Branding your business
Effective branding can give your business a competitive edge.
Our detailed branding guide will help you build an awesome brand and stand out from the crowd.
It might sound ridiculous, but you need to determine what type of personality your brand will have.
Is it fun and playful? Friendly and helpful? Trustworthy? Rebellious and a bit on the wild side? Environmentally conscious?
The personality should be in line with what your target market will want. It should also reflect the type of business that you want to own and operate.
For example, customers would expect a financial institution to be trustworthy, not rebellious. An organic food producer would be expected to be environmentally concious.
Work out what type of personality your brand should have. This brand persona will help you to create the right branding.
One of the things to consider when creating your persona is ‘tone of voice’. For example, the articles on HomeBusiness.com.au are written in a fairly informal, conversational style. Our aim is to deliver content that’s easy to read, engaging and has helpful information for our audience.
Given that your brand persona is built largely around the preferences of your target market, it’s also helpful to create a customer persona.
Creating a customer persona is a great way to work out the most effective branding and product offerings for your target market.
It’s really easy. It’s simply a matter of creating some fictional characters that represent your target market.
Here’s an example customer persona for HomeBusiness.com.au.
Customer persona: Emma
Emma is a parent with a young child. She lives with her partner in their own home.
She works full time in an office job that she finds unfulfilling.
What she wants:
- The ability to work from home, so that she has more family time.
- To work on something that she’s passionate about.
Her biggest problems or worries:
- Emma hasn’t setup or run a business before and she doesn’t know where to start.
- She has some ideas about products to sell, but she isn’t sure if it will make enough money.
- Emma worries that the home business could fail and put their home or financial security at risk.
- She wonders how she will have time to start the business, given the demands on her time from her job and family responsibilities.
How Emma finds information, products and services:
- When Emma is looking for information, she typically goes online to find it. In particular, she often uses Google to find what she’s looking for online.
- Emma often purchases online, as she finds it convenient and it saves her time.
- When Emma tries new products or services, it’s often based on recommendations from her friends and family. These recommendations can be from conversations face-to-face, over the phone, by email, SMS or through Facebook. She also Skypes with her friends based overseas from time to time.
You could create just one customer persona, or you could do two or three. We currently have three customer personas for HomeBusiness.com.au.
With your customer persona completed, you can tailor your branding, marketing and product offerings accordingly.
You may need to do some research on your target market, before you can create personas that accurately represent your intended customers.
Consistency in branding is important.
Your branding should be consistent across your website, business cards, packaging, social media accounts, and so on.
For example, if you use particular colours in your logo and on your packaging, make sure this is also reflected in the design of your website and on your business cards. By being consistent across these various mediums, you’ll create a much stronger brand image.
The colours used in your branding can affect how people perceive your business.
People’s perceptions of colours can be influenced by many factors, but one of these is how colours are commonly used in branding and marketing. The distinct purple of a Cadbury chocolate bar wrapper is instantly recognisable, as is the golden yellow ‘M’ and the rich red used by McDonald’s in their branding.
We also take cues from the world around us. We associate green with nature, because of course plants have green foliage. We associate orange and red with warmth, because we see those colours in fire.
Here’s a few examples of how colours have been used in branding.
Motorbike brands such as Harley Davidson use lots of black. Other brands that go all in on black include Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, and nearly every heavy metal band.
It’s often said that the colour red invokes a sense of ‘excitement’ or ‘passion’. This could explain why so many companies use red in their branding, such as Red Bull with their bright red and yellow logo.
Green is used a lot for ‘eco’ or environmentally friendly products, along with earthy colours like brown. The image above is the homepage of The Wilderness Society website, which is a good example of this.
For kids products, it’s often pink for girls and blue for boys.
Blue is often regarded as being ‘calming’ and ‘trustworthy’. It’s no coincidence that ANZ Bank’s branding is based heavily around the colour blue.
You should be selecting colours that fit with the brand image that you want to project, but you should also be selecting colours that reflect what your target market would expect.
For example, if you’re selling kids toys it’s probably not a great idea to use lots of dark, moody colours, like black. A better approach might be to use lots of bright colours that convey a sense of fun.
When your branding includes multiple colours, it’s also important to make sure they don’t clash. Some colour combinations look really awkward, which of course is not what you want for your brand.
A final point to consider on colour is contrast. Your logo should be easily discernible and any text should be clear to read.
