Ensuring consistency across your brand can be a bit of a nightmare. You want to grow your online presence and have your fingers in a lot of pies – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, the list of social media site alone is seemingly endless.
Then there’s your website to consider. Email marketing, advertising campaigns…
You want to take advantage of it all (and you should!), but it’s vital to do so with a completely consistent brand presence.
Why Is Online Branding So Important?
The world got large and loud with the advent of digital marketing. It’s fantastic for entrepreneurs, but makes it difficult to be heard.
Your branding has three key purposes:
- Ensuring you are always recognised, regardless of the platform
- Raising awareness and exposure of your business
- Establishing you as a trusted authority in your niche
Here’s what most people think the first time they hear this…
All that from your brand? But, it’s just colours and fonts, right?
Actually, it’s much more.[Tweet “A brand is much more than just a logo and colours”]
What Is An Online Brand?
The things that immediately spring to mind when you think ‘branding’ are logos, colours, and fonts.
They are part of your visual branding, and essential, but they are only one facet of a brand.
Simply put, your online brand is what people think and feel when they see your content.
Whether they’re reading a blog post, watching a video, or trawling your Twitter feed, every piece of content you create elicits an emotional and/or mental reaction.
A lot of factors come together to create those responses. It’s critical that you are in control of them (as much as possible!).
Once you understand this, it’s easy to see why consistency is so essential: nobody likes mixed messages or feeling confused.
Your brand needs to have a consistent look, tone, feel, and message. It needs to reflect the nature of your business and specialty, attract your ideal clients, and demonstrate your expertise and trustworthiness.
Succeed in cultivating this and you will be easily recognised and remembered as the go-to person in your niche.
But it’s a tall order. Here are five easy ways to ensure you have a consistent online brand:
#1 Create Everything For Your Ideal Client
Knowing your ideal client is vitally important for many reasons, but maintaining an effective and consistent online brand is one of the most important.
In order to do its job, your brand needs to attract the people you most want to work with, while naturally filtering out the people you don’t.
For example, if you only work with mothers caring for small children, using images of mums with young kids will appeal to your ideal client. It will also put off people who don’t have (or want) children, or who have older children.
The images alone tell them instantly whether you’re for them, or not.
Because your brand looks like they do.
You also need to make your brand feel like they do.
That means understanding exactly who they are:
- How do they spend their time?
- What activities do they love?
- Where are they seeing your stuff?
If you’re selling outdoor wear you want to create the feeling of nature and all the inherent adventure that goes with it. If you’re a coach, or provide services to entrepreneurs and small businesses, you want to create a home-office/start-up vibe.
The more you know about your ideal client in terms of what they need, want, have, think, and feel, the more you can align your brand with them.
#2 Reflect The Nature Of Your Business
Your branding should not only reflect your ideal client but also the nature of your business.[Tweet “Your branding should reflect your ideal client & the nature of your business”]
It should paint a vivid picture of the life your ideal client desperately wants. The life they need, which your product or service will achieve.
Incorporate your products and the emotions and mental process that go with them into your branding. This can be really simple, like using pictures of shoes and feet, because you sell shoes. Or it can be a little more abstract, like using a lotus flower to represent the calm and serenity your product will bring.
Focus more on the experience than the object, especially if you offer services.
A relationship coach, for example, would focus on safe, comforting, loving visuals and imagery that represented love, friendship and support. A money mindset coach, on the other hand, would focus on creating the feeling of wealth and abundance.
#3 The Nitty Gritty: Colours, Logos, Fonts, And Photos
Design elements are the fastest, easiest way of ensuring you have a consistent online brand. Beyond that, they create connections in the minds of your audience.
People recognise your stuff because of everything about it, from the language used to subjects discussed, and your own quirks.
But what they remember (if asked) is your visual brand.
“Ah, you’re the girl with the website that looks like sunshine!”
“Oh, you’re the guy who posts those awesome infographics!”
“Yeah, right, you’re the girl with the elephant fetish!”
On a subconscious level, people remember everything about your brand. But consciously they’re usually only aware of the visuals: your colours, logo, and the fact your memes use a specific layout and cool fonts.
