What’s in a brand? Brands are made up of more elements than you might realize; it’s not just a business name and logo. While branding can often seem abstract and vague, all the elements come together to form a clear perception of a company. In fact, the more you learn about branding, the more you’ll be able to identify different brand elements in businesses you already know and love. You’ll also be more strategic and intentional about the brand you put out into the world. When it comes to marketing, most of it is intentional, even if it might come across as incidental. That’s because brand cohesion is powerful—you might not notice it when it’s working, but you’ll definitely notice when it isn’t. The images, colors, fonts, and phrasing that represent your business have a meaning that extend beyond visuals and words. Branding also includes how you do business: how you interact with customers, how you write social media captions, how you come across in any interaction or piece of content. So, yeah, small business branding is pretty important. Here are some core branding elements that you’ll consider as you get your business off the ground. Elements of Brand Identity Your brand is made up of several elements, including the following: Name Logo Colors Fonts Design Voice Tagline Values Brand Name Of course, your brand name is perhaps the biggest part of your branding elements. Your name is central to your business and informs all other elements of your branding. It sets the tone for your entire business and will be used countless times over the course of your business. Because of this, it’s important to pick a name you love and will enjoy using for years to come. If you’re feeling stuck on your name, get creative! Don’t put pressure on yourself to come up with a name the first time you try. Instead, explore different words, ideas, images, and other creative outlets to see what sparks excitement. Start compiling a list and slowly pare it down as you get clearer on what kind of verbiage you feel represents your brand. Logo Your logo is your brand’s primary visual identifier. A logo can be made up of an image, words, or a combination of both. This is the main part of your visual brand identity and will inform all other design choices you make. It will probably include your brand name, but it doesn’t have to. Colors Every brand has a few colors that show up throughout their visuals, including their logo. Colors convey feelings and a sense of personality. If you’re not sure how that might be, compare a few pastel colors to some primary colors and see how different they feel. There is a whole psychology behind color, called color theory, which you can explore as you determine what colors best represent your brand. Here’s a quick rundown on what each color means: Blue: Calming, trustworthy, mature Red: Passion, excitement, anger, loud Green: Versatile, but often associated with money, nature, or life Orange: Playful, energetic, invigorating Yellow: Friendly, cheery, youthful, affordable Purple: Luxurious, feminine, cutting-edge Pink: Feminine, modern, cool, youthful Brown: Rugged, masculine, earthy, handmade, rustic Black: Slick, contemporary, luxurious White: Youthful, affordable Gray: Classic, serious Your brand will likely incorporate two or more colors in its scheme, but try to keep things simple. For example, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter all use a blue background paired with a white symbol. However, some smart brands are cheeky and add a variety of colors to their logos, like Slack, Instagram, NBC, or Microsoft—and it works. Try using a tool like Adobe’s color wheel to find colors that work well together. You can play around with the different color harmony rules (analogous, complementary, monochromatic, etc.) to find the perfect combination of colors. Then, use a tool like Accessible Brand Colors to check how ADA compliant your colors are when paired with each other. This tool will let you know if a color combination is hard to read and which similar colors may work better. Fonts Similar to colors, fonts also show your brand’s personality. Times New Roman, for example, tends to feel professional due to the context in which it’s used, which is often journalistic or academic. Round fonts tend to feel more casual. When choosing a font for your brand (which will go in your logo, on marketing materials, across your website, and more), compare a few options to see which feels right. Look and feel All brands have an overall look and feel, which might not seem intentional, but they are, and they’re important! Why? Your brand should feel cohesive across all your media and materials. While it might be fun to try on different looks (and there can be a time for that), it’s important to be consistent. While a lot of this will be informed by your brand fonts and colors, there are a few other factors to consider. Do you prefer round or angular shapes? What colors will you never use? What kinds of images accurately represent your brand? Knowing your stance on these questions will help you make design choices faster and avoid accidentally going off-brand. Determining Your Brand Voice Tone and Voice Your brand will have a set tone and voice. Brand voice pertains to how you come across in your marketing. Are you friendly, professional, silly, or sassy? While this may initially seem like a vague concept, you’ll quickly see the difference that an established brand voice makes. Mostly, you’ll notice it when the brand voice is wrong—and it’s helpful to have established tone descriptors to point out just why that’s the case. If your brand voice is authoritative, for example, it will be easy to point out when something comes across as timid or unreliable. Some brands also use a specific vocabulary (think Starbucks drink sizes). Slogan or Catchphrase Not every business has a slogan, but when they do, you probably remember them. “America runs on Dunkin.” “Just do it.” You can create a slogan as an additional differentiator and marketing tool. Just remember: you’re going to be repeating and using this a lot, so be sure you really like it. So how do you come up with the right slogan? Keep it short: A few syllables at most. The longer it is, the harder it’ll be for customers to remember. Include a key benefit: Don’t focus on the product features—focus on the benefits. Coke doesn’t sell the flavor—they sell the resulting happiness. Differentiate your brand with something unique: What does your brand do differently than your competitors? Dollar Shave Club’s tagline, for example, is “Shave Time. Shave Money” because they’re selling convenience at a low price. Impart positive, powerful feelings: Use upbeat language that creates positive vibes. For example, L’Oréal Paris uses the tagline “Because You’re Worth It” to lift up their audience and leave them with strong, cheery feelings. Brand Values What does your business care about? What problem are you solving? How do you conduct business? How do you treat your employees? Where do your products come from? How do you respond in particular scenarios? This is another facet of your brand that might seem esoteric at first, but as your business grows and is exposed to different scenarios, it helps to have your brand values already established, so you don’t have to waste time contemplating what represents you.