How to choose the right colors for your brand

How to choose the right colors for your brand

Colors are critical to your brand. The right colors will strengthen your messaging and brand personality. Whereas the wrong colors may put your audience off or even make them feel uneasy. Your prospective customer has to be able to think and feel “this is meant for me” when faced with any of your branded communication. And colors play a huge part in that.

Colors are powerful. They catch our attention quickly and affect our mood. In fact, colors are so powerful that they can provoke a physical response in a person. Red and yellow can increase your blood pressure. Whereas green can do the opposite. Colors also affect our decision making. They have such a powerful draw that experts recommend switching your smartphone screen into black and white if you suffer from phone addiction. Looking at black and white screen is less stimulating and less interesting. So it’ll lower your urge to constantly be checking your phone.

Colors have strong feeling of personality. Bright colors are considered to be lively, energetic, and young. We even describe a certain type of person with the word “colorful,” and know exactly what that means. Grey or toned down colors are considered to be serious and stable. Some might even say boring. Needless to say that your brand should use colors that match your brand personality.

Have you ever had an experience where you have forgotten a name of a brand or a product, but clearly remember what color the label or text was? Colors increase our attention level and therefore help to remember things better. The most successful brands have a signature color they use to strengthen their presence in the crowded marketplace. Think of Coca Cola red, Caterpillar yellow, Starbucks green, Tiffany’s trademarked Tiffany’s Blue (light teal), Facebook blue, or Apple’s use of white.

Choosing colors for your brand

How do you choose the right colors for your brand? The kind of colors that attract your ideal customer and strengthen the bond you have with them? The key is to know your audience but also know your own brand. It helps to have your brand’s foundational pieces like your brand’s personality and the value proposition defined. Know the demographics and preferences of your audience. Those are in critical role when you start thinking about what colors represent your brand the best.

Understanding of basic color psychology and cultural implications are important here too. You don’t have to become a master color sampler or anything. Just make sure the colors you’re considering for your brand are not in conflict with what you want to communicate. I’ve created a handy Quick Color Guide for you to help with this. Download the guide here.

Do you have to like your brand’s colors? It is a good idea to pick colors you are ok with, preferably like. You can’t just pick your favorite color, unless your ideal customer is an exact copy of yourself. Let’s say your favorite color is pink but your ideal customer is a +50 years old corporate executive male. It’s highly likely that pink would not appeal to that customer. To be sure, you could test this by interviewing few people from your audience, and ask what colors they are drawn to. Or by showing them few different color combinations or photos with certain color schemes and ask them to choose their favorite.

This is not to say that your brand can’t reflect your personality and preferences at all. As the founder of your business — especially if you are a solopreneur service provider — you need to show your personality. But depending on your ideal customer, you will have to make some important choices when and where you do this. You have lots of options. You can do this through your blog posts and the images and the tone of voice you use in your blog. Your webinars are also a great opportunity to bring out your personality. And you can include your favorite color as one of the colors in your brand library, just not the entire library.

Like mentioned before, exception to the previous rule would be if you are identical with your ideal customer. This is especially true when you have created a business around helping people who are facing the same challenge you previously faced and already solved. In this case, you are — were — your ideal customer and can choose your brand elements by thinking “what would’ve appealed to me at the time.” Many lifestyle bloggers fall into this category.

In any case, don’t choose colors you hate. Even if it would be your ideal customer’s favorite color. Find a color you are ok with. Because colors have such a profound psychological — even physiological — effect, you risk starting to grow negative feelings towards your own brand if you have elements you strongly dislike. And you are your brand’s biggest and most important ambassador. So, you have to be able to believe in it and talk about it with genuine enthusiasm.

There are wonderful exercises with moodboarding and finding photos you and your ideal customer loves. And I am working to get you an easy to follow step-by-step framework to help with that. In the meanwhile, subscribe to my newsletter (orange tab at the bottom of your browser) to get informed when that worksheet will come out.

