Branding Basics

Branding is one of the simplest, yet most complicated terms in all of marketing. Branding is defined as the overall image of a company is their customer's eyes. See what I mean? That's vague as hell. 

Before we get started, the word "brand" is going to be used a lot... For this, I am truly sorry. 

In this guide, I am going to show you how to create a digital brand and lay the foundation for growing your online presence. I won't get into the nitty gritty of coming up with a business idea or creating a product; rather, this will be a simple introduction to creating an online presence for a new side-project, business, or creative endeavour. 

What Is Branding

Branding can be a particularly tough nut to crack because it is inherently difficult to understand how consumers view your business. How consumers view your business is entirely subjective and colored with their past history with similar products/services, their preferences and more. 

So what is branding? The purpose of branding is to simply, quickly, and efficiently communicate to a prospect that a business understands their problem and can solve it like no other competitor. That sounds lofty but at the end of the day, branding is how you communicate your message and how your value is perceived. 

Building a brand is about creating awareness, opportunities, credibility and to gain the trust of potential customers (and keep the trust of existing clients). In this post, we are going to create a digital brand from scratch and talk about some of the different ways you can build your audience using a unified brand identity. 

An example of Launcho in action with "taaronology".

Brand Brainstorming

Coming up with an idea for a new business, product or project can be difficult. It's really easy to get carried away with all the different things you could do or names you can use.

I like to use a tool called Launchaco for testing out new projects or business ideas. Their mission is to make designing things more accessible. With Launchaco, you simply enter the name for a business idea and the website will generate a list of popular domain names, social media handles and logotypes using your proposed brand name. If you are still coming up with your idea, Launchaco is the perfect tool for ensuring you can build a brand around your new project. The site also features a super simple HTML landing page builder. 

Launchaco makes everything I'm talking above really easy and best of all, it's completely free. Don't skip on checking out (and bookmarking) this awesome resource.

How To Create A Digital Brand

I'm going to try and avoid the textbook talk about branding and instead, just show you how I would go about creating a brand. For many people who are looking to build a brand online, it's more matter of how do I build a brand, not why do a build a brand. It's up to you, as the marketer or entrepreneur, to have the ultimate vision for your brand in their head and to execute on that vision and bring it to life. 

Laying the foundation for a successful digital brand isn't rocket science. Let's start with the basics:

Logo + Brand Palette 

A solid logo design is crucial to your brand. Still, business owners tend to overthink this element and get caught up in fancy designs. Following modern design principles, a logo should be simple and memorable. Personally, I'm a fan of minimal, geometric logos. 

You're palette is a set of colors (accompanied by hex codes) and fonts that you want to associate with your brand. As you create "brand assets" -- documents, graphics, presentations and other marketing materials -- you will use your brand palette to dictate and guide every decision you make when it comes to design. 

There are various ways to go about creating a logo or deciding on a brand pallette. You could hire a freelance designer or a consultant or a marketing agency; me personally, I like doing things on my own. The DIY way. 

An example of Squarespace Logo in use

I like using Squarespace to create logos for my projects.  Their logo creator (which free for Squarespace users) contains a giant library of graphics and icons and a nice set of fonts to create a beautiful logo. You can also upload your own .SVG files in case you have graphics of your own you'd like to use. Finally, you can export your logo in Black, White and RGB with a fantastic range of resolutions to pick from. 

Logojoy is another fantastic logo creator. Using artificial intelligence, Logojoy builds thousands of different logos based on your own preferences. It then gives you the tools to edit the logo to your preferences and export it in a variety of different sizes and formats. 

When creating a logo, you're going to need to use it for various purposes. That's why it's important to create versions of your logo for everything you will eventually use it for including;

  • Icon beside text
  • Icon on top text
  • Icon only

Your logo will be needed a lot, so be sure to save it somewhere easily accessible in a few different formats and resolutions.

Use Paletton dot com to create beautiful color palettes!

As for creating your brand pallette, pretty much any DIY design tool will do. Still, your brand palette has more to do with color psychology than anything. How colors compliment each other, the emotions associated with various colors, etc. I'm not an expert in color psychology by any means (but seriously, there are people who are friggin experts in that kind of stuff) rather, I'm know what I like when I see it. 

Here are some examples of color psychology and the emotions humans feel when they look at certain colors;

Gray - Intelligence, reliability, maturity, modesty.
Red - Power, passion, strength, desire.
Blue - Depth, trust, intelligence, calmness.
Green - Nature, growth, safety, wealth.

I like to use Paletton to create various color palettes. Find your primary brand color and match it to complementary color. Paletton will provide you with HEX codes as well as various shades of your primary color. Once you've found your brand palette create a document with all your hex codes in a folder with all your logos.

Domain Name + Website

A domain name and website are a required asset for building a brand online. They're not only required, but they're expected of anyone with a desire to grow an audience online. Your website and domain name can do more to influence a prospect's perception of your brand than almost any other platform. 

A domain is an extension of your brand so you should think carefully about the one you pick. Most often, domain names are decided by the name of a business or product. Short, memorable and self-descriptive domain names tend to work best. 

You can use pretty much any domain name registrar to search for available domain names. Don't worry if the one you want is taken -- try to come up with a variation that makes sense or use a different dot suffix like .co or .io or my personal favourite .xyz.

Social Media Platforms

Why does your brand need to be on social media? Because that's where people are. An added bonus is that unifying your brand across several social media platforms goes a long way to building trust and authority. 

As you develop a social media strategy, don't just blast your message to every platform under the sun. Think carefully about the content you produce for each channel and how people will interact with it. Pick social media platforms that are appropriate for you, your brand and the audience to want to be exposed to. 

It's no secret that a large following on social equal social proof. Users will be more likely to like and subscribe if they see that a lot of other people have done the same. This does not mean that you should go out and buy followers -- a fake following isn't a following at all. 

Organic reach and engagement is the golden ticket to success on social media. Your goal is to cultivate an audience of people who love your brand by providing them with relevant, valuable and engaging content. 

Your Brand Guide

A brand guide is a living reference document that structures and defines how a brand presents itself across various marketing channels. This include your brand's purpose, logo, fonts, color palette, voice/tone and visual language. 

Brand guides are often called "style guides" or "brand bibles". No matter the label, brand guides dictate and direct how a brand communicates its message. They are used by marketers, designers, copywriters, coders, external vendors and more. 

Brand guides used by large companies tends to be long and complex documents. For startups and websites however, they can be less formal. Add your brand guide to your folder with the rest of your brand assets. 

What Next?

You don't just buy a domain, build a website and get active on social media to build a brand. You need to build an audience. Specific brand building tactics differ from niche to niche and usually overlap with other types of marketing initiatives. 

Here are some brand specific tactics you can use to build a following online:

  • Give something away for free (t-shirt, book, digital download).
  • Use retargeting ads.
  • Co-marketing with niche related brands.

Building a brand is a continuous process; your work will never been finished. How you communicate your message and how people perceive your value will always change. With everything you do, your goal should be to elevate the brand. 

Never lose sight of your brand's purpose and you can't go wrong.