Last week we embarked on the journey of building your brand identity. I focused on the foundation of your brand identity, things like your values, your vision and mission. Having completed this part, it’s now time to work on the more tangible parts of your identity. The parts that will serve as the interface to your audience and communicate who you truly are. This week we will look at the visual identity, the ‘personality’ and how you serve your customers.

The Visual Elements

The visual identity is frequently perceived as THE brand identity. That’s understandable since this is what people first experience when they connect with your brand. Your website, app, stationery are the first point of contact and they leave a lasting impression. Let’s take a look at the things you can control and how you can go about picking the right ones:

  • Logo. This is a big one, it might even deserve a separate article. The logo is what will differentiate you visually from your competition. It needs to be something clear, memorable and legible. When your customers see it, it needs to leave an impression so next time they come across it they know it’s you. Avoid overly complicated designs and a multitude of colors. Keep it simple, clean and clear.
  • Stationery. Do you really need this? Ok, you mainly need a business card so let’s look at that. This needs to be true to your brand. Every brand touch point needs to reflect your values and so does your stationery. You can be playful, creative with titles or how the information is presented. The important thing it to reflect what you stand for. If you are a fresh startup avoid the corporate speak.
  • Online presence. Your site and profiles are probably the first touch point for your audience, so they need to be engaging. You need to make it clear who you are, what you stand for and how you’re making a difference. Don’t forget that your communication is about telling a story and showing me how much you care about my problems. Don’t just talk about features, tell me how these features will make my life better.
  • Color scheme. You need to own your color scheme. The colors need to be embedded in your identity and be part of the memory that you leave with your audience. Choosing the colors is not an easy job and you should either do your research or work with someone that knows what they are doing. There are some standard meanings to colors but these also change depending on the application, culture and audience. The good thing is that the color wheel has millions of colors and you can own one of them.
  • Typography. Similarly to the color scheme, the font you choose can convey a certain message. Serifs are more formal, San serifs are more modern and specific fonts will give a different impression. Remember to avoid very decorative fonts and keep it readable!

Your Name

I think I’m throwing myself in a pit with this stuff. Naming your startup can be one of the most frustrating parts of starting up. Once again I’ll need to dedicate a separate article for this one. Here are some starting points for now:

  • Stick with it. If you have a name and people already know you, then stick with it. Changing your name is a big disruption to your identity and can affect your trust. Think about it personally. Would you trust someone that changes their name all the time? What’s up with that guy?
  • Clear and simple. To make a name memorable, make it easy to read, spell, type and remember. The more stuff you add to it the more difficult it will be for people to remember.
  • Don’t be descriptive. Give me an example of a successful company that uses a descriptive name and I will remove this point. It’s time to be creative and come up with a name. Get inspiration from other languages, use a dictionary, a thesaurus and wikipedia and come up with something that is unique. If you invent a word, then even better. The benefit of this approach is that it will be easier to get a domain.

Your Personality

People love brands for their personality. They need to trust you and you need to decide on what kind of “person” you are. As always you need to be true to who you truly are and not pretend to be someone else. Be honest with yourself and to your audience. If you are starting small, be proud of it and use it as an advantage. If you are starting fresh, talk about how many ideas you have to change the industry. It’s easy to fall into the trap of copying someone else, so be careful and be unique.

Your Voice

Stop talking like a robot and start talking like a human being. Whether you are giving a presentation or writing copy for your site/app you need to have a unique voice. People hear you through your words so you need to adopt a specific style. An easy way to do this is by identifying the archetype of your brand. Here’s a guide to what archetypes are to get you started. Once you identify the archetype, embody it and start writing. This voice needs to be consistent in all parts of your company.

The Customer Service

If you’re not doing all this for your customers, I don’t know who you are doing it for. Maybe customer is not the right term because you are doing this for humanity but let’s say that everyone in your audience, user base, customer base is a customer.

Customer service is the point where a brand really shines or burns to ashes. Everyone is welcoming and polite when they are trying to make a sale, but the truth comes out when disaster strikes. Decide how you are going to deal with your customers and what part of the experience is the most valuable for you. This should be closely aligned to your core value. Don’t be afraid to distance a specific segment in order to win another.

Coming up… Communication

That was a big load of my chest. Having covered the above we now need to communicate everything to our audience. Next week I will go into how a brand can communicate what it stands for and why you are the obvious choice.

Until then, let me know of your problems and questions in the comments. Is there something that you want to see covered in this series?

Image Credit: Schatz