To keep you inspired or just for fun, check out https://brandcolors.net/. It’s a collection of brand colors by known brands out there.


P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs where I teach soulpreneurs like you to build their own branding and create their own designs. 

Create branded assets quickly with a design system

Create branded assets quickly with a design system

As an entrepreneur, you have lots of communication needs. And as a rule of thumb, this communication should be branded — and should look that way, too. But hiring a designer to put together designed assets every time you need something can get expensive and take time, when you could just do it yourself quickly.

But you’re not a designer you exclaim! Have no fear, with a proper design system for your brand anyone, yourself included, can create great looking designs. All you need is a well-crafted design system — not a simple identity “system” or mere brand guidelines. Let me explain.

If you search for branding inspiration in Pinterest, you will quickly come across tons of moodboard looking identity “systems.” These “systems” will have brand colors or gradients defined, logo typically on top of the page, typefaces the brand uses, maybe some textures, and brand photography styles. This is a great starting point for documenting the brand look and feel, but it is hardly a system.

identity-system

A system is something that defines “principles or procedures according to which something is done” or a collection of pieces that work together as a mechanism (Google Dictionary). A board depicting individual branding elements is hardly a mechanism or a set of procedures. A good design system for branding has design patterns and components you can take and apply to create designs quickly and effortlessly.

The idea of design system with design patterns and components is familiar from user experience design. This concept is critical for websites and software because while designers often create the design patterns and are involved in developing the components, developers and engineers without design knowledge will be the ones implementing and putting together the final product. The use of patterns and components (i.e. the design system) will ensure the outcome is cohesive, brand aligned, and well-designed.

If you ever used one those identity “systems” mentioned in the beginning, you may have been wondering why your designs never quite end up looking like the ones your designer created. It’s because they gave you pieces of a system — not the entire system — and never showed you how yo use them. Design patterns are all about how to use those pieces. And components are already put together parts of a design you can combine to create a whole.

Think of it this way: your business is a car and your brand is its engine. The engine consists of components that are build with small parts. If someone gave you just a bag of small parts, would you be able to assemble and engine? Unless you were an auto mechanic (in this case a professional designer) you would not. But if someone gives you the pieces with instructions on how to assemble the components and how to put the components together, suddenly you’re able to assemble an engine that keeps the business running.

The key idea is: with a real design system, a person without any design experience can put together brand aligned assets that look good. This is critical if you are a solopreneur and can’t afford or don’t want to hire a designer. Or maybe you hired a VA and want to ensure whatever they create is brand aligned. And even if you hire a designer, with a stellar design system, it is quicker and easier for them to create your branded assets, which allows you to hire a more junior designer — or even a student.

Design Patterns

Design pattern is “a general, reusable solution to a commonly occurring problem within a given context” (Wikipedia). The key words here are “general” and “reusable.” Depending on the depth of your offering, you may not need too many patterns. Each of the patterns should be easily reused in a different context.

An example of a design pattern in the brand context would the different typestyles. The typeface is quite often defined, but you should also know which sizes and weights to use for a title, subtitle, body copy, or a caption. How much is there space between the title and body text? Are the titles the same color as the body text? How much is there space between paragraphs of text? What does a large quote look like? You see, just knowing the typeface does not guarantee your designs look consistent.

To ensure quick application of your brand guidelines, you should have patterns defined at for text treatment (typography), the use of colors, textures, graphic elements (illustrations, lines, blocks, etc.), and your logo. Again, the depth of these patterns depends on the offering of your business. If you offer lots of products and services, you may need to define more complex patterns to accommodate for the needs you have around designed materials.

Brand Components

Brand components is where your asset creation get really easy. A component is a reusable module you’ve put together with design patterns. Let’s say you send you customers a lot of flyers via email. These can be coupons or promotions, you name it. A component here could be a combination of an icon or illustration with a line/rule and a headline. You could always just drop this component on the top of your flyer and, voilá, you have a headline element.

