Best of 2018 Wrap-Up: Our Favorite Posts

We saw a lot of change in 2018, but there are certain things that stayed consistent.

These are the blog posts we feel best represent what’s to come in 2019, either in their simplicity, the values they represent, or in terms of what BRANDING FOR THE PEOPLE can offer. Here are our best of 2018.

How To Request a Proposal From a Branding Agency

If you’re interested in working with a branding agency, one of the first things you can do to set yourself apart is getting familiar with creating a Request for Proposal. Commonly shortened to RFP, the Request for Proposal is exactly that—reaching out to a select list of agencies with your info, budget, needs, etc. and encouraging them to bid on your project.

Is The Latest Uber Rebranding Enough?

Uber rebranded again in 2018, ostensibly with the goal of improved legibility, especially from a distance. But it’s difficult to see this rebrand as separate from the controversy the company is already well-known for. From “Boober” to spying on Beyoncè, to Trump ties, to sexual harassment, to a Google lawsuit, to Travis Kalanick, Uber has a significant reputation problem. The question is, is yet another Uber rebranding—this rebranding—enough to help Uber move past it’s short, dramatic life?

Why You Need To Build A Brand Apart From Amazon… Even If You Have A Successful Business on Amazon

The high-level view of this conversation is “do you just want to sell products and make money, or do you want to build a business?”

There’s nothing inherently wrong with either answer. But if your goal is to really more to build something more substantial, you need to consider the benefits of having that strong brand in place. If you’re just chasing tactics and gaming algorithms exclusively for the sake of selling, you can easily overlook building trust and relationships with your customers.

Is Your Brand Proactive — Or Reactive?

proactive brand is, basically, a brand with a plan. It knows itself, it knows its place in the market, and it knows how to occupy that position effectively through what it does—and doesn’t—do. A reactive brand, by contrast, is one that does just that—reacts to whatever is going on around it at the time. With modern consumers ‘trained’ to see organized, cohesive, consistent brands, being more reactive can come off as erratic and alienate your customer base. Equally worrying, being too reactive can rely on consumer awareness of what you’re responding to.

The Real History of Five of Your Favorite Brands

Brands aren’t beholden to the absolute truth. Lots bend it, stretch it, make it work for them. In this article, we look at the real history behind Banana Republic, Madewell, Shinola, and others.

That’s our best of 2018 – what are yours?

Our 7 most popular branding blog posts

Fonts, mood boards, touchpoints, attributes: branding can be a complex process. If you’re new to branding, we’ve put together a list of some of our most popular branding blogs from the recent past to help you on your way.

How to make a mood board

Mood boards can be elusive. Most people more or less understand what they are, but are less clear on why they need one and what they can look forward to in the process. This post explains what a mood board is and what it does, when you should make a mood board, and how you can do so. This is a great starting point for those who are looking to crystallize the “mood” of their brand and a reference for those who are starting the Visual Identity process.

How to find a font that matches your personality

This is a fun, visual post breaking down 23 fonts you may or may not know. Fonts are critical to brand identity, and you need to know what kind of message your fonts might send. If you want to create an effective brand, you need to create a cohesive, comprehensive experience for your audience. Knowing fonts is a key element.

Building a brand of affordable luxury

This post both explains the concept of affordable luxury and teaches you how to achieve it. Michael Kors, Tory Burch, and other fashion names used the concept to propel them toward massive profit from slumping sales. We detail some of the key takeaways you can use in your own branding and brand messaging.

Branding vs Design

These two concepts can be easily confused, especially if neither is what you do. This post helps to break down the finer distinctions between the two. Think of the brand strategist as the architect of the brand, and the designer as the contractor who puts that design into physical being. Learn more about why it matters to you.

Are you using your archetype?

Jungian archetypes come up frequently when we talk about branding. They help provide a framework for bringing your brand to visually, in writing, and in presence. They’re an essential part of branding, plus… they’re fun!

Here a touchpoint, there a touchpoint, everywhere a touchpoint!

