Branding Tips For Beginners

Branding Tips For Beginners

Ever heard of BackRub? Established in 1996 as a cutting edge search engine, BackRub checked the number of back-links to a website in order to rank its importance. This preliminary brand name, along with its alarmingly literal BackRub logo, didn’t last long. In one of the most inspired branding revamps of all time, the founders of BackRub changed the name to Google, and the rest is history.

Establishing your Brand

The concept of branding may sound like an airy fairy notion, far removed from the nuts and bolts reality of running a small business – all well and good for big players with big marketing budgets, but way down the list of priorities for a small firm with a million and one more pressing demands. So, why care about branding?

Branding is Reputation

You might not realise it, but your business already has a brand. Branding is reputation. If you consider your reputation to be important, and if you have put time and effort into building up your business reputation, then branding matters to you. It is through branding that you will secure customer trust and loyalty and attract new customers to grow your business.

It’s worth taking the time to focus on your business by putting together a brand plan. Involve your staff – brainstorm ideas, encourage creativity, make it fun so everyone they feels included and valued.

First Impressions

It may be an old cliche, but first impressions really do count. Think about the routes by which potential customers find you – it could be that they walk in off the street or look you up in Yellow Pages, but it’s more likely these days that they’ll find you via your website or even an external website such as Trip Advisor. Make sure you understand all the ways customers get to know about your business – their first experience is all part and parcel of your brand image.

What Makes You So Special?

Distinctive branding will set your business apart from the competition, strengthen your identity and encourage customer loyalty. Take a look at your logo. Customers will get to know you through your logo, so make sure it is unique, attractive and professional. Do you have a tag line? A snappy one-liner that sums up the essence of your business can give your brand focus even if you decide not to use it in the end.

Define your company values. Core values that chime with those of your customers will help establish an emotional connection to your brand. Encourage feedback from your customers and promote the values that you know you have in common. Establishing a connection and building up trust will generate repeat custom and bring in new customers through word of mouth.

Be True to Your Brand

Finally, keep your branding consistent. Once your brand is established and you know it is working well, don’t be tempted to chop and change. Successful branding takes time to develop, so stay true to your brand, give it chance to grow and it is certain to help you deliver the goods.

Why Do You Need A Branding Strategy?

How Wearing a Grey T-shirt can Get People Talking

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has become one of the most recognised figures of modern times. A young, dynamic, entrepreneur with the whole world at his feet, dressed in that signature grey t-shirt, occasionally set off by a fetching zip-up hoodie.

When asked about his resolute attachment to the grey t-shirt at a recent Q&A session, his response was sober and cautious. He assured the audience that he didn’t have energy to waste on anything as frivolous as choosing what to wear in the morning – he needs all his energy to devote to his work.

But Robin Wight from the Communications Group Engine, is not convinced. He thinks that Zuckerberg’s uniform of choice points to one thing: Branding Strategy. “Brands need to show continuity, and Mark Zuckerberg is very much part of the Facebook brand,” he says. So, like Steve Jobs before him, Mark Zuckerberg has cannily adopted a consistent dress code in order to promote his brand.

Branding is Communication

The grey t-shirt uniform is just one example of how there is more to branding than simply designing a corporate logo and sticking it on everything. An effective branding strategy will help you connect with your customers and make your business grow. Once your strategy is in place, it can be put straight to work, pulling in customers and keeping them loyal.

Three Reasons for Developing a Branding Strategy

1. Focus

The day-to-day responsibilities of setting up and running a business will inevitably place many demands on your time and energy. Somewhere along the way there is a good chance that you will become swept up in it all and lose sight of the bigger picture. Taking a step back to focus on the key messages you need to communicate to your customers can revitalise your business and really pay dividends.

2. Get yourself noticed

Your brand is what sets you apart from your competitors. Customers will soon get to know your business through your branding, and if you get it right they will learn to pick you out from the competition, just as a familiar face stands out from the crowd.

3. Connect with your core customers and attract new ones

Once you have tested your strategy and know that it’s working, it’s important to keep your branding solid and consistent to ensure that it becomes established. Pay attention to details such as logo placement, tag line, colour scheme and choice of font.