So, this component we just described consisted of a title or a headline pattern and two graphic element patterns. This same pattern could be used for other communications where you want to combine title and graphics. Remember, everything we create in patterns and components are reusable.

Design Templates

When multiple components are put together as a finished design, you get a template. Templates are great when you are creating the same asset over and over again. Templates make creating designs super easy. Anyone can use a template. They are also readily available for example on Canva.com. And you can buy lots of design templates for Adobe software or Keynote and PowerPoint, etc.

But when your needs change — and they do change, you need to either change something in the template or need an entirely new design. With a proper design system, you can easily and quickly create whatever designs you need whether you’re a professional or a design newbie.

 

 

What is your Brand DNA?

What is your Brand DNA?

What is your brand made of? Most people will associate a brand with its visual look and feel — or its logo. A marketer will tell you your brand is in the stories your business tells through marketing. And they’re not wrong. But your brand is much much more than that. In fact, the visual branding is just a representation of your brand personality. And the stories reflect what your brand stands for. But where does it all come from? The answer: your Brand DNA. Brand DNA is a fancy term I like to use to describe all the things you need to define in order to have a successful brand — and business. For some, these are easy and quick to put together, but most people want a bit of help. As a business owner or founder you already have all the information to define your Brand DNA, if they want to. You’re set to start working on your Brand DNA because your business was born from your heart and is a reflection of your values. Let me walk you through the pieces that make your Brand DNA.

Your “why”

Every entrepreneur has a “why” — a reason they’re doing what they’re doing. Sometimes the reason is grand and inspirational. But it can as easily be down to earth and relatable. Only you will know what your “why” is. This is a core element in building a purposeful brand. Yes, you can build a brand without defining your “why.” But in order to have a truly authentic brand voice and reach the customers that will turn into your advocates, you need to find and surface what your passion. Your “why” is effective in creating you an attractive brand, because deep inside we all have a “why.” Each and everyone in your target audience will have something they are passionate about and inspired by. And when you find a group of people whose “why” is aligned with your “why,” you’ve found a group of fiercely loyal customers. The concept of “why” is coined by Simon Sinek. If you want to learn more, check out his book Find Your Why. This is a workbook designed to help people find their “why”. I always like to recommend Find Your Why over Sinek’s earlier book Start With Why, because it has concrete steps to help you define your “why.” And has well summarized the key thoughts from Start With Why.

Audience

Your target audience is in a key role in many aspects when it comes to your business. Your Brand DNA is no exception. Think of it this way: in order to know how you want to talk, you need to know who you are talking to. I’ve written a quick overview about knowing your audience and reference few good books to read in this post: Knowing your audience is everything. When you’re defining your target audience, the key things to think about in addition to demographics are their behaviour, attitudes, and values. These will guide you to create  brand assets and content that attracts and interests your audience. Remember: while your brand should reflect your “why,” it should be communicating to your audience, not to you.

Brand personality

Your brand’s personality is what gives it a unique flavor. It is often described as if your brand was an actual person. For example, “easily approachable” or “friendly.” It is easy to come up with two or three adjectives to describe your brand personality. But just like with your target audience: the better you know your brand, the easier it is to communicate. And any communication from your business is a reflection of your brand — even the stuff you didn’t mean as brand related. To really get to know your brand personality, you should build a brand personality grid. This is a nine square grid where each square will have a photo in it. In the center, you’ll place an image of a person. That will be your brand if it were a human being. It is not your target audience — or ideal customer avatar. It is your brand as a person. And in the eight squares that circle your brand as a person, you’ll start collecting imagery that describes the life of this person. For example, if this person lived in a house, what would the house be like (find that house and put in one of the squares). Defining your brand personality will also help you define the tone of voice your brand uses in its communications. Think of the brand personality grid and the personification of your brand: how would this person talk? What kind of things would they talk about? Where would they publish their message?

