The Ultimate Branding Checklist
The big, bad "B" word: BRANDING. It can be intimidating, confusing, maybe even a little too broad for all of us entrepreneurs and creatives trying to nail down exactly what our branding should entail. So, let's break it down.
What is Branding?
Your branding is what makes your business, your business. It's what sets you apart from any competitors and makes you known to the public. It's more than just your logo - it's the entire FEEL of your company and how your audience identifies with it. Think about the brand Casper, for example. When you think of Casper, you don't just see their logo. You think bold and blue. You think comfortable AF. You think cloud-like, jumping into that big-ass mattress for the best sleep of your life. All the feelings I just described are things we feel because of their branding.
Why Is it Important?
Let's pause - what helps make a brand distinguished? Surely Netflix and Hulu are essentially both streaming services but are so different based on their brand values, their look, and even their marketing. That is why. Branding will make a memorable impression on your audience and communicate to them who you are - it's the representation of who you are as a business and how you want to be perceived.
AND it can be really darn tough to sort through all these thoughts and figure out what you need for your brand, so we've done the work for you and put together a fun branding checklist.
You can download the list below or keep reading:
First and foremost, let’s dig into brand guidelines. These are the set of standards, or guidelines, that touch on all principles within any one brand.
BRAND + BUSINESS NAME
A name is important, right? Heck yes, it is! You’ll be referred to and recognized by this for the duration of the time you’re in business, so this one is important. A couple of things to keep in mind:
Do you want your name included? If you plan to hire people, scale up, or even sell your business, be sure to brand accordingly.
Do you see your business evolving over time? For example, maybe you’re starting an online coffee company that will hopefully grow into a cafe. Keep this in mind when adding specific titles into the name!
Keep it relatable. The title of your company doesn’t always have to be specific or literal to your brand but choosing relatable words can help strengthen your branding. For example, I chose Rebel Creative Co because I wanted this business to serve the rebellious creatives. I could have easily named it Bolt + Barr because I liked the two words!
A CLEAR MISSION STATEMENT
All brands have a mission statement and for good reason, it gives true clarity on what your mission is as a business. It’s a statement that consists of a sentence or two that describes what your brand does, how you do it and who you do it for.
An easy formula: (Biz Name) helps ___ do ___ by __.
Mine is: We help rebellious creatives + fearless entrepreneurs tame their dreams and turn them into a business without the BS. And it doesn’t need to feel so strict or rigid – if your brand is the epitome of fun, this should be too! Many brands also have a vision statement, which outlines how they envision their business making an impact/ It supplements the mission statement Mine is: To empower wild + creative entrepreneurs to cultivate the life and business of their dreams through brand strategy, design and creative coaching.
BRAND TONE + VOICE
I feel like this is often overlooked in branding and SO important. The brand tone and voice is how you present your brand through communication and the tone it takes on. This includes everything from copywriting, email style, videos, etc. Let’s break It down:
Values: Down to Earth // Trusting // Professional
Purpose: Informative // Educational // Inspirational
Voice: Spirited // Warm // Ultra-friendly
Tone: Humorous // Positive // Charming
Language: Informal // Easygoing + Slang // Make that ish up
There are no boundaries to these categories, and you can totally sub out words that fit YOU and your brand – that’s what it’s all about. Once you feel really good about what’s in easy of these categories, your voice will help you stand out on your own.
The clear set of values that define and guide your brand’s message, look and personality.
For example, let’s go back to that coffee shop. Their values are likely to be community, quality, passion for people, delicious coffee taste, and integrity. These are what will guide their brand throughout their entire branding and the visual journey including all visuals, how they present their brand and how they communicate with their audience.
CLEAR IDEAL CLIENT + TARGET AUDIENCE
Your ideal client is evvverrrrrythinnnnnng! Knowing who you’re trying to reach is a key part of branding and affects everything. For example, if your target client is elderly, your messaging and visuals should reflect something that emotionally connects with them. Same as if you were targeting Gen Z – you always want to create in mind to engage your audience.
Sometimes this isn’t always clear at first and that’s ok! As you start to build out areas of your branding and even grow into your business, this will become clearer.