A branding touchpoint is more or less exactly what it sounds like: the points where you come in contact with your target audience. This post outlines strategies for both making those points happen, and what to do at those points.

Brand Attributes

This post has everything to do with the perception of quality. Brands of similar or equal value need to set up ways of differentiating themselves, or risk being seen as the inferior product despite the raw quality. Learn more about what you can do to create a perception of high quality.

Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments!

The Difference Between BIG and SMALL Business Branding

Most people, when they think of the difference between BIG and SMALL Business Branding think Apple, Coca-Cola, Mercedes-Benz, and how they can look so good, and be so ubiquitous…

But remember, these are big, established, revolutionary brands. Those are wonderful brands, but they aren’t meant to be your guide for small business branding. In fact, you should most likely do the opposite of what the big brands are up to.

To go back to Apple for our example, they have a simple, clean, beautiful apple icon. Most of their advertising only shows this icon, often as a singular color against a background that creates a sharp contrast.

It’s stunning. It looks high-tech, futuristic, and expensive. Which is perfect for Apple.

Chances are, it’s not a good look for your business though. I don’t know what business you are in, but chances are if you are selling mops, it’s not going to do you much good to have a brand that looks and feels like Apple’s, even if it is as equally beautiful.

The big brands play to their advantages with their branding. They are big, established, and they know it.

A brand like Ferrari is creating a prestigious perception through their branding, and they can because they have a rich racing history and beautiful cars.

As a small business, can you say you have the same history? If you can, go for it, but if you cannot, be true to yourself.

A company such as Amazon has competitive advantages that you might not. They sell everything and their brand communicates that wonderfully. Everything from A to Z, with a smile.

But if a smaller or more specific focus, trying to emulate the Amazon brand wouldn’t work for you at all! In fact it would hurt you as people would come to expect a level of service and a large variety of products that you don’t deliver.

To put things more bluntly, you have to make due with what you have got, and be authentic. You may not be able to tell the story Ferrari can, or match the variety and service of Amazon, but that’s ok because you have your own strengths to play to.

Perhaps you don’t have the massive inventory of Amazon, but you have handpicked, curated, one of a kind items. If so, your branding should reflect that one of a kind nature to your inventory, as that is something Amazon could never match.

As a small business you can be more personable, more customized, or more boutique. You can be more nimble, more focused. You can be branded as the innovative newcomer, or the fun alternative.

The point being is that there are many unique, great ways to brand your small business, but emulating a big business’s brand is not the way to do it. Their brands are specifically curated to play to their strengths, which are very different from yours.

You should aspire to to have your brand be as powerful as theirs, but you shouldn’t aspire to be like them. That isn’t a good brand. Play to your strengths, what makes you special, and watch as your brand becomes its own force in the marketplace.

That’s small business branding done right.

5 Ways To Define Your Target Market

Target Market. Target Audience. Ideal Clients. Your Niche.

These terms have all become business buzz-terms. It doesn’t seem you can have a conversation about business for more than a few minutes without one of these terms coming up, and for good reason.

A brand is a desired perception, which means it lives in the minds of your target audience. Therefore it is really, really important we understand what your target audience looks like and what is going on in their minds.

Understanding as much as you can about your target audience is instrumental in brand building and marketing.

But how do you define your target market? Who are your customers? What does their day look like, what do they care about and what are their purchasing decisions?

Below are 5 ways to define your target market. If you can gain clarity on these 5 areas, you will be on your way to understanding your customers better than they know themselves. When you can do that, you can create a powerful brand that resonates deeply with your target audience, target market, ideal customers, niche, or whatever the new buzzword of the day is.

1. Demographics

Demographics seem to be passé these days but they are still very, very important.
Demographics are still very important because we can only start to understand how people think by first knowing who they are.

Things like:
Age
Race
Gender
Income
Location

Singularly, and in isolation, these tell us very little about an individual, as our age, gender, race, etc, don’t drive our purchasing decisions alone. However, we can take inference on a larger group of people based on this information. How we sell to white women over 55 is very different from how we would sell to African-American males under 25.