Unique point of view

What makes your brand different? This might be immediately clear for you. Maybe your business fills a void and provides something that didn’t exist before. That would automatically give you a unique point of view. Or maybe you are like most of the entrepreneurs out there: offering a product or service that competes with other similar products and services. In this super common situation, developing a unique point of view helps a lot. Your unique point of view has to come from a place of authenticity. You shouldn’t try to be different just for the sake of being different. Don’t come up with artificial qualities to add to your brand for the sake of being unique. You will only end up looking disingenuous and fake. “What if I have nothing unique” you might panic. Calm down my friend. Everyone has something that makes them unique. There is no other business owner exactly like you. You and your values — and your “why” — are what makes your brand unique. So, dig into that basket as often as you can when you’re building your brand. I’d like to add here one of my favorite quotes. I think it describes this challenge well. I unfortunately can’t remember who said it (and have not been able to find this quote online either). So, if you identify this, shoot me an email, I’d like to know who it was and how it goes exactly:

Things designed to be different are rarely ever better. But things designed to better are almost always different.

Customer perception

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, said it best: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Your company’s brand is it’s reputation. And people definitely talk behind you back. You should treat your brand reputation as you treat your own: don’t do or say anything you wouldn’t want people to talk about in public. The word will always get out.  This is painfully true when it comes to your customer experience. How do you treat your customers? Do you answer their emails quickly? Do return their direct messages or phone calls? When you do, how do you talk to them? Are you helpful, respectful, and friendly? One off handed comment can turn away a customer. You may remember the customer support scandals Comcast went through in 2014 when some of their customers recorded phone calls with Comcast support agent. Needless to say, these phone calls didn’t provide a good customer experience, and resulted in a viral storm for Comcast. So, what can you do? Well for one, you should try and study your audience’s perception of your brand. How do your customers see your business? If there’s room for improvement, listen to your audience. What are they telling you to change? You can’t fix serious issues in customer experience just by changing your brand. You need to fix the issues first. But you need to be aware that each and every customer interaction with your business will affect your brand — either positively or negatively.

Value proposition

What is the value your brand offers? And how is it better than other brands in the marketplace? The value proposition can be both emotional and rational. Here we again list things that differentiate your brand from other brands. But unlike your unique point of view (which is the lens you reflect all your brand communication through) value proposition should list actual tangible benefits — either rational or emotional. When you put together your value proposition, you should be genuine in what you promise. If you’ve defined your “why” and your unique point of view, know your audience, and studied the customer perception, putting together your value proposition should not be difficult. As you’re drafting the brand benefits, make sure they are relevant to your audience, compelling, and believable. Don’t list more than a couple benefits as people typically have difficult time associating more than one or two benefits per brand.

Brand positioning

How does your brand compare to the competition? What is your unique position in the marketplace? To define this you will need to know who your biggest competitors are and how they are positioned in the marketplace. Comparison table If you have a complex product or service with lots of features and benefits, I like to build a comparison table to identify the table stakes and opportunity gaps. In the table, each column is an existing and desired benefit or feature and each row is your competitor. And of course, include your business to the matrix. Add a checkmark etc. to identify the benefits/features your competitors (and yourself) have. The columns (benefit/feature) that are full of checkmarks are your table stakes. The columns that have only one or two checkmarks (or are empty) are your opportunity gaps to differentiate and position yourself in the marketplace. Competitor matrix Quicker and easier way to define your position in the marketplace is to build a simple four square competitor matrix. Draw x and y axes (like a big plus sign). Define qualities you’re measuring on the axes. For example, high touch vs low touch and ordinary vs luxury. Position all your competitors in the matrix based on their brand and products/services. Empty (or emptier) squares become potential positioning opportunities for your brand as they are less saturated with your competitors’ offerings. If you choose to position yourself in a more saturated square in your matrix, you will need to have more unique differentiators to stand out. In the competitor matrix exercise, it is critically important that you choose the right qualities for the comparison. Otherwise you might end up with unattractive or inefficient positioning.