The fun stuff! Brand visuals include any and all visual elements of a brand that allow you to be recognizable.
LOGO + LOGO VARIATIONS
The logo! Such a key piece in how you are recognized. Remember, a logo is not your entire brand, so you do not have to capture your entire brand in a logo BUT it does need to tie into and/or reflect your brand. You should have one primary or main logo and variations of that, which are also known as secondary logos or submarks. For example, if your main logo is text and illustration, a submark can be just the logo text or just the illustration.
A color palette is a selection of colors in on cohesive palette intentionally chosen for a brand together. This is such a fun one since brand colors all vary and are totally YOU. Don’t forget – color is compelling and these colors will set the tone for what your brand is trying to convey. These will also serve as your color template for all of your visuals moving forward, like your collateral, website and more. A couple of things to think about:
Imagine how your colors will work in your logo, graphics, on your website and more.
What will your main color be and how will the other play into design?
Are the colors reflective of your brand values and tone?
It’s time for fonts! Typography refers to your brand fonts and the design hierarchical order they’ll be used within your brand.
I prefer to guide my brands in the direction of two fonts with a maximum of three but play up their character with different font sizes, weights and kerning (spacing) to mix it up but ensure a cohesive aesthetic. Too many fonts = big distractions. You wouldn’t want someone unable to read your brand news because of some wacky fonts, right? Nope.
Not always necessary, but really cool to include in your branding. Having a specific brand pattern can make your brand and design visuals super unique! Why would you need one? You can incorporate them into social media graphics, on business cards, your website, flyers, on product, etc. Don’t forget, this still needs to fit into your visuals so your pattern could incorporate elements of your logo or a design you have in mind and some of those brand colors.
We’re now living in a visual word, so imagery is HUGE. Like everything above, it really sets your aesthetic tone and creates an instant connection with your audience.
Let’s chat about the ‘gram. At first glance at my feed or your favorite brand’s feed, you can immediately grasp their image style, colors, aesthetic and overall feel. The imagery acts like a thread that helps bring all of your design elements together. It’s SO important.
If you can’t take your own photos all the time, stock photography is an option but it’s easy to get sucked into that black hole. Be sure to stick to similar tones and aesthetics to keep on brand – no half-assed branding around here!
Your brand collateral is the collection of materials and media used to create awareness around and promote your brand. This is really the merry mixture of your brand visuals and values to create marketing materials that put you out there.
AKA your pricing + info guide! This is a deliverable PDF that you can send to clients explaining your services, how you work and even pricing packages. I vote in keeping these impactful with visuals and carefully constructed copy. It’s always a great idea to give an explanation about who you are, any FAQ and help drum up excitement for future clients at the prospect of working with you.
A few suggestions on what to include:
Who You Are / About You: How can you help clients?
Philosophy + Process: What values make your business what it is?
Your Packages + Pricing
Next Steps + How to Book
This is really setting the stage for how you work and how professional you are. As you send this off, you’re also confident in your services and offerings. Talk about setting those standards high from the get-go!
If you’re a product-based brand, this could be a line sheet with wholesale options or even about you to send to like-minded brands for collaborations.
Let’s get digital baby. We’re talking: Instagram stories, posts, Facebook headers, Pinterest images, blog visuals, etc. These are all a part of your brand promotion and continue to carry your branding throughout visuals.
Don’t forget to make sure all of your social handles are also as cohesive as possible with your business name across platforms! Same goes for keeping your header image the same across all platforms so your audience can find you easily.
Okay kind of a given, but you really do need this bad boy. I know we’re fancy with lots of digital goods these days, but never underestimate the power of a gorgeous, high-quality business card.
This is such a key piece for you to have to avoid trying to find a piece of paper to awkwardly write down your website on and it positions you as someone who is serious about your business. They most definitely don’t need to be formal – infuse your biz + personality into them to make them fun!
So, how you feelin'? Ready to launch your brand?
I really hope so! If you still need guidance on figuring out how to harness that big dream energy and artfully craft it into the business of your dreams, please reach out! I’d love to get to know you and your business to see how I can help you.