There are a lot of elements to visual branding. Here are the key components and how you can ensure they are always consistent.
If you haven’t already, establish a brand colour palette. It should ideally reflect your niche and ideal client.
For example, health brands often choose green, which is associated with wellness. Blue is a popular choice for brands centred on communication (I’m looking at you Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram!). Red is favoured by brands with an edge of adventure, boldness, or danger.
Don’t over-complicate it.
Select one or two main colours, along with three secondary colours. Make the main ones dominant and the secondary ones subtle or neutral shades (black and white count!).
Once you’ve settled on your colour palette incorporate it into as much as possible, from backgrounds, to fonts, images and graphics.
Fonts are a tricky thing to get right. They need to be memorable yet legible, interesting but not distracting, and flexible enough to be used in a variety of mediums and sizes.
Using too many is confusing, and tends to give the impression you lack consistency. Choose four (at the most) that work well together or individually.
Each will have a specific function. Be as consistent in how and where you use them as you are the fonts themselves.
A font that can be used to make your titles big, bold, and easily identified (even from a distance) is a good place to start. It’s easy to make this a fancy font to catch people’s attention, but remember the objective is to allow them to see it at a glance – fancy fonts are tough to read!
You’ll also want to choose a header font for content with multiple sections. This can be the same as your title font, in a smaller size, if you want to keep things nice and simple.
Main Text Font
Selecting a font for all your main text is also important, and often overlooked. People frequently rely on the defaults, especially for things like websites and social media posts, but taking the time to tweak it makes a huge difference. It needs to be a simple serif or sans serif font that’s super easy to read, and completely legible even at 6 points – choose with care!
The last font you may like to have is a ‘fancy font’. These are often ornate or swirly fonts which can be used for titles, but are most beneficial for creating emphasis and a really big impact.
Picking out single words in a fancy font makes your content very eye-catching and clearly places the focus on that word or phrase.
Not all brands have a logo. You don’t actually need one, but if you want one it needs to be consistent and flexible. There are a few forms:
- Your brand name in a fancy font
- An image
- An image with text
Use your brand colours and fonts. Have a simplified version to use when space or colour options are limited.[Tweet “What if I told you that… you dont actually need a logo! #branding”]
Headshots And Brand Images
The other major element you have to contend with are the visual images you use. Many entrepreneurs choose to be the ‘face’ of their brand, and photos of themselves make up the bulk of their brand images. This is a really great way to instantly establish consistency, authenticity, and complete uniqueness – nobody else will have photos of you!
But it’s not for everyone, and you shouldn’t feel you have to do it. If you want to, here are a few quick tips for nailing it:
- Invest in a professional photo shoot.
- Incorporate your brand colours into your photos using clothing and objects.
- Get lots of different angles and locations to give you lot of variety, while maintaining the consistency that comes from a single shoot.
- Consider where you will be using them before you have them taken – it’s natural to go for portrait shots (tall and thin), but they tend to be the least useful. Have a couple for your bios and ‘about me’ page, and get a good range of square(ish) and landscape (wide and short) images.
- The location of your shoot is a great opportunity to incorporate the nature of your business, and the desires or preferences of your ideal client into your branding.
- If you have a team get a few shots of each of them (even if you’re the figure head!) as well as some group shots. The easiest way to ensure consistency is to have everyone wears something in your main brand colour.
If you decide not to use yourself or your team, it’s important to establish image consistency in other ways. There are two really easy ways to do this:
Compile a simple set of guidelines to follow when selecting stock images. You can still incorporate your brand colours, but beyond that you also want to consider:
- Where your images should be – inside, outside, a mixture? Office and corporate settings? Home office and laptop-lifestyle settings? For example, a business coach might choose inspirational or motivational images of grand vistas.
- What objects you’d like to include – this should reflect the nature of your business. For example, all my images include tech – laptops, tablets, computers, phones and related home-office stuff. If you’re a nutritionist or fitness instructor you’d choose healthy food and exercise equipment instead.
