We all can fall prey to shiny object syndrome from time to time.
In the online world, that might look like thinking a shiny new website will solve all our problems and be an exciting project to take on.
Sure, website refreshes are great, but I cant stress enough how we need to get our foundations in place first. It’s just like building a house. Yes, everything gets exciting when you can see it all coming to life in front of your eyes, but is that a good reason to skip getting a strong, solid platform for the house to grow and be stable under? Or mapping out a blue-print so we know there’s going to be enough room for all those bedrooms you want? No, it definitely is not.
I get enquiries all the time from people who think they want a website refresh, or a new brochure, when I can take one look at their current website and social media pages and know that they’re really in desperate need of a branding overhaul first and foremost. So I wanted to take the opportunity to explain why:
WHY YOU NEED TO GET YOUR BRANDING IN CHECK FIRST!
You could end up confused, frustrated and overwhelmed
I’ve seen many businesses decide they need a new website, without actually knowing what they want to say, how to communicate why their business is unique, or even understanding their audience. If you don’t have clarity about your core message, and the visual style which best conveys it, you could end up with a website which doesn’t serve you, doesn’t appeal to your ideal client, and does not make you a return on investment. It could end up as a totally wasted (and expensive) exercise.
As a busy business owner, you don’t want to start a web project that takes you around in circles and on the verge of tears and frustration every week. There is nothing worse than looking at proofs of your web pages and getting that nasty feel in the pit of your stomach, thinking “Oh no, this just isn’t right. This just isn’t me. But I don’t know how to communicate this to the web developer, and we’re so far down the track now, that they’re probably going to charge me more if I complain….What do I do?” That’s not a fun situation to be in, but so many clients fall into the trap.
Sometimes you can actually save money in the long run doing the branding process first, because you don’t have to redo your website 10x times at your own dime just to get it right. We give your brand the dedicated time and space it needs to be uncovered, with love and care. By the time we move onto the website project, we know exactly what we’re trying to say to position your business in THE best possible light and we’ve also developed a system around how to convey that visually. Then it’s just a matter of taking all the building blocks and putting them together with a website design. NOT trying to fudge everything together and create it all from scratch in a panicked, distracted manner.
Customers will perceive your brand based on the entire customer experience, not just a flashy website, or your brochure.
Let’s say you went ahead and got a website done without looking at your branding in the bigger picture, and it all worked out. You have a fabulous website you love. However… none of your other brand materials have been given any love or consideration. It’s like having an amazing, luxurious kitchen and the rest of your house is falling part! The people you invite over are going to take one look around and wonder what you were thinking.
Visual consistency is so important for us to build trust. But that only works optimally if all of the touch-points along your customer’s journey with your business are cohesive. Think about receiving a gorgeous gold foiled, letterpressed, ultra thick business card, oozing with X-factor, then you go on their website and it looks like it was built in the 90’s by a 3 year old. Or you’re on an out of this world website that completely speaks to you, then you opt-in to their newsletter and receive the most out-of-touch basic looking eBook as their opt-in. Or even you’re convinced by the amazing website to meet the business owner in person, and then are shocked to find out that the slick image they portrayed on their website is nothing like the jeans and t-shirt they show up in at your meeting.
You want the entire experience to be predictable, consistently good and telling the same story about who you are the entire time. Not just one element in the journey being fancy. The last thing you want is your potential customer to see your business card then go to your website and think “this looks like two completely different businesses, am I even in the right place?” Confused potential customers do not buy!
What works for your website might not work for your print materials, so you need to be sure whatever you create can be replicated across all your relevant touch points.
When you approach a web design agency to create a website for you, and let’s face it, you haven’t really got a distinctive look and feel going on — maybe you have a core colour you’re known for and a logo, but that’s about it — you’re basically asking them to develop a brand identity from scratch. That might seem all good and well, but no one stops to think whether that look and feel can be replicated in the bigger picture. Did you know that web colours have a much wider range than print colours? So some really bright colours simply cannot be easily reproduced in print. Or maybe your web designer create some fancy graphics for you, and use some fancy fonts, and then they don’t tell you what they used or provide you with the files. Then you’re left scratching your head about how to make your brochure or your facebook page look like this nice new website you have. So maybe you get another designer to replicate the look of the website, but they don’t quite make it look the same, and you’re not happy and don’t know why.
When you go through the branding process with me, I test your brand identity to make sure it’s going to work across all your touch-points. I also deliver all the files to my clients, provide the names and download sites for all the fonts, and also give detailed instructions through brand guidelines on how they can take the elements that make up their gorgeous visual brand and create a consistent look across all their materials, whether with my help, with the help of another designer, or if they’re doing it themselves. Everyone can instantly get on the same page with what we’re trying to convey with their brand, and how to go about it consistently. That way we run no risk of stray elements finding their way into our neat, protected little brand family.
When you approach designing your brand identity, not in one fell swoop, but in a haphazard ad hoc way, things turn to custard quickly.
Let’s say you got some professional help with your logo and that’s as far as it went. Then you played around with creating some social media posts for yourself in Canva, you get a business card whipped up by your printer, maybe down the track you’ve worked on a website refresh, and you got someone to do an eBook for you. But you didn’t have any brand guidelines in place, so the whole time you were just telling people to base the design off your logo’s feel. This ad hoc approach makes it so easy to let inconsistency prevail. A year later you look back at all your business materials and realise that you have an unlimited array of colours (or maybe your core colour is blue, but you used about 15 different shades of blue with all the things you produced, so there is no consistency with the exact colour code), you use all sorts of fonts and never bothered to be consistent with it, the style of your photos is all over the place, and your graphics looks like they could have belonged to 10 different companies as there is no rhyme or reason to the style.
This approach results in customers getting mixed messages. We have the power through branding to shape the way a customer perceives our business — premium, quality, fun, relaxed, stylish, modern, positive, natural, sophisticated and so on. But if you’re not consistent, the experience is ‘wishy washy’ — any message you had in mind is diluted. You loose your power. Your brand says nothing.
You’ll save time and money
When we make all the major decisions upfront, any application, such as a website, brochure, business cards etc are matter of grabbing our ‘tools’ out of our toolbox (such as our set colours, set fonts, our logo, our graphics we’ve developed, and our photography we’ve picked out) and arranging them. It may seem like a large initial investment upfront, but it saves you time and money in the long run. I can offer graphic design work after we do the branding process at a reduced rate because we have a system in place. Why put your time, energy and money into reinventing the wheel every damn day, when you can put some dedicated, uninterrupted time aside to working on your brand foundations upfront which will set you up for success for the life of your business? If you’re all about working SMARTER not HARDER, you’ll love the idea of developing a visual system and brand guidelines!
So I hope these reasons helped you understand the importance of the brand exercise!