Busting the branding 'rules' that aren't strictly true...
I'm all for taking branding your business seriously, but sometimes I read or hear some opinions dressed as 'rules' and it's just in my nature to question them and not take them as The Word!
I also wanted to bust some misconceptions that people may have about branding too - I know not everyone is as obsessed with it as me, so it's totally understandable that there are some myths to be debunked here...
1) 'Branding is less important for small businesses'
As a small business owner, you may feel that it's not worth investing in your 'brand' because you simply don't have the audience or marketplace yet.
However I'd say that the total opposite is true!
If anything, branding is more important for small businesses, because it's so much harder to stand out from the crowd and get your target market to remember you.
2) 'Your Business should be an extension of you'
'...And thus your branding should be the same as your personal branding.'
This is a tricky one; on the one hand, if your business is very personal to you and aligns with your personal brand then you could say that you're more likely to be passionate about building the business and marketing it.
But what if your business is about something that there is a basic, objective need for, like for example waste water treatment or electrical manufacturing, it's a little different. These businesses can be hugely successful and profitable, but they may not have anything to do with the owner's personal brand, in which case is it such a bad thing to keep it separate?
3) 'Your brand voice should always be professional'
This is definitely a bit of an old fashioned view of business, and totally depends on your target market. If your target market are very serious business people investing hundreds of thousands of pounds in your product/service, or if they are of an older generation who are used to a more serious, professional tone of voice, then that's fine.
But if you're appealing to teens or young adults, and your business isn't a totally serious one, then your brand voice shouldn't need to be too high-level or professional; in fact if it were then people may feel there's something 'off' and inconsistent about your whole branding.
By all means, showing your 'expertise' in your industry is super important in your business, but you can do this in a serious, professional way or a more fun, quirky way.
4) 'You have to choose a niche sector to target'
This is the 'rule' that sparked me to write this post as I was recently told this whilst on a business course. People were surprised when I told them that I won't be marketing my design services to a particular niche sector, such as 'photographers' or 'hospitality businesses', and I was even told that if I don't pick a sector I won't be able to grow.
I totally disagreed! For one thing, I think it's important not to hone in too narrow too early - how can I find out who I enjoy working with the best or least if I've never tried it? And for another, targeting your market by industry sector is not the only way!
At the moment I target my marketing and branding towards freelancers and small business owners who share a set of values; it doesn't matter what sector they are in. They are passionate about growing a lifestyle business that they enjoy working on every day, and they love simple and clean design that breathes.
If you're working on your customer profiling, just remember it doesn't need to be sector specific! There are other ways.
5) 'Once you have a logo & brand name you're stuck with it'
When you're first starting out of course it's important to think deeply about your business name and branding, however, this can be a total drain of your resources when actually you just need to launch something quickly and get started!
Many businesses will start with one name or logo and change after a few years, or even a few months, once they have more time and money to invest in the process - and that's okay!
6) 'Once your logo is created, your branding is complete'
As biased as I may be, I'd like to say that your branding is never finished. Your brand is how customers perceive you, and this could be changing all the time - even after you've worked on your core values, your logo and visual brand elements, and brand voice, keeping up a consistent, positive reputation is constant, and needs to be worked on all the time!
7) 'The background stuff doesn't matter if it looks good'
Okay I've never actually heard anyone say this, but I have in the past had this 'vibe' from people - like "Why are you making me do all this homework about my audience and USP? I just need it to look good!".
Doing the 'background stuff' (or homework) is important for your designer or branding consultant to do their job as best they can. But more importantly, it's key for you as a business owner to understand the real core of your business and how its goals and growth plans stem from that foundation.
8) 'Your logo should be on everything you do'
You know you have excellent visual branding when you don't need to plaster your logo on everything for it to be recognisable. Your visual brand shouldn't be just a logo, it should be a whole host of other elements such as colours, typography and imagery themes that help what you do stand out.
Slapping the same logo on everything can get dull or even seem 'insecure', so it's key to have a set of visual elements and a brand guidelines document to help you create collateral that has more variety.
9) 'Turn work away if it's not your target customer'
I get it; you want to be known for something, and you want to enjoy it, so why would you work with people who aren't your ideal customer if you don't need to?
If you're in the position where you can do this then that's awesome - go you! But I really wouldn't recommend this if you're not totally comfortable with losing that work. Obviously if you need to turn something down because of your own values or principles then fine, but don't make life hard for yourself.
Besides, it can be fun working with unexpected types of customer, and it may open your business up to other opportunities you'd never imagined!
10) 'You can't be successful without a beautiful visual brand'
Am I shooting myself in the foot here? Maybe, but I don't care. If you're starting a business and you're freaking out because you can't afford a designer and can't DIY, just chill.
If you have a fantastic, unique product or service and a way of getting your message out there to the right people, you don't need a fancy logo, you just need a name - and that could well just be your name!
There are plenty successful small businesses and freelancers all around who have less than perfect branding and dodgy logos, but who have built an awesome reputation for themselves through word of mouth.
So don't panic, just launch and get started and see where it takes you!