design and graphics, they can tell whether your promotional materials were done by an amateur or professional. It doesn’t matter how big your company is, if your design is done poorly, it will give the impression that your firm is small, cheap and maybe even undependable. Conversely, well-done, professional graphic design can make your company look strong, reliable and professional. Even the smallest of startups can look established and bigger than they are with professional graphic design.

Good design has a positive effect on the bottom line

If you change your thinking to see good design as an investment rather than an expense, you’ll start to see the benefits. Great design has the potential to help accelerate sales in the short term and build repeat sales in the long term. Because great design, along with other things, has the ability to affect your customers’ awareness, loyalty, trust and perception of your brand it has an effect on the bottom line.

It pulls your brand together in a consistent manner

Inconsistent branding has the ability to make your company look cheap and amateurish. When looking at your brand from the physical design and graphical representation perspective, it needs to all flow together and present a consistent image to your customers, potential customers and market in general. Truly professional organizations all have consistent, cohesive branding; the colors are consistent and complementary, the fonts are consistent and the logos and other images are consistent. Having that cohesiveness and consistency in your branding allows your marketing materials to be recognizable, unique and effective.

Great graphic design helps you connect with and appeal to your audience

A really good graphic designer takes the time and effort to understand the details of your business and your target audience. He or she learns what will appeal to, and attract, new customers, and builds upon that to design appropriately. A good designer knows that a generic, one-size-fits-all approach does not work and will work to make the graphic representation of your company unique to you and your market. A good designer will know which color combinations work and don’t work. What they design, whether a logo, brochure or digital media, will appeal to and connect with your audience in a positive way.

Good design helps you stand out 

These days it seems that everyone has access to tools to do things themselves. From a design standpoint you can get clip art, templates and stock images from many different sources on the Internet. You can even have a logo created by a freelancer for very little money. Does this approach really make you stand out from the crowd? Does it build brand equity and cohesiveness? A good graphic designer and good graphic design will help your brand cut through the confusion and noise to really stand out from the crowd. You want to accentuate the things that make your company unique and special. A good graphic designer will take the time to really understand what makes you unique and different, and then find a way to highlight that in the graphic representation of your brand.


Brand Branding Copyright Advertising Banner Concept

As a start up, you have so many things you need to worry about. One of the last things you’re probably thinking about is your brand. Don’t make that mistake. Thinking about and building your brand from day one is important and will help with your overall marketing and awareness going forward.

Why is it so important to think about your brand before you barely exist as an organization? Because building a good brand will help you with your perception in the market place and help occupy the correct space in your potential investors’ and clients’ minds. Bear in mind that your brand is so much more than a logo, website or features of your product or service. A brand is not tangible; it’s intangible. It is your personality, your image, the story of your organization and your reputation.

Now that you can start to understand what a brand is, how do you develop your brand and your brand strategy? How do you make sure to develop one that tells your unique story in a compelling way?

Start with research

If you don’t know your industry and competition inside and out, you’re not going to succeed. You need to find the answers to a lot of questions. Who are the dominant players and how are they positioned? What are the barriers to entry? What is the market size? What percentage of market share do you think you can win? What is the potential for sales? What are the typical margins in this industry? Are investors interested in this industry? If so, how many and where are they?

Similarly, you need to know your own strengths and weaknesses and how those fit into the industry and what you’re trying to provide. What is the fundamental issue you’re trying to address and is there an overriding need for your product or service? How is what you’re doing different? Once the research is done, you can start to develop your position and messaging.

Develop your message and position

Again, there are more questions to be answered. What does your organization do? What problems or issues does it help solve? Why and how are you different than your competitors? What value do you bring to your customers and investors? You need to answer these questions, and others, from the beginning.  This is commonly known as your value proposition. You need to make sure that you set yourself apart from everyone else, and let them know who you are, what you do and why they should care. In the beginning keep it simple. Maybe two or three sentences about what you want people to know about you and why you’re different.

Next, think about your positioning. How do you fit in the marketplace? Will you compete on price or service? Are you going to be a low-cost solution, high-end solution or a completely different solution that no one has thought of before? Is your product or service an improvement to an existing product or service or is this an innovation? This is a critical step since it will help make you stand out from the competitors.

As you go through this process be careful to make sure that you are genuine. Pretending to be something you aren’t or attempting to fool the marketplace is a recipe for disaster.

Create your visual identity

Branding is more than just the visual representation of your company. It’s more than a logo, font or color. However, your visual identity is a big part of your branding process. As you start to develop the visual side of your brand think about how and where a customer or investor will interact with you. Your look should be consistent and cohesive across all opportunities and interactions, and accurately and simply communicate your message.  You will want to develop a set of brand guidelines to use as you go forward. Things that should be included in the brand guidelines are fonts, colors, logo size, approved images and text size, among other things.

Be sure you’re consistent

While not technically a step in the branding process, making sure you are consistent with your messages and how they’re delivered is one of the ultimate goals. You need to make sure that you’ve created a consistent, cohesive and unified brand experience. You want your customers and investors to easily understand what to expect when they interact with your brand. If you are successful in developing this consistency of experience, you will be able to build trust in the marketplace.