Conclusion

Defining your Brand DNA makes the rest of your branding much easier, smoother, and way more successful. Having all the things above defined will give a firm ground for the other brand building activities. Especially when it comes to building your visual identity. Have you ever hired a designer to work on your visual brand and been disappointed with the results because it looks nothing like you wanted? Or does not feel like your brand? Brand designers work based on the things defined in your Brand DNA. If your brand personality is not defined, or if the value your brand offers isn’t clear, the visual identity won’t meet your expectations. And will lack a cohesive, well-thought-out brand look and feel.

Ready to start the design work?

If you’ve got all the above things in order, and you’re ready to start building your visual identity, check out my FREE super simple DIY logo guide and share your work on Daily Creative Facebook page.
Build a brand you love and feel proud of

Build a brand you love and feel proud of

As a solopreneur, your company is your career and passion. Your business truly is what you make of it. It can be very personal, and it can be extremely empowering. Running your own business can even be a healing experience. It is also what you spend the most of your time with. You probably spend more time working on your business than you do on any other thing in your life at that time. And the face of you business is its brand. It represents your products and services and reflects how you do business. That’s why you want to get it right. And you want it to be authentic.

I’ve worked in branding for more than 14 years. I’ve worked in small and large branding agencies. I’ve worked in in-house studios and in large enterprise teams. I’ve worked directly building the brand with clients, and indirectly maintaining corporate branding through products I’ve designed. Below I’ve shared four things I’ve found super important for building a successful brand.

1. Know your audience

This is the single most powerful ingredient of building a successful brand. You need to know what your audience wants to see and hear from you. You need to understand how to talk to them and where to connect with them. What appeals to your audience and how do they see the world? If you are already intimately aware of these things, the difficult part of your job is done. All this information will be used when you start defining your brand’s personality.

2. Define your relationship to your brand

While you are building the brand for your target audience, you still want it to reflect your values and be something you can feel proud of. Some entrepreneurs choose to build a personal brand. For service based solopreneurs, this is highly recommended, but not required. People want to buy services from people, not from a faceless company. And they want to see the person behind the services. And they want to build a personal connection. Whether you build a personal brand or not, you represent your business every day. Therefore, you want to build something you can stand behind and agree with. You want it to be something you feel excited about every day. And something you won’t be bored with easily.

3. Define the future of your business

Only you have the vision of where your business is going, and where you want it to be a year, five years, ten years, or twenty years from now. You might be thinking: “What does it matter what happens in twenty years from now? I need to build this brand today!” Well, it matters for one important reason: scalability. If your plan is to sell the company one day, you want to consider that right from the start.

The super successful entrepreneur, angel investor, and analytics expert Neil Patel says he now, in retrospect, regrets building his business empire around his name and personal brand because it makes selling the business much harder as “[–] without me, many companies wouldn’t come on board as clients. If I changed the name of the company it also probably wouldn’t do as well because my personal brand is influential within the digital marketing world.”

If you never plan on selling your company, then you have more leeway to create exactly the kind of brand you want. If you’re building your business for yourself and for the passion you have in your industry, you’re in a better position for getting hands on in the branding process and making it look like you. Passion and empowerment do not exclude success. You not planning to sell your business does not mean it won’t grow and be hugely profitable one day. It just means you have a different level of commitment to it than some one who is planning their exit from day one.

4. Make sure you will be hands on in the process

If you know your audience and you’re an expert in your industry, then you are the best person to build your brand. Even if you feel like you don’t know how to do it, you actually have all the knowledge at hand. All you need is a process and a system to guide you through it.

