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Is it some not-so-nice thing that you do with a hot metal apparatus to a cattle’s behind? Well, yes. That’s where the term was coined.
But there’s no need to heat any metal up to molten temperatures, or go anywhere near a cattle’s behind to craft yourself amazing visual business branding and avoid awful mistakes (whew!)
Maybe this is your first stab at ANY kind of business or brand for yourself, orrrr maybe you have a brand ( you think…) but you’re just not really in love with it and you know it’s not really doing what you want it to do.
It’s important to note, we’re just talking about your visual business branding in this article, so much more goes into setting up your brand as a whole. We start to touch on some of it here, as it pertains to your visual branding mistakes.
After having worked with literally hundreds of clients over the years, I’ve lined up 3 business branding mistakes I see made all the time that can seriously hinder your biz when you’re starting out. It goes beyond just not using neon yellow writing on top of white. (ouch, never ever, do this!) Let’s dive right into these cringe-worthy faux pas…
Mistake #1: Designing your brand visuals based on what YOU like, and never thinking of your client.
So all your friends know you loveeeee pink, and you just LOVE horses. That’s great! Pink is great. Horses are great. So naturally, you think it will be a GREAT idea to use pink all over your brand, and your logo has to incorporate a horse! Maybe with angel wings, because you love angels!
Back up there, flying horse fanatic. You’re starting a photography biz? A wedding one? Last I checked, brides weren’t too into hot pink ponies. Actually no one since Lisa Frank (hey 90s kids) has been into pink ponies.
You’re designing your business branding visuals based upon well, nothing but your personal taste and what YOU like. But….what about your client? You know, the one who will be paying the bills around here?
Redeem yourself: Put the horse back in the stall, and get your research hat on. WHO are you designing for? The answer is NOT yourself. Not your mom, not your spouse, not your kids and not your friends.
So, research them! Join Facebook groups that contain your ideal clients to get to know their thoughts and problems. Check out your competitor’s social media and visit their websites. They cater to who you also want to serve. What “vibe” does their marketing and brand give off? What feelings about the company come up for you when you first click on to their site or take in their marketing materials?
Sticking with our wedding photography example, do you perceive competitor brands as luxurious? Cheap? Are they well composed and clean, or kind of a hot mess that you wouldn’t trust to watch your pet parakeet for half an hour, much less give several thousand dollars to on the most important day of your life?
Next, choose some keywords that describe your ideal clients based on your research.
For our example wedding photographer, catering to brides to be, they could be elegant, sophisticated, clean.
Next, do a Google image search on your keywords.
Add things to the end like “logo”, so search for “elegant logo” or “clean bridal logo”
It’s important to note here, THIS IS FOR INSPIRATION! YOU CANNOT steal anything from Google as most images are protected by copyright. Who wants to just copy someone else, anyways? You’re too awesome for that.
As you’re image searching, pay attention to the similar elements the examples you’re seeing. Lots of white? Elegant invitation-like fonts? Light florals? Linen textures?
Great, now you’re getting somewhere with your business branding!
Somewhere with no horses, or hot pink. Truly, maybe YOU don’t really like flouncy fonts and pastels. But, when you think about a wedding, you think of those elements, and most other people do, too.
Of course, you want the majority of brides, to resonate with your brand, so they trust you, and know you understand your industry, and you have what they’re looking for.
Don’t think you can’t put ANY unique spin on things…you absolutely can, and you should.
For example, I love palm trees. My logo? A palm leaf. But is it neon green with a bright orange sun? No. Because I want to come off sophisticated, clean, light and fresh. I want to attract people who resonate with that look, the look that I carry through my entire brand, across all platforms and visuals.
But I can still keep the leaf, and keep that little individual to me twist. I just want to make it FIT with the “vibe” that I’m going for.
If you do it in alignment with the vibe you want to give off, you COULD indeed use a horse. Perhaps a refined, sleek silhouette.
Finding the right balance of unique, and fit to attract your ideal client is where the magic happens.
You get to build a visual identity that resonates with your ideal client, and doesn’t look like it was bought on Fivvr for $2 and every other person on earth has the same one.
Now that you know WHO you’re going to be creating your visual brand for, who’s going to actually design it? That segways nicely into mistake #2…
Mistake #2: Paying a small fortune for a logo design when you’re just starting out.
When people think about business branding, they tend to think of a logo, a couple of colors, and well, that’s IT. What we just described my friend, is a branding board, which is just ONE element of a brand!
Picture this: starting up your biz, you go out and find a design studio, with a fancy website, that has a picture of the smiling owner next to a fancy desk ornament and fake eucalyptus plant. Along with that comes a prettyyyy fancy price tag. This MUST be it.
This is business branding right?!!
Four figures slapped onto your credit card later, you get a logo, and it’s kinda ok, but you’re not even sure if you love it. But love can be bought for that price. You’ll deal.
Or, maybe you DO truly love it, but…..what now?
The design agency wanted another fee equivalent to a deposit on a used car to continue working with them. Your total sales so far fall between zero, and enough to buy a pretzel at the mall.
So you do what you can with your logo, but you honestly have NO idea how to incorporate it into anything else for your biz.
Are you getting your message across? Will redesigning your lead magnet for the 34th time produce the winner that you feel confident posting?
Sorry to say my friend, you don’t have a brand, you just have a logo.
A logo that you have no idea what to do with. And perhaps credit card debt. Ouch.
Redeem yourself: Back up. Way up. Put your credit card away. Stop Googling more logo designers to subject yourself to a round two.
Go back to your research that saved you from mistake #1, and take some time to review who your ideal client is. Are they sassy? Modern? Rugged? Laid back?
