Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Branding is one of the most important factors in startup success, but if handled incorrectly, it can be pointless. Worse, poor identity design could end up being an unexpected roadblock to the overall success of your business.
Here’s how return on investment and brand identity meet, once you know how to get the most value from your efforts.
Defining your identity
Your brand identity includes all of your visuals and relates to your larger personality, which should inform the design.
For example: when choosing colors, it’s more than just a question of what you like — though personal preference can be a factor, since it’s also important that you like your branding. You’re going to be working with it a lot.
The psychology of color is a good starting point: Particular hues are more likely to appeal to certain demographics, so you wouldn’t want to choose anything that is more likely to alienate, rather than draw, your audience. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of research into your desired demographic before you settle questions of design.
Your brand identity includes your logo, your style guide — colors, fonts, graphics, styles, etc. — any graphics, the way in which you provide visual information, and your ability to provide clarity across all branding efforts.
Developing your identity
In the interests of timeline and getting your company under way, you may be tempted to have more than one designer on board, each hammering out options according to your brief. But in my experience, this stilts the growth of the brand identity as a whole. You want your look to feel organic, as though each individual piece belongs with the others. The best way to ensure this is to move deliberately, letting each piece of graphic design play into the next.
Customers are smart, they can sniff out a fake a mile away. Especially today, when no one hesitates to “cancel” someone who plays false, it’s more important than ever that your identity aligns to your core values from the beginning. Almost 90 percent of consumers weigh authenticity when deciding what brands to support, so there needs to be consistency between what you say within your visuals and what you actually do.
It’s, of course, important to also plan for the future. You may be looking at a small startup launch today, but your hope should be to escalate that with touch-points along the way. Opt for simplicity within the design, allowing for more uses of your logo and style guide. Make sure it looks good in black and white, on different backgrounds and in different iterations. What product packaging might it need to be included on? What forms of advertising might you use later on? And always make sure that it’s a scalable vector format.
Be ruthless in the cause of cohesiveness. This becomes a bit harder as your startup actually launches and you see some signs of success. It can be tempting to start throwing out content, advertisements, or products without due vetting process, in attempts to capitalize on that initial success. But cohesiveness in branding is a must, so don’t get too attached to marketing strategies or content that doesn’t fit within your look.
Mining your identity
Once you have your look all packed and ready to go, my advice is to avoid spilling it all at once. A steady flow of branded content is better for building sustainable marketing than a gush of content, which will end up overwhelming and ultimately alienate your target audience.
If you handle it right, your brand identity will end up bringing true value to your new endeavor.