Launching and owning a business is hard (Read: Starting a Business Is Hard). The list of items to complete, at times, seem insurmountable; file for a license, secure a domain name, and find funding are just a few items on the list. The one ‘to do’ that is so often missing from the list is to create and design your company brand, also known as your company identity.

Your brand correlates to how you want your company to be perceived by others. When a customer sees your logo, what do you want them to think and/or feel? When they visit your Facebook page, what is one takeaway you want them to have? Your brand is related to everything you do as it pertains to your company.

Your company brand, design, and culture is not just one thing it’s everything.

No matter the age of your company, it’s never too late to create a brand that will make you proud. These four steps will start you on the right path to branding success.

  1. Figure out who you are – Define your company brand. Your products and/or services have been determined and hopefully you have created a plan on how to deliver the goods. But before you begin selling and promoting your company even before you begin designing your logo determine your own corporate identity. This is the basis for everything that follows. Start by asking yourself these questions:
    • Will your office have a formal, corporate atmosphere or will it be more relaxed? If you will have employees, what is your intended dress code?
    • Do you want a fun, vibrant feel or one that’s more structured and contained? Think about the difference between the Google and Microsoft brands. Which brand comes across as fun and which comes across as structured?
      Google vs Microsoft company branding
    • What are you selling and what do your customers expect to see? The service or product you deliver should help determine the direction of your company brand. For example, there should be a huge difference in brand look and feel when comparing a florist to an IT consultant. If you support computer networks and have a pink flower in your logo, you should probably call iima productions ASAP. If you’re a financial planner, you may opt out of a ‘cartoon-like’ drawing but that could be the exact look a day care owner would choose. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer, then try to build your brand to connect with them.

These questions may seem unimportant but once you are able to answer them and you have determined your company culture, you will now have a direction for everything that follows. When you get to the logo design phase, you’ll have a leg up because you know what to look for.

  1. Design your logo. Every company needs a logo. Correction, every company needs a well-designed logo. Your logo sets the tone for everything and tells prospective customers who you are in a nutshell. It may be the first thing a potential client will see. Take time and care to design a logo that works for you. After you’ve defined your company brand (step 1), you are ready to dive into designing your logo. Designing a logo incorporates three main factors: imagery, font and color.I recommend that you first browse the Internet and find five logos you hate and five you love. It is my experience that you learn more about your own company brand from those you dislike. Most people have a stronger opinion about what they don’t like and therefore provide more direction for the creation of their logo.

    As you look at the logos you have chosen, take note as to whether these logos use images (like Starbucks) or font only (like Gap).
    Starbucks logo history GAP logo

    For fonts, base your choice on the brand direction you’ve created. It will help you decide if you want a handwritten, casual font (ex: Brush Script) or a more structured, formal font (ex: Times New Roman).
    casual-vs-formal-company font example

    When choosing colors, it is helpful to have two colors picked out: a primary and a secondary. Even if your logo is just one color, you can choose a secondary color that can be used on your website, social media and even apparel as a highlight. For example, the Apple logo is now a monotone chrome gray color, but at one time, Apple store employees wore blue t-shirts. That blue was incorporated in a variety of aspects from the screen monitor to accents on their website. It’s so subtle you may not have noticed but it creates unity all the same. For a trip down memory lane, go back to Apple’s logo throughout the 1980s and early 90s!
    History of Apple's logo

  2. Develop your content. Your company brand should reflect itself in everything your company does, and that doesn’t mean just visually. An important part of branding is how you talk about your company and how your company talks to your customers.In any marketing piece, you have mere seconds to relay what you do, how you do it and why you do it better than anyone else. Take time to develop content that will drive all of your platforms – social, print and web. Consider creating a “summary paragraph” that defines ‘who, what and why you’. You can then take parts of this copy and use it where needed. If you need a tagline on your Facebook page, a bio for your LinkedIn page and info for a sponsorship application, simply refer to your “summary” and pull from it to ensure brand message consistency.The great part is once you have developed your content you shouldn’t have to re-create it every time you need to submit information about your company. Clear and concise content doesn’t come quickly or easily. You will need to go through multiple re-writes. Be sure to keep a constant eye on whether your content is reflecting the brand you created accurately.
  3. Choose a marketing agency. The best route a company can take to incorporating their company brand throughout all marketing platforms is to hire a marketing agency. An agency will be able to oversee not only the image and branding on all marketing materials but help decide which platforms best fit your brand. It’s not only deciding ‘what and where’ but ‘when and why’. A good marketing agency will help you decide how to put all the puzzle pieces together and will oversee the ongoing efforts needed to keep a channel of communication open to your customers. It’s important to choose an agency that you feel understands your brand and works well with you.

The list of areas in your business that your brand affects is longer than you think. As your business grows, your brand will be incorporated more and more. Everything from your office space to the furniture you choose will be chosen based on your brand. The brand will help to determine and build your company culture. You may be so busy that you think you don’t have time to develop your brand but…

…if you don’t define your company brand, others will define it for you. 

Review some examples of iima’s portfolio of company brand work.