Too many times I’ve witnessed an agency pushing hard on a client to steer them towards the solution the agency thinks is best. And I’ve sat around the table knowing that the option is not the best for them — or their audience. But the agency needed to make a sale. Or they wanted to win a contest. And I’ve seen too many creative projects left unused by the client (after they were already paid for!!!), because the agency did not care to (or couldn’t for other reasons) dive deep enough to the client’s industry to understand the challenges, the audience, and the requirements. But you are the expert in your industry: you know these things already. That is why you need to be hands on in the process. That is why, with the right process and system in place, you can do it yourself.

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Branding is not easy, but it is something you can absolutely do if you want to. The closer you are to your business and the more meaningful it is to you, the more hands on role you should have in the process.

Top 3 reasons you need a brand identity

Top 3 reasons you need a brand identity

For many new entrepreneurs, building a brand identity might be the last thing on the list. There’s already so much to do with naming your company, getting a business license, finding new clients, filing for any needed permits, planning for marketing, and so on. Branding just is not something you have time or money to invest. But what if I told you that your new business’ brand identity is the key to make your company successful? And that it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Yes, when you have enough revenue to hire an experience professional designer or a brand agency to really build your brand strategy and polish the visual brand, I highly recommend you do so. But you have just started out and need to get your brand up quickly without major investment, and there are a lot of things a non-designer can don to start building their visual brand.

So, why do you need to build a brand identity? There is a whole list of reasons.

1. Recognition and differentiation

This might be the most common sense reason there is. You need to build some sort of identity for your business so that it is easy for your customers to identify you in the market. According to a study conducted by 3M, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. This means people will recognize things much quicker when there are visual cues. And visual cues help us retrieve memories, meaning your clients and potential clients will remember your business much easier when there is some visual identity attached to it.

Some brand experts like to push you to be different from your competition for the sake of recognition. And sure, it does have big advantages if you have authentically unique brand. But my advise always is: be true and authentic. Creating something different simply for the sake of being different has little value. Being authentically you will always pay off with bringing you customers who are loyal to you because of who you are. This is especially true for the service providers out there.

2. Establishing trust

For a new business, it is super important to look professional. Right now, you are a newcomer in that space as a new business, so you want to be extra careful i and make sure you come out as trustworthy, professional, and like the expert in your field that you are. I always say that having an amazing logo alone won’t bring you new customers, but having a crappy looking one will definitely cost you business. In other words, your logo does not have to dazzle your potential customers, but it can’t look like your nephew on third grade made it with Word clipart. If you want to learn how to make professional looking logo quickly without professional software, subscribe to our newsletter to gain access to our How to create your first logo guide.

Vast Marketing Solutions writes on their blog post The Importance of Visual Content in Social Media that according to the same M3 study referred to earlier “46% of people say a website’s design is the number one criterion for discerning the credibility of the company.” This means that design has a big part in making you look credible and professional.

Branding goes beyond your logo. It is an entire system you create around your business identity. Logo is certainly a part of it, but the design system you build to make your brand visible (and visual) typically has much bigger part in the process. The consistent and purposeful use of this design system creates the professional and stylish look you’re after so that you won’t be putting off the half of the traffic that comes to your site.

3. Identification

You don’t only want to evoke trust, you also want your target audience to be able to identify themselves with your brand. This is extremely important when you’re building a loyal customer base. You want your customers feel like this product or service is meant for them. They need to feel like it is part of the stage their life is in and the circle they operate in. They have to be able to see themselves using your product or service. Branding has a powerful effect on how businesses are perceived. This comes through the visual stories you’re choosing to tell and the visual language you’re choosing to use.

If your audience is 20-25 years old women, you need to use visual language and tell the visual stories that appeal to this audience to build a brand they can identify with. Don’t show images of 60+ years old men and use colors and typefaces that appeal to older audiences. Show images they can identify with and design system they love. To best know what kind of visual brand appeals to your audience, you need to get to know your audience and research them. Knowing you customer is everything!

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What is your biggest challenge in building your brand identity? Tell below in comments of come share with us at our Daily Creative Facebook page.