A website is the launch pad for a brand’s visual identity online. But before you can build a website that will do your client’s business justice, they need a solid branding strategy. After the initial branding is done and the website is built, you also need to keep them on brand for all marketing strategies, including email and social media efforts. In this article, I’ll go through what needs to be done to stay consistent with a brand in a way that the readers, customers, and fans will never forget.
The three branding basics
There are three main things you must do for the branding to be on point.
By following these steps, you’ll have a good base for any visual content you need to create, from website headers to Instagram posts to email newsletters!
1. Sort out the initial branding
The first thing you need to do is finalize the branding. This doesn’t just mean the logo, it also means the colors scheme, the fonts, the textures, and the mood board. If you were hired to build a website and the visual content but the company doesn’t have a solid brand strategy, suggest that they sort that out first. If you aren’t a branding specialist, you can offer a few options.
If they are a one-man-show, they can try doing the branding themselves with a tool like Tailorbrands. If they have a bit more budget, then they should invest in a branding strategist that can take their brand to the next level. If you are the branding specialist, use this article to show your clients why it’s so important to have a solid brand!
These are the main points that need to be resolved in the initial branding for a business:
The logo needs to be representative of the business but also of the client. It needs to be simple yet catchy and unique. It needs to look good in color but also in black and white. You need to test it out on mockups for business cards, letterheads, and website headers. There are five different types of logos, so you can discover which one works best for the business.
Mood and mission board
A mood and mission board is similar to a vision board in the sense that it’s a collection of images and words that represent an idea or concept. It helps visualize what the business is about. This can be done before the logo, to have a better understanding of what your brand is meant to communicate to its customers. A mood and mission board begins with a mission statement. From that starting point; images, colors, textures, and words are collected in a visual collage of the brand.
The color scheme is a collection of colors that will be used in every single step of the visual identity. There needs to be a primary color palette and secondary palette for some variety. Color palettes can be created from scratch, or with the help of the images and illustrations in the mood board.
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A font pairing is a combination of fonts that will make up the entirety of all written content in the visual identity. There is one main font for titles, another for blocks of text, and sometimes a third for complementary or decorative text. Sometimes the font in the logo can be used as part of the font pairing, but this isn’t always the case. Unless it’s a very simple logo, the font in the logo and the fonts in the pairing will be different.
2. Have a style guide
The best way to stay on brand is to have a style guide. The best style guides include visual cues about how to use the colors, fonts, and logos in any situation pertaining to your visual identity. Tailorbrands offers a PDF downloadable style guide with the more expensive plans.
You can set up a style guide with a template. There are some available on Behance and Creative Market. Some online graphics editors, like Visme and Canva, have incorporated Brand Kits that can help keep the team in check with all the visual content they create. Another online tool, RelayThat, has an incorporated system to create multiple graphics at the same time, all with the brand assets.
3. Use templates for everything
Last but not least, use templates for all visuals that are created on a regular basis. These can include social media banners and graphics, blog post title graphics, or email newsletters. When you have templates, you not only stay on brand, you also save tons of time.
To create templates, all you need is the brand style guide and a graphics editor. Some online graphics editors also have the possibility of saving templates, which can be used over and over again quite easily.
If you use professional graphic design editors like Photoshop or Illustrator, there are plenty of template sets available online as well. These can then be customized with your colors and fonts. Even more time saved!
Photoshop is also perfect for customizing product and ebook mockups. You can find lots of mockups on sites like Creative Market to use for any brand.
Let’s say, for example, you need to see what the branding will look like on all the stationery, like business cards, letterheads, gift bags, and product tags. If you use a branding template with smart objects, all you need to do is open the file in Photoshop and insert the brand designs. This will help when you need to show the printers how you want things to look.
Mockups can also help visualize the logo on products like skin cream bottles or product boxes.
Branding a website
Most WordPress themes will have the option of a brand kit to set up fonts and colors. These are usually in the theme options and can be customized to affect the entire site. That way, when you build a site, the branding is already set up and you don’t have to worry about losing the plot.
Apart from colors and fonts, websites also need a web style guide. This is simply an extension of the style guide I mentioned above but directed specifically at the website. A web style guide will include things like buttons, forms, spacing, animations, and specifics about where and how the fonts and colors are used. These are also called UI Style Guides.
Branding social media and email newsletters
Just how the web style guide is a visual upgrade to the general brand style guide, the social media and email style guide has another aspect added to it. This version needs a section about the specifics that will direct social media managers in the right direction.
A social media brand style guide can include any or all of these topics:
- The way social media posts are worded
- The hashtags that can or cannot be used
- When and how the company name is used
- What words to avoid when writing social media posts
- How to word and format tweets
- Which Instagram filters to use an which ones to avoid
- The right Instagram photo sizes to use
- What kind of photos or illustrations should be used
In terms of posts and photos shared, these must follow the specific message style. For example, Food Panda, which offers food delivery, is always posting photos of the products and events they sell, not photos of completely unrelated things. Everything should make sense and not surprise followers in a bad way.
Visually, all the platform headers should be branded according to the style guide. That is why templates are so practical. When there is a promotion going on, or the client wants to show their customers something special through all their social media channels, you can make one banner and then resize according to where it will posted. Emails should follow a similar visual pattern, so readers instantly recognize them when they open the email.
When a company has one person doing it all, it can be easier to stay on brand. But as soon as they have some team members, they need to have style guides for all the sections of the business. Having a Branding Style Guide, a Web Style Guide, and a Social Media Style Guide will save you and them so much time and worry down the line!
The resources available are truly marvelous, so there’s no excuse to be using dark blue on a site when the social media is all pink. Unless you are a rebel, of course.
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This article was first published September 28th, 2018. It was last updated April 3rd, 2019.