Demographics don’t tell you everything, but they’re a great place to start. To understand your target market even further, lets dive into number 2.

2. Psychographics

Just like demographics, where we gain insights on our audience based on who they are, we can also gain insights on people based upon their personality traits, attitudes, interests and lifestyle.
By segmenting our audience on this deeper level, we can market to them in an even more focused manner.

For example, if we know that charitable work is very important to our target audience, this information can help us on multiple levels. For one, we now know that giving back is a core value, so we can craft messaging and marketing that appeals to this value. Additionally, if this core value is a major factor in purchasing behavior we could get creative, and incorporate giving back into our business model.

Psychographics are key to defining your target audience. Great brands always have an eye on their target audience’s behavior and thinking.

3. Wants and Desires

There is an old saying in marketing, sell them on what they want, give them what they need.
You MUST know what your target audience wants, and when we say what they want, we mean what they REALLY want.

For example, if you are selling skin care products, your customers don’t actually want skin cream. That’s simply the tool that delivers the benefit they want, which is smooth, clear skin.
And why do they want smooth, clear skin? Let’s dive even deeper. Let’s go deeper than “skin deep.” Why does someone want smooth, clear skin? So they can look great, and feel confident. They buy skin cream so they can look great, be wanted, and be admired.

When assessing your target audience, ask yourself what your customers are really buying. By effectively utilizing this knowledge of wants and desires, your audience will be yearning for your brand in short order.

4. Fears and Frustrations

On the flip side of wants and desires are fears and frustrations.

We want to know what is keeping our audience up at night so we can eliminate their worry and ease their concerns. For example, if our audience is weary of spending money, we can incorporate a money-back guarantee. Or if our audience’s biggest frustration is that the companies they buy from aren’t genuine or honest, we can highlight our integrity. Many times, people are driven to purchase more out of fear than out of desire. Going back to the skin cream example, do we really want to look young, or are we terrified of looking old?

Understand what keeps your audience up at night, and you will be on your way to creating a brand that speaks to them.

5. Key Purchasing Decisions

What makes someone actually pull the trigger on a purchase?

After all, we all have many wants and desires, fears and frustrations, and there are a myriad of products/services that appeal to these factors. So what is it that separates one company’s product/service from the other?

Many times it comes down to key purchasing decisions. Some people only want to work with the best, and will pay for that privilege. Others are more concerned with “value” and will search for the most bang for their buck. Other times a key purchasing decision comes down to how well you understand where your audience is coming from. Some people want to buy from someone who they admire, others want to buy your product/service because of what it says about them.

There are lots of decisions that determine whether someone buys your brand or not. You must understand them and focus your efforts on making these decisions as painless as possible for your audience.

All 5 of the areas mentioned above are inherently linked, and shed light on the others. When combined, they provide you with powerful knowledge that can be used to shape your audience’s perception of your brand, allowing your brand to resonate with them on a deeper level than your competitors. Take the time to know your audience, define them, understand who they are, what they want and what makes them tick, and you will be richly rewarded for it.

Branding Vs. Design

A lot of design agencies claim they do branding. But what is the difference between branding vs. design, and furthermore, how do you decide what type of agency is right for you?

Great branding incorporates great design, but great design doesn’t make a great brand.

Design is an integral part of branding. Your logo, fonts, and colors are all building blocks of a brand. But they are simply that, building blocks. A logo doesn’t make a brand, nor does a specific color or font. A brand is a desired perception, and design elements are the tools we use to create that perception.

But that doesn’t mean a great designer is a great brand strategist.

Let’s look at an analogous situation for more clarity.

You are building your company, much like someone builds a house. Now most people don’t know how to build a house on their own. They really need help on two levels to build their house. They need an architect to design the house, and a contractor to build it.

Designers are the contractors. They take the blueprints from the architect, and build the house according to their plan. They use the tools of design to bring your brand to life.

But they aren’t the creators of the brand, just like a contractor doesn’t design a beautiful skyscraper. A brand strategist is the architect, the mastermind that creates the blueprint that the designers can take and bring to life.