Sometimes (mostly, always) as a new brand, you don’t NEED a fancy logo and a corporate research team behind you. You need to see what works, and see where it goes in your first few months to a year. You might want to change everything once you know more about how your market will react to your services or products. I’ve even seen people learn their entire business idea is a flop. AFTER paying out their bum for a designer. Don’t do that.
So what SHOULD you do?
Invest in a DIY branding kit that includes a logo framework. I create such kits, which is why I believe in them yes, but that isn’t the ONLY reason I believe in them.
They’re a wonderful, low cost alternative to not only setting up a logo, but setting up a fully coordinated visual brand, which includes other marketing materials such as email templates, ebooks, social media templates, and more. We’ll get into that later.
Because the kits are DIY, you have enough creative freedom to do your thang, but enough structure from a professional to not just be left hanging in the dark, staring at a blank canvas and praying to whatever you believe in that a logo will materialize.
There are many options on Creative Market and Etsy or from independent creative studios like this one, that will present first time brand seekers with a variety of options. Look around to see what resonates, and KEEP YOUR IDEAL CLIENT in mind the entire time, as well as your personal flair and taste.
I highly recommend using Canva and buying templates that work with it.
This intuitive easy to use software will have you creating in no time, even if you aren’t a designer. And it has a FREE plan!
Take note, that you can’t use any elements in your logo that you steal from Google, or even from Canva!
It’s against their terms. Make sure you’re grabbing a logo template with a commercial license, or if you plan to get serious and want to trademark it someday (and you should!) make sure its a one of a kind (OOK) logo, or you can edit it to be completely unique!
Sometimes a “symbols only” logo, without any graphics, is a simple to create and unique mark for your brand, that doesn’t risk infringement with graphic elements.
So again, drop the butterflies and ponies.
After you find a logo framework you love, don’t fall victim to our next business branding mistake as you create…..
Mistake #3: Having 47 versions of your logo, and not using the same colors and fonts consistently, aka Brand Soup
Now you’ve got the foundations of your logo set up and you’re getting ready to finalize it. You’re thrilled! Plus, you still have enough money in your bank account to grab a nice bottle of wine and toast yourself to the occasion, too.
But now what? How do you go from a logo, to a visual brand?
You can’t stomach shelling out a three or four figure monthly fee to work with a designer on all of your marketing materials yet.
Sooooo you find a few free templates here in one style, pay for some there in a different style, ask your mom what font she likes, ask your dog what color he likes, and mash them altogether into “brand soup”.
Oh boy. Ding, that soup is done. Overdone, actually.
Your slide presentation has one look to it, while your Instagram feed has another. Sometimes, you use one version of your logo, and sometimes you use another. Your website and your email marketing look like they’ve never even met each other, never mind being part of the same brand.
You’re so confused, yet you Can’t. Stop. Changing. Everything.
If you think you’re confused, what is your ideal client thinking?! They don’t know who you are visually, what you stand for, and what they can expect from you. They recognize you one way, yet you show up tomorrow looking like someone else.
With no consistency, you fade into a black hole on the internet, never able to garner the kind of following and sales you desire.
Your brand soup has spilled all over your business, and it’s a steaming mess.
Redeem Yourself: Clean up the spill, by going back to your logo. Enter the brand board again! Told you it had a use. Use an organizer like this one to create an unbreakable contract with your brand.
No one loves rules (especially entrepreneurs, amirite?) But in this case, a couple of rules are going to be key.
Use all that research you did to redeem yourself from mistakes #1 and #2, to get a feel for your ideal client and what you want your visual brand to SAY to them. Remember to image search your keywords, and really take in the “vibes” you get, the font styles, imagery, icons and photos.
You can use Canva to access hundreds of fonts, as well as hundreds of photos and graphic elements. Create your brand visual guide and mood board, using the inspiration you dug up.
Pick 2 colors, and 2 fonts, and make sure they’re the same ones from your logo. Yes, it will be hard. No, you can NOT change them, at least for your first year. This is part of the contract you’re signing with your brand!
Doing 3 versions of the brand board can help with your decision, so you don’t feel like you HAVE to get it right on the first try.
Put together three different logo designs and boards you like, sit on it for a couple of days, ask colleagues and friends,(and not the ones who tell you everything is beautiful. So basically, not your mom) and choose one. Commit to that choice.
For the next while, you’re in a monogamous relationship with your brand style. You might break up someday, but at least give it a fair chance!
Now, be SURE to use the chosen logo, submark, colors and fonts for EVERY. SINGLE. VISUAL. YOU. CREATE.
No questions asked! Every template you buy, use those colors and fonts.
These visuals will be how people identify you, at least until you do choose to invest in a full rebrand as you grow.
Once you’re rocking and rolling, you can consider Googling design agencies again, because congrats, you not only can afford one now but most importantly, you actually know who you and your brand are, and you have something for them to work off of.
The chances of getting a good result are so much higher, when you’re able to communicate to a designer or team exactly WHO you serve and how you serve them.
A visual business branding kit can make all of this easier for you by supplying you with templates for popular marketing items that ALREADY tie together, so you can be sure that you’re coming across cleanly without a soup stain down your front.
If you’ve made it this far, congrats, you’re the brand spanking new owner of a visual brand that actually resonates with your ideal clients AND didn’t cost you your first born.
You’ve avoided some common business branding mistakes that people fall into when they’re just starting out, or you’ve successfully redeemed yourself from them!
Now you can sit back and move on to the really fun business stuff, like taxes, and oh yeah, whatever it is you started this business to do with your life in the first place!
You’ve officially been visually branded. No molten metal needed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tamara is a Graphic Design & Brand Building expert that helps entrepreneurs craft the perfect brand. She gets inside your head to bring your dream brand out and to life! She’s been creative since, well, birth, and she spends her time traveling with her race car driver fiancée and she’s obsessed with her cat.
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