This consistency of the brand also applies to internal employees. They need to understand what the company stands for, how to behave and what is expected. Your employees will be a big part of the brand experience going forward for customers and investors.

Periodic review

Ultimately the desired outcome is efficacy and consistency in your brand. You should plan on periodically reviewing your brand and its place in the market. Are you still conveying the messages you want to? Is the brand experience consistent with what you promise? Are you still providing value and solving the problems you set out to solve? Do people still perceive you in the way you want them to? Is your brand still aligned with your mission?

If there’s been a major and fundamental shift in what your startup does or produces, you will need to make adjustments to your brand and your messaging. Examples of major changes might be new products or services, expansion into new markets (geography or industry) or a merger/acquisition, to name a few.

Many entrepreneurs in the start up world don’t initially understand the importance of their brand and, therefore, leave branding activities until they’re done creating their product or service, developing their investor pitch or organizing their team. While all of those activities are important to a start up, thinking about and building your brand from day one will help you succeed. Having the ability to effectively and efficiently tell your story to customers, investors, potential employees and the media with a consistent message is critical.

Rebranding 3As a business owner or executive, your days are filled with the activities necessary to keep the business moving forward. You are constantly working to stay on top of all the changes and advancements in the industry and what your competitors are doing. Often times you don’t have the time to step back and evaluate whether or not your brand still clearly identifies and communicates who you are, and if it is still relevant to what your customers and the broader marketplace wants.

As the market and your industry evolves, so too should your brand. That’s why it is a good idea to do a brand audit periodically to see if things need to change to keep up. A result of that brand audit may be to rebrand the organization.

Rebranding is a process. It is not a simple transaction like changing a logo or colors. It is a decision that should not be made lightly or hastily. But, it is a decision that should be made with the goal of improving your business and facilitating further growth. If you’re uncertain whether or not you should undertake the process of rebranding, here are 7 reasons when it makes the most sense to rebrand.

Your brand is tired and outdated

This one is pretty cut and dried. Sometimes your brand needs to be refreshed or redone. What was current and contemporary when you started may look tired or outdated today. You want to make sure that your positioning and messaging is in-line with who you are today and in the future.

You are looking to jump start growth

Your brand, in its current form, may not have the right components to move the organization forward. Maybe sales have stalled, you’ve expanded a product line, opened new markets, or expanded your service offerings, what worked in the past may not be the best for new growth. A new brand initiative can help communicate the changes you’ve gone through and help solidify your new place in the minds of customers.

Your competitors are starting to look the same as you

There may be instances where your competitors are consciously, or unconsciously, trying hard to duplicate your success. That includes looking, sounding and acting like you. In order to stand out and differentiate yourself from them you may want to rebrand your organization so that you stand out from the crowd again. Refreshing and rebranding can transform your organization and positively affect the way the marketplace sees you.

Your organization has expanded beyond its original scope

Maybe what you started out doing and whom you started out serving has changed or expanded. If that is the case, it’s probably a good idea to rebrand so that you can communicate successfully with this expanded customer base. You want to make sure that your positioning and messaging resonates with whom you now target and serve. It doesn’t have to mean you abandon the past, just expand for the future.

Your brand has become inconsistent and unclear

Over time, it’s possible that your brand has become inconsistent and your messaging confusing. Maybe it happened because of some acquisitions you’ve made? Maybe it happened because you’ve engaged multiple outside service agencies? Often times these types of situations have a negative impact on company culture, which in turn has a negative impact on your brand. Regardless of why it happened, you need to correct that type of situation and rebranding can be the answer.

You want to attract better talent

If you are unable to recruit, retain and develop top talent it might be because your brand doesn’t stand out from the crowd. Maybe your brand, and consequently your company, seems old fashioned, out of touch or mediocre. In this day and age, top talent wants to work for top organizations. Rebranding gives you a chance to redefine who you are to available talent. If you’re not perceived as a top organization it might be time to rebrand to make your organization more attractive.

You’ve developed a bad reputation

Many companies have rebranded because of a bad reputation. It can work but be careful. The better route to go is to make sure that the fundamental reasons your organization has developed this bad reputation are taken care of. Maybe it’s a customer service issue or a product reliability issue? It really doesn’t matter. If you can take care of the bigger issue, the rebrand has a better chance of accomplishing your other goals.

If one or more of these situations exists in your organization, it might be time to look at rebranding. But, as mentioned before, don’t take the process lightly. There is a lot that goes into a rebrand and you want to make sure you get it right. Pay attention to the details. It’s better to have it done well and done correctly, than to have it done quickly.

branding_lightbulbYour brand is the one of the most valuable parts of your organization and every effort should be expended to protect it. Building your brand takes a lot of time, hard work and attention to detail. There are many moving parts and interactions that take place over a prolonged period of time. After all, your brand is the projection of your reputation in the marketplace. That’s not something that is easily built over night.

However, it is easy to damage your brand quickly, sometimes to the point where it is permanently damaged. Something that you might think is inconsequential could actually have a big impact on your brand. That’s why it is important to pay attention to the details.