As you gain confidence in your branding strategy, you will be able to use it in new ways to reach new customers For example, social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest can be used to spread the word about what your business has to offer. If the whole concept of social media leaves you bewildered, the Dummies Cheat Sheet: Using Social Media to Promote your Business is a good place to start.

Developing your branding strategy can be fun and stimulating way to grow your business. Get it right and it will deliver for you in the long run… and don’t worry, it won’t mean you have to fill your wardrobe with grey T-shirts.

What Your Font Says About You

Meet Cracked Johnnie. He’s a bit of an animal, wild and anarchic. And here’s Moonbeam, soft and gentle with a hint of quiet sophistication. Then there’s Little Lord Fontleroy, fancy and high falutin’ just as you’d expect.

The Fonts You Choose are like the Company You Keep.

Fonts really are like people, they each have their own individual style and spirit. So, Cracked Johnnie would go down a storm at your upcoming mad bash, but you probably wouldn’t want him around when you’re dining with your in-laws. Try leaving Little Lord Fontleroy at the local high school, and he’d be having his head flushed in the toilet during the very first break time.

There are more than 100,000 fonts to choose from – this gives you a massive amount of artistic freedom, but such a dizzying multitude can soon send you screwball. When it comes to selecting a particular font, it’s worth putting some thought into the impression you want to make on your target audience. For example, the professional networking site LinkedIn has based its logo on the very business-like, no nonsense font Myriad Bold, whereas the Twitter logo is based on the fun and friendly Pico Alphabet.

It might also help to think about fonts as belonging to different families. So for a nostalgic feel, you could choose a font from the Retro family; for an edgy mood, go for a Graffiti font, and if you want a combative flavour, try an Military font.

How Your Font Could be a Tattle-Tale

In the same way that some companies hire a graphologist to analyse handwriting to determine the personality and character traits of the writer, it is now likely that your choice of fonts will also come under scrutiny. Most word processing applications have a super safe go-to font such as Times New Roman or Arial, but what message are you giving if you stick with such a font? You may feel that it gives a dependable air of integrity, on the other hand it could give the impression that you are boring, stuffy and timid. Oh, and a word about Cambria, the post-2007 Microsoft go-to font. Stick with Cambria and you’re telling the world that you are oblivious to the whole concept of font selection and you are simply hostage to the default.

Cracked Johnnie on your CV will send a very definite message about you to your potential employer, just as a obituary in Comic Sans is not likely to go down well with the bereaved. There is a time and a place for unbridled creativity, you also need to know when it’s best to rein it in and tone things down.

Get to Know Your Fonts

With so many fonts out there, it’s no wonder that choice of font has become a whole art form in its own right. Try getting to know your fonts – test them out, see how they behave, give them space to play, be adventurous. Go on, have a blast!

5 Vital Logo Design Tips

Your logo matters, it is the face of your brand. Designing a logo that has impact and delivers the right message is a creative process requiring both technical knowledge and an artistic touch. Here are five design pointers for you to chew over.

1. Preparation

The first step in its development is to do the groundwork. Consider your target audience – what type of people do you need to attract? Whether they are tech-savvy teenagers or steam-age pensioners, high-flying professionals or first time mums you’ll need to bear them in mind when developing your logo. Aim your design at the right audience and it will inspire trust and loyalty to your brand. Get it wrong and your logo will flop.

2. Choose colours and fonts wisely

Different colours manipulate our emotions in different ways and can strongly influence how we feel about a brand. Compare the busy, vibrant colours of the London 2012 logo with the cool blue and white simplicity of technology giant HP. The same goes for the choice of font – different styles of font are carefully crafted to give very different messages. Be aware thatyour logo needs to both draw in customers and convey the right message about your brand. The combination of options is staggering, but in skilful hands the correct choice of colours and font can be used very effectively to appeal to your customers.

3. Dare to be distinctive – Make that logo your own

You want your logo to speak for your business, to be recognised and stand out from the competition. You might think it best to keep things simple, but play it too safe and you will end up with a logo that is uninspired, unmemorable and unloved. It takes a designer with experience, technical ability and creative flair to craft a unique, distinctive look that will engage your customers and keep them coming back.

