Do you know if your branding is working well for your business? What is it costing you if not? Enter the Brand Audit Series! This four part series will reveal to you how well your branding is working and ways you can improve it. Below are the topics we’ll cover over the next four weeks.
Brand Foundation – What is a brand strategy?
Your Logo - Is it working for your business?
The Rest – What do I need besides a logo?
Consistency – How well do you put it all together?
Bonus: If you sign-up for my email list, you’ll have the chance to receive a FREE half hour, one-on-one brand audit from me and you’ll receive the Brand Strategy Template that accompanies this post.
So let’s get started on this week’s topic: your brand foundation. I know we all want to dive into the fun stuff, like discussing your logo or determining what your color palette should be. However, if we tried to do that right now it would be pointless. We can’t know if we’re headed in the right direction without a compass to guide us.
Today is all about defining that compass by creating your brand strategy. We will use this to evaluate all aspects of your brand identity in the coming weeks.
To create your brand strategy we’ll target four different areas: your brand, your audience, your competitors, and your visual inspiration.
We’ll start by reviewing the most foundational areas of your business. The four areas discussed below will eventually guide the visuals of your brand.
Taking the time to craft a strong mission statement is important because it’s what you will measure everything against. When writing it, consider why you started your business in the first place and what overall purpose it serves. To get you started, fill in the blanks of the statement below.
_____________________ (business name) helps _____________________ (your audience) _____________________ (what benefit do you provide), _____________________ (how do you provide this benefit).
Here’s an example for my own business:
Letterform Creative helps small business owners more confidently pursue their passion by providing high-quality branding and websites.
Next it’s important to define your values. These are another foundational part of your brand and oftentimes can be visually represented in your branding. Some examples of core values might be simplicity, passion, beauty, quality, sustainability, or diversity. What are yours?
What are you trying to achieve with your business? What are your short and long-term goals? It’s important that your goals are SMART, meaning specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. If you’re not familiar with this concept, here’s a helpful article that can guide you as you set your goals.
Let's talk about visual aspirations and inspirations for your brand. How do you want your brand to be perceived? Start by making a list of adjectives. Then go a little deeper, what do you want people to think of when they think of your brand? What do you hope they’ll say behind your brand’s back?
The next step is to define your target audience. You can’t speak to the right people if you don’t know who you’re talking to. The more specific you can get about your audience the better. The longer you’ve been in business the easier this will be. Think back on your past clients or customers who have been the best fit for your business. What were some common traits they shared? What made them such a good fit for your business?
If you’re just starting your business this part can be a little tricky, as you don’t have concrete examples to work with. If that’s the case, the best way to gather this information is to observe the audiences of other brands that target your ideal audience. What information can you learn by looking at the types of people following them on social media? What do you learn about their audience by looking at their website? Maybe the language they use clearly appeals to Millennials. Their color palette might signify a commitment to sustainability. Take notes.
Some specific insights you’ll want to focus on are age, income, location, values, characteristics, hobbies, and style. What problems are they currently facing? What people or brands do they follow?
Some days I’d like to just close my eyes to the competition and pretend they don’t exist. Unfortunately that’s not going to help us stand out. So instead let’s name them and identify what makes you unique. I know sometimes it can be hard to see what you makes you different, especially in saturated markets. I’ve found that a good way to discover this, is to see what others have to say about your business because sometimes you’re too close to it to tell.
Take a look at your client testimonials or customer reviews and see what specific things they mention. They’re bound to point out something that makes your business special. In my own client testimonials I’ve learned that I’m able to help my client’s feel more confident and that I offer a lot of strategic business advice along with their branding and website. These are both things that I could capitalize on to set me apart from the competition.
Your Visual Inspiration
Now the fun part! Let’s start defining your visual direction. Identify some other brands (ideally not in your own industry) that are examples of the visual aesthetic you wish to have for your brand. Create a Pinterest board and gather inspiration. More on that here if you’re interested. Make note of the typefaces, colors, patterns, illustrations, and photography that are being used. All these can help guide your overall brand identity.
Below are examples of mood boards I’ve created for clients. Notice how different the overall feeling of each is. They both have clearly defined styles and color palettes. This should be your goal with a mood board.
Mood Board 1
Style: modern, clean, fresh, simple, sophisticated
Mood Board 2
Style: creative, fun, inspiring, retro
Ok, I think I’ve given you enough homework for one week. Do your best to complete this before next week because next week we’re going to discuss your logo and it will be much easier to determine if it’s working if you have a solid brand strategy as your guide. Don’t forget to sign up for my email list, so you can receive some helpful downloads, like a free Brand Strategy Template!