As a small business, branding becomes one of the key elements in distinguishing yourself from other businesses and creating customer loyalty. That being said, branding (and design) is far more complex than just making your logo “look pretty” or use some easily-available template online. As a visual brand expert who’s worked with small businesses as well as huge corporations, I have had clients come to me with some major mistakes and assumptions that were not serving them or their businesses the best way.
I have seen 3 main branding mistakes that have popped up regularly when working with conscious small businesses designing their visual brand. In today’s blog, we are going to go over all 3 branding mistakes in detail. I’ll also give you some tips and solutions to each of those common branding problems that you can quickly and easily act upon. So if you have a coaching business, a health and wellness brand, or are in the creative field, this blog will definitely shine some light on how to make your visual branding clearer, more impactful, and truly reflect you and your business.
So grab a chai and let’s dive right in!
Ever look at your brand and feel like it lacks some zing? You’re not alone!
As a small business owner, you want your visual branding to be unforgettable and create an impact on its audience. After all, having your ideal customer being able to recognize your brand anytime anyplace would be pretty awesome, right?
Branding and design that look and feel boring tend to be one of the most recurring mistakes that I see with small businesses I work with. This is often the case when small business owners get caught up focusing on other areas of their business like showing up as much as possible on social media platforms leaving them very little time to actually sit down and reflect on what they truly want their brand to look like. Not really taking that time to think about what it is about your brand that is exciting is what eventually leads to bland designs that have very little personality.
How to fix a boring design
Look for ways you can add your brand’s personality into your design! If you need help understanding exactly what your brand personality is, try using Carl Jung’s Brand Archetype. Jung believed that you can use certain personality traits to group your audience and thus create your ideal customer, which he called the Archetype.
There are twelve brand archetypes: The Innocent, Everyman, Hero, Outlaw, Explorer, Creator, Ruler, Magician, Lover, Caregiver, Jester, and Sage.
Let’s take a look at them in more detail:
The Innocent: The one who is happy, positive, romantic, free-spirited, and symbolizes youth. Example brands include: Coca-Cola, Nintendo Wii, Dove
The Everyman: The one who wants to connect and belong. They are supportive, faithful, and realistic. You can always rely on them. Example brands include: IKEA, Home Depot, eBay
The Hero: A humanitarian at heart, the Hero is altruistic in their behavior. They are brave and inspiring. They fight for positive change and believe in constant improvement. Example brands include: Nike, BMW, Duracell
The Rebel: The devil’s advocate! They love to question everything - sometimes just for fun! The Rebel thinks rules are made to be bent (or downright broken!) and craves revolution. Example brands include: Virgin, Harley-Davidson, Diesel (jeans)
The Explorer: The one who constantly catches the travel bug. The Explorer is a risk-taker, a discoverer, one who craves new places and new experiences. Example brands include: Jeep, Red Bull, REI
The Creator: The one with a wild imagination. A dreamer, inventor, and creative who wants to leave behind a legacy that others can use. Example brands include: Lego, Crayola, Adobe
The Ruler: That person who leads and guides you, but also scolds you when you deserve it (in my case, that’s my dad!). The one who is mature, responsible, and trustworthy. Example brands include: Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, British Airways
The Magician: The one that can completely transform the way you perceive life (Think Alladin’s “A Whole New World” theme). The Magician is a visionary, often ahead of their time and in touch with their spiritual side. Example brands include: Apple, Disney, Absolut
The Lover: The one who thrives from feeling close to others. They are passionate, romantic, and would take you on the perfect date! Example brands include: Victoria’s Secret, Chanel, Haagen Dazs
The Caregiver: The protector. The one who deeply cares for your wellbeing and will never hesitate to drop anything to help. Warm, generous, and compassionate. Example brands include: Johnson & Johnson, Campbell’s Soup, UNICEF
The Jester: The class clown! They always cheer you up on a bad day and are always up to some kind of mischief. They are easy-going and use humor and fun to create happy moments every day. Example brands include: Old Spice, Ben & Jerry’s, M&Ms
The Sage: The one you turn to for answers. Often seen as your advisor, the Sage is committed to sharing deep insights and wisdom. They are thoughtful, attentive, and always there to help. Example brands include: Google, PBS, Philips
Jung’s Archetypes are a great way to get started on understanding your brand’s personality. But, feel free and play around and create new “archetypes” if you want! Many times you might find that you or someone close to you is your avatar!
Once you have a better idea of what your brand personality is, think about the different design elements that will breathe life into your brand: color, typography, photography, and bringing in illustration or patterns.
Have you ever looked at your logo and wondered “what does this even mean?”. Initially, it all seemed to make sense. You added each element one by one, each element symbolizing some core meaning of your business or your purpose. But in the midst of all the dragging and dropping, you suddenly find yourself facing a design that looks nonsensical, complex at best.
See, as a business owner, you know your story. You know your product or service inside out, and all the amazing benefits it holds for your customers. But with all this information that you already have, you might be looking at your designs through a biased lens. The result is a branding that often confuses the buyer, and sometimes, even yourself!
How to fix confusing designs:
Take a step back and look at your design with fresh eyes: does it feel like a stranger would be able to understand what it’s about. If the answer is no, it’s probably time to go back to the drawing board. When creating a visual brand, you need to look at it from the buyer’s perspective. Step into their shoes and see your brand through their eyes. It also helps to get feedback from people around you that fit your target audience or a brand design expert.
When you’re ready to rework the visuals, find ways to balance your composition; through the type sizes and styles. For instance, spend some time playing around and making the design smaller, bigger, bold, or light.
"It seems that perfection is attained, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away." - Antoine de Saint Exupery
Many times, small business owners overcomplicate their designs. The truth is, a simple visual branding can communicate its meaning clearly to the audience and with a strong impact! So, once you are happy with colors, sizes, and styles, try removing one or two elements (like an icon or a color) and see if what you’re trying to communicate comes through easier.
Finally, the biggest mistake of them all: allowing your visual brand to lack authenticity! Just like your worded brand message, your visual branding should also tell a meaningful story. It should display your business’s uniqueness and also connect with its audience!
If you feel that you have been using easily-available templates or heavily inspired your designs on other brands in your industry, you might find yourself having a nice-looking logo and solid color palettes but these designs are not authentically you! For instance, if you are a herbal tea business, meaning you are a health and wellness brand, you will be competing with thousands (if not 100s of thousands) herbal tea businesses at a local, national, and international level. That’s why it’s so important that you tell your story through your designs! Make your clients find, recognize, and remember you because of how authentic you are!
How to fix a design that lacks authenticity:
Take a step back and analyze what you’re trying to say first. Use some prompts if you have to: – Why does my brand exist? Consider taking a notepad (or your computer) and write your story, in detail.
– Don’t forget to consider your tone of voice. Are you quirky and different? Or are you caring and nurturing? Maybe you’re more free-spirited and fun? Keeping the story and tone of voice in mind, it’s time to visualize your brand.
Next, look back to your brand guideline and pull in your unique elements, like different typography, colors, icons, gradients, etc. Remember the previous point about keeping things simple so that you don’t confuse your audience. Think about bringing elements together in a way that feels authentic to your brand.
Pretty cool, eh?
Visual branding can truly set you apart from the crowd if done properly. By identifying these key mistakes and using the solutions I have offered, I hope that you will be able to conceptualize and even create your designs faster and with less headache!
I have personally used these solutions every time I have faced the above three problems and they work like a charm! Now it’s your turn to create your visual brand. If you need my help in identifying your brand's unique gaps, click here to learn how we can collaborate.