A brand strategist creates the brands architecture, the pillars that are the staples of your brand. And these pillars go beyond the expertise of design.

A branding agency will help you create a desired perception, including your brands promise, message, positioning, photography, hierarchy, colors, fonts, and design elements. Most importantly, they make sure that all the pieces of your brand are cohesive and work harmoniously together.

Many branding agencies incorporate design in house for synergy and better communication with designers in order to implement the brand vision effectively.

A lot of design agencies say they do branding, but they only do a small piece without the higher-level strategy required for your brand to stand out and resonate with your target market.

When building your brand, be sure you are working with an agency that’s expertise lies in branding, not just design so you have a house that has a strong foundation, not just a house that just looks pretty.

When Should I Rebrand My Company?

One of the most common questions we get asked is “When should I rebrand my company?” And for good reason.

The short answer is that it depends.

It depends on what business problem(s) you have. When you invest in your business, you expect your investment to alleviate a business problem. Branding is an investment in your business, and like any investment in your business you expect an ROI on your investment. Branding can deliver an incredible ROI because it solves a multitude of business problems.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that it can also be a poor investment if you expect branding to solve business problems that branding can’t address.

Below are problems that branding CAN solve, followed by problems that branding CAN’T solve. We hope that this will give you guidance as you decide whether or not branding is right for your business at this time.

Problems Branding CAN Solve.

1. You aren’t charging what you are worth

Branding is about creating a desired perception. Therefore, if you are perceived as low-cost or simply aren’t able to charge the prices you deem necessary then branding can elevate people’s perceptions of you, allowing you to charge premium prices.

2. People aren’t clear about who you are, what you do, or how you can help them

The branding process will bring clarity to your business. Clarity around your message, visuals, design and brand architecture will create understanding for your customers, which is, obviously, critical for business success.

3. Your conversions are too low

Branding can take your marketing to a whole new level. If you are at a place where you understand marketing, and understand how to get your brand and message in front of the right people then a re-brand could exponentially increase your marketing performance and conversion rates. Simply put, if you know how to be seen, looking great and saying the right things will be huge for your business.

Problems Branding CAN’T Solve

1. Infrastructure

Branding can dramatically increase sales, which is, of course, one of the best things about branding. However, if your business doesn’t have the infrastructure in place to handle the increase in business then branding can have a detrimental effect on your business. A great brand will quickly deteriorate if customer satisfaction erodes. If you can’t handle the burden of increased fulfillment, then a great brand will quickly do you more harm than good.

2. The selling of commodities

A great brand elevates the value of products and services, barring that the products and services are not commodities. What are commodities? Things like natural resources: sugar, steel, gasoline. Do you really care what brand your gas is, or do you just care about which station has the lower price? Exactly.

3. Sales Conversations

Branding in many ways “pre-sells” your products or services for you. It makes people want your product or service on their own, without a “hard sale.” However, there is no substitute for sales. If you are uncomfortable with a sales conversation, or uncomfortable asking people for money then branding isn’t going to solve your problems. A great brand will get you more sales conversations and make these conversations easier, but it won’t ever replace sales as a necessary business activity.

Before re-branding your business, consider WHY you want a re-brand and what business problems you hope branding can solve. Be sure you are re-branding for the right reasons. If you are, branding can be the difference between your current business and the business and life of your dreams, but if branding is done for the wrong reasons it won’t help your business grow in the right way, and can even be detrimental if you don’t have the know-how or infrastructure to handle everything that comes along with an elevated place in your market.

Find a font that matches your personality

How to find a font that matches your personality!

Have you ever looked for a listing of fonts by personality or wanted to know which typefaces are best for communicating different types of messages?

(Originally published May 19th, 2015, updated on May 17th, 2017)

Below are listed 23 different and distinctive fonts by personality, each of which tell their own story!