For example, a blue logo image with just slightly lighter blue text would be really difficult to read, as there isn’t enough contrast between the two colours. Here’s a fictional example:
Here’s a real world example of effective contrast in a logo:
The first example is hard to read, because the contrast is terrible. The choice of font in the fictional logo example also isn’t great, which leads us to the next topic.
It’s important to choose effective fonts for your logo, website text, business cards and so on.
The font should be appropriate to the brand image that you want to convey.
It’s also important that the font is easy to read. Very cursive, fancy fonts are not great for most applications.
Here’s some examples of good and bad font selections for use as the main body text on your website.
That font is Edwardian Script ITC Regular. Sure it looks pretty, but reading website pages that use this font for body text would be tedious.
That font is Roboto Regular and it’s clearly much easier to read. Roboto is the font that we use for the body text on HomeBusiness.com.au.
Your logo should clearly convey your business brand.
The best logos are iconic and instantly recognisable. Here’s some examples:
The companies in this example also have versions of their logos that incorporate their brand name in text.
Many logos include pictures or symbols, but some brands use only text in their logos. Our logo for HomeBusiness.com.au is an example of a typographic logo. Another example is Google.
Great logos are usually quite simple in their design. You should definitely adopt a ‘less is more’ approach when it comes to designing your own logo.
Over-complicated logos have less impact and are less memorable.
A really detailed, complicated logo will also not work as well across a broad range of mediums. For example, it wouldn’t be clear when printed on a calico bag. It can also be difficult to make out the details of a complicated logo when it’s displayed at smaller sizes, such as on the side of a promotional pen or when your website is being viewed on a mobile device.
Here’s some questions to ask yourself when coming up with a design for your logo:
- Does the logo reflect the brand image that you want?
- Is the logo appropriate for your industry, product offerings and target market?
- Is the logo too similar to existing logos?
- Will the logo still be clear at smaller sizes?
- Will the logo still look good in black and white?
- Will the logo look good against a range of background colours?
Of course if you’re not a design-wizard, you can always get someone else to design your logo. In fact, it’s usually a good idea to get your logo professionally designed.
The more details that you provide in your brief for the designer, the better the result is likely to be. For more tips, check out our handy guide: Get a great logo for less.
Having a dedicated online presence is crucial for most businesses.
Some businesses choose to use third party platforms, such as Facebook, as their only online presence. While this offers a quick and easy way to get started, it does have some drawbacks. For starters, you have limited control over branding when using a platform like Facebook. You’re entangling your branding with Facebook, because the pages will always show their brand front and center. You can’t change the layout, colouring or fonts used across Facebook, because it’s not your brand.
If you want full control of your branding, then you need your own website.
Of course social media can play a big role in your online branding, but it’s usually not wise to rely on it entirely.
A terrific platform for websites is WordPress.
WordPress was originally designed for blogging, with a powerful content management system (CMS) at its core, but its ease of use and extensibility has seen it become a platform of choice for a huge variety of applications – from ecommerce stores to community forums.
The terrific thing about WordPress, beyond its hugely capable CMS, is that it can be greatly enhanced using plugins and themes. Themes can be used to transform the look of a website, while plugins can be used to add functionality (new capabilities).
We’re using the Bridge theme on HomeBusiness.com.au.
By making use of WordPress, you can have a fantastic looking website up and running in no time.
For the social media platforms that you intend to use for your business, it’s great to get the ‘handle’, username or page URL that matches your business name or key product offering.
However, with so many social media users, your first choice is often already taken.
That’s when you need to find a variation that makes sense.
We couldn’t get ‘HomeBusiness’ for our social media accounts, so we went with @AUSHomeBusiness for our Twitter handle.
Another variation that people sometimes use, is to add their domain name extension preceded by underscores, like so: @HomeBusiness_com_au. This wasn’t an option for our Twitter handle, as there’s a limit of 15 characters.
For branding consistency, we also use AUSHomeBusiness for our Facebook page.
Social media activities can consume a lot of your time, so also check out my article that can help you to maximise the benefits from social media.
Choosing a brand name
Choosing a brand name is usually one of earliest decisions that you’ll make when starting a business.
It’s a core part of your brand identity, so it’s worth taking the time to get it right. Rebranding in the future can be an expensive and troublesome exercise.
The name should reflect the ethos of your business and the values that resonate with your target market.
The following tips will help you to pick the right name for your business.