4. Make it flexible

Think about how your logo will be used – on promotional material such as flyers and leaflets, on websites and social media… it may even need to be giant size for posters and billboards. If your logo will be viewed mainly at phones and tablets, it’s worth checking it out on a small screen. Your design might have to look good scaled from tiny to humongous and this will need to be thoroughly tested at the design stage – get it wrong and it could be back to the drawing board.

5. Test it out

Once you have developed your prototype logo, it’s really important to run it by different people and gauge their reaction. Something that looks good to you might be very different to the eyes of your target audience. Any useful feedback you receive can then be incorporated into the design – far better than being stuck with an unsuitable logo or having to scrap the whole thing and start over.

Your logo is an vital part of your brand identity. Get the design right and it will go straight to work, providing loyal and trusty service for you and your business.

Seven Of The Worst Logo Designs

It can all go so horribly wrong. From the merely banal or baffling to the humongous bloopers; pitfalls abound. Some mistakes are easily made and easy to put right at the design stage. Others… well, let’s just say you have to really go the extra mile to blow it that badly.

Logo no-no’s

And so here is a choice selection of logo no-no’s for you to consider. Not all mistakes are glaringly obvious, and you might even find some of them to your liking, but that’s the colourful world logo design for you. Enjoy!

1. London 2012

Who can forget the vivid, pulsating in-your-face arrival of the London 2012 logo. From the moment it bounced sickeningly onto our screens and into our national psyche it came in for a good kicking. A headline in the Telegraph declared it ‘puerile’, even the Guardian snickered up its sleeve at the resemblance of Lisa Simpson giving a blow job. And when the Iranians threatened to pull out because they saw the word “Zion”, you’d think the designers would go quietly back to the drawing board. But love it or loathe it, the London 2012 logo stayed the course and has become one of the classic icons of recent years.

2. Kids Exchange

This one is rather unfortunate. It’s a good example of something that should have been picked up at the design stage. Running the words ‘Kids Exchange’ together like that was a serious error of judgement. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?

3. Junior Jazz

Now this one takes a bit of imagination, but once you’ve noticed the naked female torso you can’t see it any other way. Given the nature of the organisation, it’s very unlikely that the illusion is deliberate. Oops!

4. Anthony Byrne

Another dubious symbol that someone should have spotted during the prototype stage. Maybe someone did see it but decided to keep schtum. It’s a bit of a balls up in any case.

5. The misplaced apostrophe

We all know what happens when an apostrophe is set out of place – it can make a huge difference to a sentence and to the way we read words. Really you’d have thought that a company like Stella Artoiswould know better.

6. Too much information

Sometimes an appealing logo design can be ruined by the addition of too much text. This Martial Arts Centre has managed to cram the full name of the business and list its services all in one little logo. Is that really a good idea? Your message should be clear, concise and simple – not require your customers to turn their heads 380 degrees to read your logo.

7. Choose your font wisely

You think you’re saying one thing, but choose the wrong font and your message can take on a whole new meaning. This is what we mean when we say that your logo should be readable both when it’s small and when it’s blown up. See examples of all sizes to see how the text works or you’ll end up making a faux pas yourself, just like the Wig and Pen pub did.

Speaking of fonts, there is one particular font to be avoided at all costs. Take a look at these famous logos changed to Comic Sans. Eww!

So if you think that designing your own logo is a doddle, you’d better think again. The art of logo design requires a combination of technical skill and creative flair. You will want your logo to be memorable for all the right reasons so it’s worth taking the time and trouble to get it right. Invest in a professional designer with a track record in successful logo design to create a logo that will make you proud.

4 Classic Logo Designs From Marketing History

Michelin Man: The Inflatable Poster Boy

Michelin Man, also known as Bibendum. is one of the world’s oldest trademarks. He was brought to life in 1898 by French artist O’Gallup in a series of extraordinary marketing posters featuring a rotund, cigar chomping Bibendum in a variety of outlandish situations.

In O’Gallup’s first poster, Bibendum raises a glass of champagne laced with rusty nails and broken glass, declaring a toast: ‘To Your Good Health’. It is a bizarre image, but an explanation of sorts is provided by the marketing slogan: The Michelin Tyre Drinks up Obstacles. Bibendum’s antics continue in 1935 with a short animation The birth of Bibendum. This strange and beautiful cartoon shows Michelin Man being created from a stack of tyres. He then inflates himself to enormous proportions, trashes the local town and floats into outer space where he hitches a ride back to earth on a passing comet.