The most important thing to consider when looking at a font to match your brand’s personality and messaging is the history of the typeface, and what it has been commonly associated with through out its life-span. Anyone can easily figure out how the public feels about a font by looking into what it has been used to communicate in the past. Just like we associate cowboy hats with the wild west, so too do we associate calligraphy with antiques.

Another quality to look for when picking the right outfit for your text is the design of the font itself! Is it bold, sloppy, geometric or curvy? Is it wild and crazy, or fare free? Each of these attributes has its associated feelings, so use them to your advantage and create a comprehensive brand experience by choosing fonts that make people feel what you want them to!

Without further ado, here is a primer on 23 fonts and everything you never knew you needed to know about them:

If you have any questions regarding this article, or any other within our branding blog feel free to contact us with the form in the footer, or leave a comment!

Amity Jack has been striking fear in the hearts of baby boomers for a long, long time. Any font in all red caps like this is bound to look like a piranha in a pond of minnows, and this font never disappoints. If you are looking to inspire fear, awe or courage, this font might be for you. Lower case letters are nowhere to be found with this one nearby. Bold, aggressive, and large: just like the shark of cult-classic fame.

A combination between occupying the beginning of the alphabet and extreme simplicity has worked together to make this entirely forgettable font an easy to read staple of the design world. If “T-Shirt & Jeans” were a typeface, this would be it! Like a little black dress, it takes no thought to select, and looks decent enough for most occasions! An interesting side effect of this font’s simple personality is its all-too-common role in depicting virginal and pure brands, like evian.

This font’s been around awhile. Quite awhile, in fact. Developed in 1757 by printer John Baskerville, Ben Franklin brought this to the United Sta… er, American colonies where it was eventually used in the federal papers of the fledgling government. Perhaps it’s no surprise then, that this font carries a personality of 260 years of tradition and authority.

This font gets high scores for being bold, funky, and even retro. If you are into all of these things, then this font is calling your name. If you are trying to be a trendsetting brand, than go big or go home with Bauhaus. Get into the groove of this font if you want to take a stand while honoring those that have designed before you with one of the most classic fonts on the planet.

Named after the typographer employed by Italian nobility and Spanish royalty, this font has become another classic in the consumer world, particularly for Vogue, Calvin Klein (until February of this year), Columbia Records, and even J.P. Morgan (although the JPM logo is based on another font). Its clean lines, history, and use by high-end and luxury consumer brands give this font a sophisticated personality that aspires to be the best-dressed in the room. No frills, refined, and poised.

Everyone has their own style of cursive writing. When using a font like Brush Script, you are meant to be capturing a personal style and attitude, and helping the reader understand that there is a real human being behind the brand. Enjoy making a personal connection with a font like this!

There’s a reason that Chipotle does NOT use this font: it screams the death of a 1000 tacos made from processed meat and rotten tomatoes. It’s rough, uneven, but a predictable stereotype. You HOPE the chain restaurant you just entered serves strong margaritas, because you know that the real deal is served somewhere else.

Another of the world’s more common fonts, this was the selection when our founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence. This font has been revived and revived again over the years, and holds a revered place in font history. If you prefer a nod to the past in your work, with class and a touch of elegance, then this is the font for you.

This font isn’t new, by any means, but it gets made new again with lots of offshoots like when used by the recent MICHIGAN rebrand. This font graces letterman jackets in high school  halls all across America and has become ubiquitous with education and sports.  Strong, enduring, collegiate: it reminds us of our teens and twenties when possibilities seemed infinite… and football was everything.

This font hit the streets in around 1995 and hasn’t looked back since. It has been widely used by people with poor taste ever since. Occupying the title of “Most Hated” by designers everywhere, this font is looked upon as a laughing-stock everywhere it shows up. If you are going to swim in the waters of Comic Sans, we suggest you bring a life raft. This font is only appropriate for those with a unique sense of self awareness and an appreciation for satire, because its use will never be taken seriously except in jest!