Domain name availability
A key consideration in choosing your brand name, is whether you can also get the matching domain name.
In Australia most businesses use a .com.au domain name, like HomeBusiness.com.au. If you’re targeting overseas markets, then it’s best to have the .com domain name for your business.
I’ll get back to domain names later in the article. For now, it’s just worth noting that your branding will be much stronger if you have the appropriate matching domain name for your brand.
Types of brand names
Below are some of the approaches that you can take in choosing a brand name, along with examples and the pros and cons of each path.
Your brand name could reflect the main products or services that you offer.
For example, if you offer landscaping services, you could simply call your business ‘Landscaping Services’ and use LandscapingServices.com.au as the domain name for your website and email address.
As another example, if your business sells soapnuts (which are brilliant by the way – we use these at home!), then you could call your business ‘Soapnuts’ and use the corresponding domain name (Soapnuts.com.au).
Product brand naming can be very effective, because your name instantly communicates what you offer. These brand names can also be very easy for consumers to remember.
Industry, occupation or task
Your brand name could reflect the industry that you operate in, an occupation within the industry, or a key task that you undertake.
For example, if you help people buy and sell property, you might call your business ‘Property Market’ and use PropertyMarket.com.au as your domain name.
Occupation-based terms work well as brands for sole traders, but they can also be suitable for businesses with multiple people in the team if the plural term is used. For example, if your team offers home tutoring services, you could call your business Home Tutors and use the matching domain name, HomeTutors.com.au.
Your brand name could reflect the place in which you operate or the location of your target market.
For example, if your business is an organic farm located in the Huon Valley, you could call your business ‘Huon Valley Farm’.
If your target market is based in a particular location, let’s say Tasmania, then you could reflect this in your brand name. For example, if you help people buy and sell property in Tasmania, you could name your business ‘Tasmanian Property’ and use the matching domain name, TasmanianProperty.com.au.
If your business location is pivotal to the business and highly unlikely to change, then a place-based brand name could be a great way to go.
However, branding on the basis of your target market’s location is typically a riskier proposition. It can cause problems if your business expands its geographical reach in the future, because your brand may no longer be reflective of your business. You could consider ‘future-proofing’ your brand by purchasing additional domain names, or you could just go with a broader brand name to start with.
Your brand name could be a common phrase that resonates with your target market.
For example, if you sell bespoke suits you could call your brand ‘Suit Up’ and use the corresponding domain name, SuitUp.com.au.
Using a common phrase for your domain name can increase the memorability of your brand, as snappy phrases can be particularly easy for consumers to recall.
The key attributes for a suitable phrase are:
- one that fits well with your product or service offerings;
- typically a phrase that has positive connotations; and
- a phrase that’s not overly long or complicated.
Your brand name could be based on a generic term.
It could even be a term that to many people would seem unrelated to the products or services that you sell. For example, Apple sells consumer electronics and Amazon sells books (mainly).
If you offer pet walking and minding services, you might call your business ‘Nuzzle’ and use Nuzzle.com.au. It’s a term that relates to animals and it has a positive feel to it.
As an example of using an unrelated term, let’s say you run a marketing business. You might choose to name your business ‘Jam Jar’ and use JamJar.com.au as your domain name. The term is completely unrelated to marketing, but it’s a short, memorable brand.
Using a common, generic term can be very effective for brand memorability and building an iconic brand image.
If the term is unrelated to what your business offers, it could be confusing for your target market, at least before you’ve educated the market. For this reason, using an unrelated term typically works best for large companies with the marketing budget and scale to familiarise the market with their brand and over time develop an association between that generic term and their product offerings.
You could use your own name, a family name, or the name of someone completely unrelated – such as a historical figure.
For example, if your name is Joe and you sell muesli – you could go with ‘Joe’s Muesli’.
Personalised brands can be good for building a ‘brand story’. However, they can also also impose some limitations. For example, one day you may wish to sell your business, and your own name being used as the brand could make it less attractive to potential buyers.
You could make up a word or term that doesn’t currently exist and establish a completely unique brand name for your business.
‘Kodak’, ‘Lego’ and ‘Olay’ are examples of made up brand names.
Creating your own brand name from scratch can set you apart from the pack and help you to define a unique brand identity. However, there are a number of problems with this approach. For example, it may take a lot of market education to associate the brand name with the products or services that you offer.