Why is Michelin Man made of white tyres? Very early tyres were light in colour, it was only in 1912 that carbon black was introduced to the manufacturing process, by which time Bibendum was a well established marketing mascot. The years have been kind to Bibendum, and he is now a friendlier, slimmed down version of his former self.

Coca-Cola: Red, White and You

Nothing has more staying power than the Coca Cola logo with its timeless cursive lettering, familiar the world over since 1887. The logo uses Spencerian script, a very popular style in 19th Century America, and has changed very little over the years. The early logo incorporated the word “Trademark” in the first C swirl, but by 1941 this had disappeared. 1969 saw the appearance of the “Dynamic Ribbon”, which was redesigned in 2002 with the addition of a narrow yellow band, only to be simplified back to basics in 2005.

The Evolution of a Mermaid

The story of the enigmatic Starbucks Siren goes back to 1971 when Starbucks set up its first Coffee Shop on the Seattle waterfront. Looking for a logo to reflect the marine theme of their home city, the founders explored pictures in old seafaring books, eventually settling on a Norse woodcut of a two-tailed mermaid. The seductive siren certainly drew the eye, but a problem arose when it came time for the logo to be scaled up. A huge, naked mermaid displayed on the side of delivery trucks didn’t quite fit the brand image, and so she underwent a makeover. Her new hairdo provided cover from strategically placed long locks, and she evolved into the demure Starbucks Siren we know today.

The 3-Stripes logo

The Adidas brand was founded in the 1940s by German entrepreneur Adi Dassler. In a stroke of marketing genius he contracted his own name to coin the brandname Adidas, and registered a shoe incorporating the soon-to-be iconic 3-stripes, all on the same day in August 1949. The Adidas logo has undergone several transformations over years, shape-shifting from parallel lines to trefoil to mountain to globe, but the 3-stripes remain constant. The current logo symbolises the challenge of reaching the heights of your goals and ambition.

Weaking Logos: Small Changes That Worked (And Some That Didn’t)

Whenever a large corporation makes even the tiniest of tweaks to its logo, there’s one thing you can guarantee – it won’t go unnoticed. There is an army of eagle-eyed logo spotters out there, poised to pounce, scrutinise and pronounce judgement. Here are five logo changes and the reactions they have provoked from the logo watchers.

Agghh! Change it Back!

To mark its transition from American chocolate maker to global confectionery giant, Hershey’s announced with great fanfare the unveiling of a new logo. From printed material and websites to the design of offices and shops, this new “visual identity system” would be rolled out all the way. At first glance the changes to the logo aren’t all that earth shattering – “Hershey’s” shortened to “Hershey” and a modern flat-design makeover – but it is the updated Kisses emblem that really catches the eye. Stripped of its enticing silver wrapper and pared down to a simple, flat shape, the new symbol bears a striking resemblance to a certain unpleasant emoji. Verdict from logo watchers? Eww!

Small Change, Big Difference

Big news: Black and Decker has lost its nut. This iconic brand image, familiar to DIYers for nearly 100 years, has been dropped. Along with the nut, the robust ampersand has also gone, to be replaced by an awkward looking + sign. Each individual change might not seem much, but the overall effect is huge. Online reaction to the Black and Decker logo has not been kind – vanilla, generic, weak and cheap. Oh dear.

No Flocking the Bird

In 2012 the top brass at Twitter made an announcement: No longer did they see a place for text in their logo. Henceforth the bird alone would stand as the universal symbol of Twitter. In a game of spot the difference, logo watchers pinpointed the most significant change to the Twitter bird: Its punk hairdo had been given the chop. Along with the new bird came a string of ‘usage guidelines’, including ‘don’t flock the bird with other birds’ and ‘don’t anthropomorphize the bird’. This provoked the headline Twitter goes Trademark Crazy from New Statesman, who then immediately set out to break the rules by publishing a picture of the Twitter bird on a skateboard.