If you are an old school character that likes to take up a lot of space, this is the typeface for you! All kidding aside, Courier is the go-to typeface of double-spaced term papers everywhere. As a result of this common application, this font has gained a sense of purpose over the years. Commissioned by IBM, this is a thinker’s font, and conjures up images of higher education. If you are promising a great curriculum to your clients, this could be the way to do it!

If you believed the entry on linotype.com, you’d see that this font takes on the shape of bent, twisted metal. Then again, some people still believe the earth is flat. This is a favored “font to hate” and it’s not getting away from its less-than-chic personality anytime soon. It echos middle school love letters with its near-bubbles over the letter “i” and annoys designers everywhere. When used, it seems limited to candy, ice cream, and pet grooming shops. We doubt “twisted metal” will ever sit with Curlz in the lunchroom.

An early foray into modern, bold fonts, Franklin Gothic makes a perfect outfit for an opinionated and wise person, who appreciates some subtly in their communications. Not quite as brash as a font like Bauhaus, Franklin Gothic is a happy medium for anyone looking to make headlines.

Yes, the font and movie title say it all. There’s a reason Michael Jackson’s Thriller used a similar typography. Thanks to Jason, this font will forever echo slasher-horror flicks where the last thing anyone should do is go outside to check out that noise. A little uncertain? Imagine the title of a nursery rhyme written in this font, perhaps Rock-a-bye Baby. Will that help you fall sleep faster, or check the closets first?

Variations of Futura (light, medium, bold, italics, condensed, etc) are used in a wide range of logos and brands. For good reason: this font was designed in the late 1920’s based on circles, squares, and triangles, omitting any clutter and unnecessary detail. Highly modern and radical at the time, it’s held onto that modern, elegant persona even as it gracefully approaches 90 years old.

Gotham is one of the most recently designed fonts on our list, having come on the scene in the year 2000. Known as Barack Obama’s campaign slogan font in 2008, it is closely associated with change and sleek modernity. If you are attempting to evoke one of the most powerful men in the world, this could be the font to do it with.

Helvetica is the little black dress of typefaces, appearing everywhere, all the time, and always fitting in beautifully. If you need a classy outfit to suit any occasion, and must appeal to everyone, everywhere, this font will work. Perhaps the only typeface with a movie named after it, Helvetica has been showcasing world class corporations such as BMW, Crate & Barrel, CVS, Energizer, GM, Harley Davidson, JCPenney, Jeep, Lufthansa, Mattel, Panasonic, Post-It, Scotch, The North Face and Toyota (to name a few) ever since 1957.

Fun, bubbly, sure to make the trip to the dentist a little more interesting, this font is described as “dancing a whacky line between discord & rhyme” on myfonts.com. We’re not sure about the rhyme aspect, but this font definitely reminds us of the closest thing to bubble gum our mothers would ever let us chew around her. Youthful, less-than-serious, and a bit cartoonish, make sure this is how you want your target audience to think and feel about you.

Tall, thick and bold are three words that sum up this title font. If much of what you say and do is meant to be front page news, you can’t go wrong with this showstopper.

Not only did this font become canonized on a pack of cigarettes, it reminds even non-smokers of the Marlboro Man and the wide expanse of the west: Marlboro Country. If a masculine, rugged, warrior-hero cowboy is the image you want, this font may help. The hazards of smoking (and death of several Marlboro Men) hasn’t seemed to detract from this font’s cult-like personality.

Visible everyday on the West Coast, yet perhaps out of thought, but definitely embedded into our subconscious. This font will forever be linked with the location stamped on license plates: sun, carefree, beaches. If your personality is a barefoot surfer, this font will burn that onto your forehead like skin cancer on a lifeguard.

This font needs no introduction. It is a classic beauty, and perhaps the most read and renowned font in the world. When you need to appear as a classic authority with a strong foundation, Times New Roman is the perfect choice.

According to many, this iconic lettering is a stylized version of Walt Disney’s signature. After almost 100 years of the Disney brand longevity, this font will instinctively take on the ideals associated with the Walt Disney Company: family-friendly, fun, and, perhaps a little bit of an inner child.

If you have any questions regarding this article, or any other within our blog feel free to contact us!