- Will you include people? If so, what age, genders, ethnicities etc.? It’s usually best to reflect your ideal client – what do they look like? What will they be doing? The actions of people in your images should reflect what you do for your clients, or what your clients get to do when they work or buy from you.
- Are there any themes you want to carry through all your images? Common themes are emotions like love (think happy couples, hearts etc.) and happiness (bright colours, sunshine, smiling faces etc.).
The easiest way to ensure consistency across all your images is to choose a filter that represents the feeling you’re trying to create in your brand, and use it on every single image.
- Coaches looking to inspire might choose a bright but dramatic filter
- Health professionals might choose a softening filter that gives everything a warm, fuzzy feeling
- Technical businesses often go for a cooler, sharper filter
- Emotions can easily be expressed through colours – yellow for happiness, pink for romance, red for love etc.
The final thing you should do to ensure total consistency is set up templates for all your visual content. This is easily done in Canva or a similar application, which has a lot of ready-sized templates for all your common needs (social media, email etc.). It also has the ability to create custom sized templates, comes with a huge catalogue of stock images, illustrations, and other useful elements, and (if you spring for the paid version) allows you to magically resize one design to fit any other size.
You can upload your own fonts and set your colours, then create templates for everything from memes and blog images to website and social media banners.
Create your templates once and reuse them every time you need new images. It will ensure they’re always 100% consistent across all your platforms, and save you a massive amount of time.
#4 Hone Your Voice
The voice of your brand is difficult to quantify. It’s partly language you use (word choices, phrases and colloquialisms) but also depends on your tone (formal, friendly, relaxed, jovial, seductive…there are as many tones as human emotions), and the core message you deliver.
Developing a strong brand voice is easier said than done. Before you can deploy it consistently, you need to carefully hone it to ensure it’s as representational of your business, self, products, services, and ethos as possible.
That’s a lot to consider, but really it comes down to these questions:
- What is the core message of your business? This usually relates to the main pain point you solve for your ideal client. For example, my core message is ‘efficient and effective digital marketing’.
- What language does your ideal client speak and how can you emulate it?
- What’s the jargon of your niche?
- What is your natural voice like? If you’re a straight talker, a bubbly optimist, or a sardonic pessimist you may want to incorporate some of your natural pizzaz into your business voice.
- What do your ideal clients want to hear? If they’re looking for someone relatable, a friendly tone is best, if they’re after an uber-professional who has all the answers, a formal or academic voice will appeal to them, and if they’re in a vulnerable position they will respond better to a kind and soothing tone.
#5 Be Utterly Authentic
Authentic businesses inspire and prosper.
Authenticity is magnetic in the overcrowded digital age. We can spot a con a mile away. It doesn’t matter how snazzy a product or service looks, if we get a whiff of anything even remotely fake, we’ll run right over to the next person in line.
And there’s always a next-person-in-line.
That’s the curse of digital marketing, and one reason why your branding is so pivotal; if you can’t catch and retain people’s attention instantly, you’ve already lost the game.
Authenticity is a fast track to not only gaining and holding your audience’s interest, but building the invaluable know, like and trust factor.
If you build a brand that doesn’t reflect who you are, and what you do, in a totally authentic way, it doesn’t matter how many fancy fonts and cool colours you have, nobody will buy into your brand.
Because they won’t buy into you.
There’s a fine line between telling people what they want to hear and lying to them.
On the one hand, you need to speak your client’s language, reflect their lives, wants and needs, and represent your business as something they can relate to.
At the same time, your branding needs to be true to who you are personally, and your own language, life, wants and needs.
Don’t include elements of yourself that are going to actively repel your ideal client, and don’t include any that you will find just as offensive.
This can be really simple, like knowing your target audience will respond well to pink, or orange, but having a passionate hatred of that particular colour. But it can also be more complex, like understanding they haven’t had the benefit of higher education or extensive technical training, and won’t understand academic or highly technical language.
The Venn Of Branding
Think of your brand as a giant venn diagram.
In one circle is everything you’ve identified as being excellent branding from the perspective of your ideal client. In the second, is everything you need your brand to be from a marketing perspective. In the third, is everything you personally want in your brand.