Panda Express

A familiar sight in the shopping malls and airport food courts of the United States, fast-food chain Panda Express recently gave its logo a little tweak. The distinctive panda symbol remains unchanged, but a softer font, toned-down red and the change of wording from ‘Gourmet Chinese Food’ to ‘Chinese Kitchen’ has given a friendlier feel to the overall logo. Thumbs up for Panda Express from the logo watchers.

and finally…


For over 55 years, Visa has enjoyed one of the most enduring and recognisable logos the world over. Throughout that time the font has remained constant and the colour scheme hardly altered, but every so often Visa refreshes the brand image with a slight shift in detail. The latest makeover sees Visa losing its yellow flick and turning a darker shade of blue with a subtle gradient. The verdict: Fine… but why?

Using Colours In Logo Design

The psychology of colour in branding and logo design is a fascinating subject to explore. Colour can be used as a powerful tool to influence our thoughts and emotions at an unconscious level, so it’s little wonder that theory of colour provokes so much discussion and controversy. A cursory internet search reveals a rainbow of diagrams and infographics with advice such as: Red conveys power and passion, green is soothing, yellow is cheery – but is that all there is to it?

Take a look at how these famous brands have made the colours work in for them.

Cadbury’s Purple

The colour purple is associated with sophistication and luxury. Confectionery giant Cadbury has used its rich and distinctive shade of purple in its packaging for a hundred years. Cadbury’s purple, technically known as Pantone 2865c, became something of a cause celebre when Cadbury took to the law to register it as a colour trade mark. If allowed, this would protect the brand by preventing competitors within the same market sector from fooling customers with confusing lookalikes. In an epic ten year legal tug-of-war with Nestle, the two giants battled it out. Cadbury was eventually forced to concede defeat in 2014, but the fight for Pantone 2865c might yet reignite.

Subverting the Colour Pink

Most colour infographics will tell you that pink is a feminine colour which elicits feelings of softness and innocence. But in a stroke of branding genius, the Sex Pistols twisted the sweet nature of pink into an aggressive, in-your-face blast. Subverting pink in this way, and combining it with a fierce, primary yellow brings on an intense discordance that is every inch Sex Pistols.

The Colours of Fast Food

Check out the logos of many fast food chains and you’ll notice a common theme in the choice of colours: a combination of brilliant red and glowing yellow. It might seem obvious that these are exciting, attention grabbing colours, but it is also claimed that they can trigger appetite and encourage a sense of urgency. This not only gets customers in the mood for fast food fare, but it also makes them more likely to eat quickly. It goes right to the core of the fast food restaurant model – to get customers through the door and speedily satisfy their cravings so that customer throughput is kept to the max.

The No-Colour Logo that Grabs Attention

The expression ‘less is more’ is bandied about a lot in the world of logo design. Ogio wine has taken this principle to the extreme with its sleek, slate grey brand colour and perfectly circular hole taking the place of an image. With absolutely no distracting details or extraneous information, Ogio’s supercool branding makes the bottle stand out on the supermarket shelf, drawing the eye of customers away from its competitors. It really works!

It is clear that the effects if colour in branding and logo design can be complex and surprising. Get it right and the colours you choose will catch the eye, resonate with your target audience and convey deeper meaning about your brand.

What’s In A Name? Branding A New Business

Choosing a name for your new business is a big deal. It is one of the first things you need to decide when starting out, and once chosen it will influence everything else, from logo and website design, to business cards and promotional material. But most of all, just as your own name stays with you, so will your business name. Although it might be possible to change it down the line if you find you’ve made a horrible mistake, that scenario is best avoided by getting it right first time.

So, no pressure then. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Think of your customers

This might seem obvious, but the name you settle on for your new business must appeal to your target audience. For example, tech-savvy youngsters are not likely to be attracted to the same name as their steam-age grandparents. In terms of brand identity and reputation your business name will be front row, centre. It will play a key role in attracting customers and promoting your business, so think about the message your name conveys.

Kick around ideas

A brainstorming session with others will spark new ideas and also help narrow down the field. You might think of words like ‘safe, reliable and trustworthy’, or use an entirely different pallete such as ‘exciting, vibrant and fun’. The name you choose needs to strike the right chord with your customers and reflect the vision and values of your business.

