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How To Find The Key Elements Of Your Visual Brand - Part One

A while back I was facilitating an executive retreat for a local non profit. When we came to topic on branding, one of the board members raised their hand and said this will be easy, we already have a great logo!

That opened a whole conversation around what goes into creating a brand and a visual identity. By the end of the discussion, it was abundantly clear that their logo, as nice as it was, was not their brand and only one part of their visual identity.

Today's blog is part one of the process of identifying the elements of your visual brand. Specifically, your fonts, photos and videos, filters, colors and logo.

I’ve heard from some of you lately that it would be very helpful to know the fundamentals of how to select these elements of your visual brand and establish a consistent style.

This is where a lot of people get stuck - because they’re not sure where to get started.

I was talking to a friend the other day and this is how she summed it up:

“When I worked for a corporation, it was easy to go out and speak on camera and talk to the media, I was great at it - because I knew who and what I was representing. When you are the brand, it’s a lot harder because the focus is all on you and all of that isn’t as clearly defined.”

Big corporations spend lots of time and money to develop a brand look and feel and you’ll need to make an investment in developing yours.

Your Logo is NOT Your Brand

Here are several quotes I think do a nice job of defining the more ethereal qualities of a brand, whether it’s a personal brand or for a small business or corporation. And it’s definitely way more than a logo.

Michael Eisner, the former CEO of Disney says:

“A brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures”

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon puts it like this:

“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”  

And John Williams, founder of Logo Yes, defines it this way:

“Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors'. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.”

And lastly, my friend and marketing master, Mike Kim defines your brand as the visual, verbal and value proposition you deliver. He says all three must align with one another if you want a cohesive brand position. Here's a link to Mike’s blog on this topic.

Now that we have a working definition of what a brand is, let’s define a visual brand identity:

Your visual brand identity (combined with your verbal identity and the value you deliver) evokes a certain feeling, memories and emotions when people experience your brand.

It’s the visual story you tell to communicate your overall message, values, and brand promise through the images, colors, fonts, filters, and videos you consistently use.

And this even applies to what you wear and the locations you use for your images and videos.

These elements either support or detract from your values and brand promise. And your visuals need to have the same look and feel across all platforms.

Keep them simple and consistent to create cohesion.

Being aware of how your visuals affect your brand is just the starting point.

What Do You Want Your Visuals To Say About You?

To answer that you first need to answer some questions about your brand.

Here are three questions I ask my clients when we are working to define their visual brand elements.

1. Who is your target audience?

How old are they, are they married? Gender? Have Kids? How much to they make? What do they do? What level of education do they have? What do they do in their spare time? Hobbies? What do they read? Podcasts? Blogs?

The more specific you are, the easier it will be to establish the visuals for your brand because you know who they are for.

2. What sets you apart from others providing a similar service in your field?

John Williams sums it up like this:

“What are the qualities you posses, experiences you’ve had and skills you’ve developed that set you apart? What is value you'll deliver to your customer. What is the benefit your target audience will experience from the value you provide. It’s important that you are able articulate this.”

THIS is the unique value proposition that only you can provide.

After you create a list of your personal brand attributes, prioritize them and create a word bank. You will use this when you start to select your visual brand elements.

3. What characteristics and values do you represent that would be attractive to a future friend?

It’s helpful to think about your brand in terms of what one person who you would like as a future friend would say about you. It makes it a lot easier to envision who is in your audience when you think of them as a friend.

It also helps you come up with language to use as you describe yourself.

When people describe your brand, what do you want them to say?

Ask yourself how these words support your vision and values and how you deliver on that to your customers.

What words would they use?