If you’re bound and determined to ruin your brand, here are 6 steps to take to make sure you do it with very little effort.

  1. Make sure you have an inconsistent brand image and messaging

Your brand is the perception people have of your organization. It is your reputation. It is your promise to behave in a certain, consistent way. Behaving inconsistently or putting out inconsistent messaging will begin to create confusion in the marketplace and is a great way to damage your brand.

  1. Over promise and under deliver

You can create ill will in the marketplace really quickly when your product or service doesn’t perform like you say it will. Not being truthful in what your product or service can, and can’t, do and over promising performance goes a long way towards damaging your brand.

  1. Make sure it’s all about you

Everyone loves talking about him or herself, but when you spend too much time talking about yourself you will do damage to your brand. If it’s all about you, you’ve got it all wrong.

  1. Be sure to misuse social media

Social media should be an integral part of your marketing strategy and is a good way to strengthen your brand and have a conversation with the marketplace. However, it’s also a great way to damage your brand. What you post to social media needs to have relevancy to your brand and your brand promise. Your messaging needs to be consistent with the brand and the frequency needs to be such that the marketplace doesn’t feel inundated with your messaging and tune you out. Spending too much time talking about how great you are or posting irrelevant information is a surefire way to turn people off. Filling my Twitter or Facebook feed with meaningless content will go a long way toward making me dislike your brand.

  1. Provide low quality content 

Your target market associates your brand with the quality of content you produce. The lower the quality of the content, the greater the likelihood that it negatively impacts your brand. Think of the different ways you produce content; video, blogs, whitepapers, advertisements, articles, social media, etc. Is it relevant to what your customers need and want? Is it meaningful, well thought-out and consistent with your brand message? Do you have poor grammar or misspelled words? Is the lighting or sound in your video poor quality? All of these seemingly small details can doom your brand.

  1. Have a poorly designed website

For many, if not most, brands, the website is a critical piece of your marketing and brand strategy. A well designed website that has an organized and uncluttered layout will have a strong influence on consumers’ perception of your brand. Pay attention to the amount and size of the text, the use of navigation tools, imagery and the overall layout. Is the website consistent with the overall look and feel of your brand? Having a poorly designed website that is hard to navigate and does not provide useful and meaningful content is one of the quickest ways to damage your brand.

Building a strong, consistent and quality brand doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years of hard work and effort to get where you want to be. However, it doesn’t take much to damage your brand. One small mistake and years of hard work, effort and goodwill could be gone. Make sure you are vigilant when it comes to protecting your brand.

Brand Branding Copyright Advertising Banner ConceptA brand is a representation of the marketplace’s interaction with your company. It’s the sum of the way you treat your customers, your reputation, the features and benefits of your product or service, and the spot you occupy in the minds of consumers. It is represented, in part, by your advertising, website, literature and logo.

There are good brands and there are not-so-good brands. Brands like Apple, Target, Starbucks and Coca Cola are some of the best-known and most valuable brands in the world. But what if you’re not Apple or Target? Why is it important that you have a good brand?

I’ve outlined 7 ways a good brand helps you and why it’s important to have one.

1.    A good brand eliminates confusion in the marketplace and sets expectations

A good brand is instantly recognizable. It provides the consumer with a consistent and well-defined idea of what to expect when they interact with your organization. A good brand will differentiate you from your competitors and make you more memorable.

2.    A good brand creates trust

A good brand builds trust and credibility based on prior interactions and experiences. It is a promise to your customers. A good brand will evoke a positive emotional response in your customers’ brains and help create affinity for your products or services.

3.    A good brand promotes recognition

A good brand will promote recognition of your organization. The more consistent and easy to recognize it is, the more it can help your customers feel at ease interacting and buying from you.

4.    A good brand provides a competitive advantage

A good brand is impossible for your competitors to copy. It is what differentiates you from them. A good brand is not just advertising, a logo or certain colors. It is the very essence of who you are and the experience your customers have when interacting with you. Your competitors may have products similar to yours but they don’t have your brand. The better defined and developed your brand is, the greater advantage you have in the marketplace.

5.    A good brand helps the bottom line

A good brand enables your company to increase sales. Your reputation is often the main reason you are chosen by a customer, regardless of if you are in B2C or B2B markets. Having a good brand makes it easier for consumers to justify choosing to buy your products or services over your competitors, even if you’re more expensive.

6.    A good brand can inspire your employees

Many employees desire to work for an organization they feel good about. Having a strong brand identity helps employees understand the mission and purpose of the organization. It gives them something to believe in, something to stand behind. It also helps them understand where they fit in and how they make a difference.

7.    A good brand can help you win future investment or assist in acquisitions

A strong, reputable brand can help your organization increase its value by creating more leverage within your industry. There is a value to the intangible assets of your brand and your position in the marketplace. Others may be willing to pay a premium when the time comes for you to seek new capital or sell the business. It will also help you when it comes time to acquire another business. Beyond the actual tangible assets of a company like Coca Cola, how much is the brand name and market position worth?

Every brand tells a story. What does your brand say about you?