Descriptive or Creative?

If you want to play it safe, a descriptive name will do the job better than one that is creative. Many sole traders stick with their own name to promote their business, but this may not feel right for your start-up. Consider including a word that informs customers about your values, such as ‘eco’ or ‘green’, or a reference to your location.

Creative names are altogether more tricky. Puns can work well and attract attention, but you run the risk of making your customers feel dumb if they don’t get it. Tech companies and businesses hoping to build up a strong web presence might go for zappy or deliberately misspelled words – think Skype or Flickr. A word of warning: if you have that unique, killer name all ready to roll, make sure you do some thorough research before taking the plunge – you don’t want to land yourself with a name that is unintentionally inappropriate like these poor guys.

Fancy a bit of entertainment? 

Have a go with an online Business Name Generator. You type in a word related to your business – say ‘garden’ – and it generates a whole bunch of nutty made-up names for you to consider. So, ‘garden’ becomes Gardenicious, Dynagarden and Gardenosis. Well, OK, maybe not.

and finally…

Invest in a professional

Choosing a name for your new business should be exciting and fun, but it can become fraught with dilemmas. If it starts to feel like an overwhelming and gruelling task, don’t struggle to the point of exhaustion – seek advice from the experts. A professional designer will work alongside you to help decide on a name that will give your new business the best possible start.

What On Earth Were They Thinking?

When it comes to branding fails, there seems to be a general rule: the bigger they are, the more spectacular the goof. Here’s a round up of some of the more memorable big brand fails across the years.


Relaunching a well established brand is always a risky move, but PepsiCo, makers of supermarket bestseller Tropicana, really pulled out all the stops with its new look Tropicana carton in 2009. The original Tropicana OJ packaging certainly ticked all the right boxes for branding success. With its eye-catching design of a whole orange pierced with a jaunty drinking straw, and the distinctive Tropicana brand name emblazoned across the top, shoppers had no trouble reaching for the right carton without a moment’s thought. Then came the rebrand. Oh dear. The original, unique design was replaced with a super-safe, generic picture of a glass of juice, and an almost apologetic looking Tropicana script clinging vertically to the edge.

Supermarket shoppers reaching the juice section were confused. Where was the Tropicana? Many of them overlooked new packaging, mistaking it for the in-store bargain brand juice. Sales plummeted, and it took PepsiCo just a month to announce that it would revert Tropicana to the original packaging – smart move.

Touch of Yoghurt Shampoo

Shampoo manufacturers are forever experimenting with new ideas and enticing new ‘flavours’. Sometimes it seems that anything goes – chilli pepper, beer, chocolate – but how about yoghurt? If you’re thinking ‘hmm, soured milk in my hair, what a great idea’ then you’re in a tiny minority. The Clairol product bombed and was almost immediately withdrawn from the market. Nice try though.

Earring Magic Ken

In 1992, Barbie went earring crazy with ‘Mix and Match Earring Magic for Barbie and You!’ Girls loved the idea, and the new doll went down a storm. Flushed with success, Mattel hit upon another brilliant idea: Earring Magic Ken! Given a ‘cool’ makeover of blond highlights and pierced left ear, fetching lavender faux-leather vest and matching mesh shirt, Ken hit the shops. Sales were buoyant – in fact, Earring Magic Ken quickly became the best selling Ken model ever – but fans of this particular Ken were definitely not Mattel’s target customers. Dubbed ‘gay Ken’ in the media, the mums and dads of Barbie enthusiasts made it very clear they were not amused. Mattel hastily withdrew the product from sale, and Earring Magic Ken bit the dust.

Colgate Kitchen Entrees

Sometimes you can see the logic behind the idea, but somehow it doesn’t quite work. Colgate Kitchen Entrees is a case in point. Think Colgate, think clean teeth, so the concept of a ready meal adorned with the Colgate logo doesn’t seem so incongruous. Trouble is, the unconscious association between the taste of food and the taste of minty toothpaste is very confusing and, really, not terribly pleasant. Little wonder that Colgate Kitchen Entrees crashed and burned.

So, hats off to all the big corporations out there taking risks to keep us entertained – it would be a dull world without them!