5 Startup Branding Myths Debunked!

Start off right with the truth about 5 startup branding myths.

Every new business should understand the importance of branding: here are 5 startup branding myths, along with our response to those errors.

Startup Branding Myth #1: “Branding is important only after I start growing.”

Don’t underestimate the value of branding. As much as half of your company’s value is the result of perception and branding. This is because properly executed branding turns your product or service into something distinct and unreplicated: the unique value that you offer consumers.

This means branding is not only relevant, but critical, for start-up companies. When you first enter the market, no one else will announce your arrival. That’s up to you. You must be able to communicate the value of your product to the world: don’t face the market with just a soulful idea. If you don’t invest in branding, consumers will create their own perception of your product, and it might not be the one you want. Take control of that story before you walk into the room, and attract the audience that is best for you.

Start-up Branding Myth #2: “Gosh, I don’t have the budget for that kind of expense!”

Stop thinking of branding as an expense. It’s an asset. Brand equity includes 3 main components: 1) consumer awareness, 2) qualities associated with the brand, and 3) loyalty. That article reveals that no one may agree exactly on how those elements are valued; still, create a budget for branding as an asset.

How much? Our rule of thumb is 15% of your desired gross annual revenue should be invested in brand building exercises. This budget should be used to pay for a branding strategist, graphic and web designers, copywriter, marketing expert, social media expert, and related expenses.

Start-up Branding Myth #3: “Branding is too complicated.”

We believe it’s more complicated not to invest in branding. The perception of your product created through branding comes from more than a logo or a name or a color scheme, but from the collective voice of several attributes. And if consumers don’t understand your value, the problem is your story.

Invest in the beginning, in the FOUNDATION of your brand strategy. Organize. Identify your story and make it clear and cohesive and repeatable. It’s less complicated to have a set of branding guidelines for future decisions than to reinvent the wheel and rehash what you want when, for example, you try a new social media outlet or advertising venue.

We break down branding into five structured phases to help prioritize the process so that it feels less overwhelming. Our methodical approach gives you a chance to focus on brainstorming and exploration, for instance, before worrying about how to execute anything.

Start-up Branding Myth #4: “I have a good company name, can I brand with that for now?”

Here’s one idea: think of your brand as a person. Does a name alone tell you that person’s story? Similarly, does your company name tell your whole story? Does it explain who you are and why you’re different? If your company isn’t another Jane Doe (and we doubt that it is), then your name alone isn’t enough for branding.

Still, naming is an important and strategic part of your brand. We have our own selection criteria and examples of different types of names that companies use.

Start-up Branding Myth #5: “I just come up with a good story, right?”

No. As this article notes, “saying it’s so won’t make it so.” Your entire business must be aligned with your brand’s story. Consumers are savvy and want more than lingos and logos. Another way of looking at this idea is through authenticity: if your story is authentic to your business, then your business will be accountable and deliver whatever it promises to consumers. Accountability creates customer loyalty. That means repeat business and revenue for you.

Startup Branding is a multi-billion dollar industry. Everyone will have an opinion on what is best for you, whether you are a seasoned entrepreneur or a start-up excited to jump into the field. We love new business adventures, and want to challenge key start-up branding myths that will slow progress and prevent your success.

If this article was useful, please do us a favor and share it with others and/or submit a comment below.

How To Name Your Business

Nothing is more frustrating for entrepreneurs than not knowing what to name their company. Or (worse), being unhappy with their current name. Naming is a discipline, and a serious endeavour, similar to naming your first-born. We are going to show you how to make it fun and enjoyable, so as to not stifle the creative process.

If you’re completely unsure what and which name you should go with for your business, you may need to get professional help. However, if you’re going to attempt to do this on your own, here’s an overview! For more details and examples, download our recently published 7 Steps To a New Name eBook (see below):

Step 01: Decide what’s important for your name!
Above all else, a name must be memorable! There are all sorts of components that can make a name memorable. Single words, such as Subway, Bass & Apple are most memorable, even though they have nothing to do with the products they sell. In addition, you want to ask yourself other questions:

  • Can it be confused with another company?
  • Are there are any negative connotations or associations?
  • Is it easy to pronounce?
  • Can you protect and trademark it?