This approach is best suited to large companies that have the resources to educate the market and establish an association between the made up word and their products or services. This usually takes a lot of time and money, two resources which typically aren’t abundant for home business owners.
Picking the right domain name
I mentioned earlier that it’s important that you get the appropriate matching domain name for your brand.
By appropriate, I mean the domain name extension that matches your intended target market. If your market is Australia, that means using a .com.au domain. If you’re targeting the global market, then you should get a .com domain. It’s great for brand protection if you’re able to secure both, but this isn’t always possible.
Naturally, your domain name will be home to your website, but you should also use it for your email address.
Some business owners will use a Gmail email address, or the email address that their internet service provider gives them with their internet account.
Using your business domain name for your email account looks much more professional.
You can even still use Gmail with your own domain name if you wish. Check out this video for instructions.
Why is a domain name so important?
For many businesses, particularly online-only businesses, securing a high quality domain name is one of the most important investments that you can make in your brand.
A domain name helps your target market to find you.
Buying the perfect domain name for your business is like a retailer securing the very best location in the high street. You’re placing yourself in a prime position for customer traffic.
A high quality domain name also conveys industry authority and professionalism. Simply using the best domain name for your industry will give you instant credibility.
How much of their total brand value would RealEstate.com.au attribute to their domain name? A lot.
Many studies have shown that consumers place more trust in brands that use high quality domain names. For this reason, the right domain name will deliver greater conversions and response rates for your business. If you advertise on Google using an authority domain name, studies have shown that consumers will be more likely to click on your ad, rather than ads that are using lower quality domain names.
What makes a good domain name?
Your domain name should be memorable, easy to say and easy to spell.
Bonus points if your domain name is short and quick to type.
You should buy the best domain name that you can afford. This usually means the exact match domain name for your brand name – the domain name that you would use for your website and email accounts.
If you can’t afford the right domain name for your brand or if it’s not for sale at any price, then you may even consider choosing a different brand name altogether.
Where can you buy a domain?
Domain names are often described as ‘online real estate’. Just as people invest in real estate, particularly in cities like Melbourne and Sydney, there are also many people that invest in domain names.
So if your ideal domain name is already taken, don’t despair just yet, because there’s still a chance that you could buy the domain name from the current registrant. In fact, I purchased HomeBusiness.com.au from the previous owner through a domain name marketplace.
You may even decide to buy multiple domain names related to the focus of your business. I also recently purchased OnlineBusiness.com.au from a domain name investor, as it closely relates to the focus of HomeBusiness.com.au.
If you navigate to your desired domain name using your browser and end up on a simple landing page with a bunch of ads, or a default placeholder page for the registrar – there’s a chance that you can buy the domain name. These landing pages are called ‘parking pages’ and if you see one of these it’s quite likely that the domain name isn’t being used for another brand, which is a good thing.
Sometimes these parking pages will even have messages like: ‘this domain is for sale’, ‘buy this domain now’, ‘make offer’, ‘buy now’ etc. That’s even better, because now you know that the domain name is owned by an investor; and if you can negotiate a price within your budget, you can buy it from them.
Here’s an example of a parking page which indicates that the domain name is available to buy (see the ‘make offer’ button):
If the domain name is not resolving at all, you could use what’s called a ‘whois’ service to find out the details of the current registrant. Armed with this information you can then contact them directly about the domain name. For .com.au domains, you can use the whois service on the AusRegistry website. For .com domains, head to the ICANN website.
There are also a number of marketplaces where domain names can be bought and sold. For example, for .com.au domains you could check out eBranding.com.au or Netfleet.com.au. For .com domains check out GoDaddy Auctions, Sedo or Flippa – there are also many others.
Every business owner should have business cards.
They make it super easy for people to remember and recommend your business.
Picture this scenario. At a BBQ lunch, Jane is talking with John, an accountant. When he asks what she does for a living, Jane replies that she’s a website developer and gives him her business card. She tells John about some of the recent work that she’s done for her clients.
A week later, one of John’s clients mentions that they’re looking for a good website developer. John remembers talking with Jane the week prior, and hands them her business card. “Give Jane a call, she seems to know her stuff”.
Word of mouth is still a really big deal, so make it easy for people to remember and recommend your business.
Ordering business cards online is cheap and convenient.
Got some hot tips for branding?
As you can see from the length of this article – it’s a huge topic to cover! I’m sure there are lots of great branding tips that I’ve missed – share yours in the comments section below.