Step 02: Pick the types of names that will work for your audience.
Whether you’re using real words, misspelled words, foreign words, compound words, phrases, blended words, tweaked words, affixed words, or made up words, you want to ensure that you have your target audience’s preferences in mind. In some cases, you’ll want to explore using people’s names, whether real or fake, initials or even acronyms.

Step 03: Decide on the root words you would like in your name.
Names are comprised of words (99% of the time). It’s important to put together a list of 20 to 50 words that you could imagine having in your company’s name. Here are some pointers to help you along the way.

  • Develop literal concepts
  • Find visual inspiration
  • Develop figurative concepts
  • Look up synonyms
  • Use foreign words

Step 04: Get Creative and Namestorm
Develop a list of 30 to 60 names. Combine your root words from the previous step in different and interesting ways. If you get stumped, look at all the previous examples of company names in Step 02 and see if there’s a type of name that you haven’t explored yet. Don’t stop until you have 30 to 60 names. And, if you really get stumped, try the following tips:

  • Add prefixes and suffixes
  • Add numbers
  • Use smart domain extensions
  • Write the word backwards

Step 05: Narrow it down
One filter to narrow down your list is to simply check if the .com is available and if the trademark is available. If you simply apply this due diligence step, you will naturally find a shorter list of naming options.

Step 06: Narrow it down more
Okay, let’s just say that you now have a short list, we recommend continuing to narrow down your list even further to 7 of your most memorable options. Remember, memorability is one of the most important factors in a name.

If you are having a hard time deciding, start to play with the capitalization and spacing of your top name options. After all, PayPal has a very different look and feel than Paypal, so too does FedEx in comparison to Fedex.

Step 07: Evaluate the Pros and Cons
Last, and most importantly, evaluate the pros and cons of each option. We love to do this in spreadsheets just to keep everything organized. Refer to step one and rank each name against the criteria of what is important in a name! Pick the name with the most pros and the least damaging cons. Now, you are ready to make it rain with a name!

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Creating A Niche Brand

Creating a niche brand is easier than you think.

A brand becomes stronger when it narrows its focus. But what happens when you narrow your focus to such a degree that there is no longer a market for your brand? You niche so deep that no one is doing what you are doing?

Congratulations. You just created a new brand category.

What was the market for expensive vodka before Stolichnaya? Almost nothing.
What was the market for luxury cars before Mercedes? Almost nothing.
What was the market for home delivery pizza before Dominoes? Almost nothing.

This creates a paradox of sorts however. How do you grow market share while narrowing your brand?

The most efficient, most productive, most useful aspect of branding is creating a new category. You may have heard the term “A Category Of One.” Some call it being a big fish in a small pond. Whatever you call it, it’s good business.

By niching and narrowing your focus until you are the only person doing what you do is how you become the first brand in a new category and the leading brand in a rapidly growing market segment.

This isn’t as hard as you think. You don’t have to invent a new product or service in order to create a brand category. Dominoes didn’t invent the pizza, but they did create the home delivery category.

Mercedes didn’t invent the car, but they did define the standard for a luxury car.

The trick to effectively niching, and ultimately becoming a category of one is to get there first. Most people get freaked out if no-one is doing what they plan on doing. Self-doubt creeps in and we think things like, “How come no one else is doing this?” or “This must not work if no one else has succeeded at it.”

To be fair that may be true. Selling ice to eskimos may be a difficult business model, but a simple twist and you may be on to something. Chances are those Eskimos might enjoy flavored ice instead.

You get there first and you have the opportunity to promote the category, and in turn, promote the brand. By marketing the benefits of your category, while being the only brand in your category your brand becomes associated with the category itself. Your brand defines the category and you become a “Category Of One.”

If this article was useful, please do us a favor and share it with others and/or submit a comment below.