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How to Build Your Own Brand: Successful Online Branding Step-by-Step Strategies 2019

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Building a reputable and successful brand does not happen overnight. Hence we have prepared a comprehensive checklist (with 30 actionable items) for you.

In this article, we will particularly highlight 9 items that are of greater priority. They include: defining your target customers, defining your unique selling propositions, picking the right font and color, designing your modd board etc.

how to build your own brand in 9 different steps

1. Understand who your customers are

Before you even decide what your logo and ideal colors are, you should know who your customers are.

“When you know who your customers are, that can give you an edge on the competition.” Alain Bouchard

For bonlam.co, my ideal “customers” are entrepreneurs who are looking for guidance in graphic design and strategy. This group of people are fundamentally who I want to serve and look out for.

You can define your ideal target customers by considering the below factors when it comes to your ideal customers.

  • Age group:
  • Occupation:
  • Personality:
  • Hobbies:
  • Income Range:
  • Key concerns:

A good way to go about these is filling out this buyer persona profile. A persona, in user-centered is a fictional character created to represent a user type that might engage with a site, brand, or product.

Example of user persona. Covering core needs, motivations and attributes of this user.
Image source: Dribbble

We have also created our own user persona template – covering various essential areas when we are trying to understand our buyers. This includes their hobbies, key concerns etc.

Don’t be lazy. Print it and fill it out. This should always sit on your wall in front of your work desk so you can remind yourself – your customers are looking like this.

2. Define your brand personality

Brand personality is a set of human characteristics that are attributed to a brand name. Sounds weird? No. Let me give you some examples.

FERRARI – adventurous, extravagant

LEGO – creative, imaginative

One easy good way to define your brand’s personality is to imagine if your brand is represented by a real person.

Yes. A real person.

If your brand has a masculine and adventurous personality, maybe that person can be wolverine from X-men.

If your brand has an entertaining and loving personality, maybe that person can be Ellen Degeneres.

Remember this: this person doesn’t have to be a famous celebrity or movie stars. It can just be your high school teacher or college best friend as long as the personalities of this person match well with your brand’s.

I also covered how you can better define and determine your brand’s personality by referencing from the 12 brand archetypes in this article.

3. Define your USP

Let me ask you a simple question: why is your brand unique selling proposition?

To attract your ideal customers, you need to stand out and be different.

Writing a brand positioning statement can be really helpful. The statement consists of three components:

  • Unique selling proposition (USP)
  • Product or service
  • Ideal target customers

In bonlam.co’s case, my positioning statement is:

positioning statement example of bonlam.co

Now it’s your turn to write your positioning statement. Don’t worry, you can change it later when you have defined new goals or have tapped into new customer segments.

Now that we have covered the planning stage. We can now move on a bit to the next stage – i.e. how your brand should visually look like.

4. Create a logo

Many people are worried about logo-making. They often ask me:

  • What makes a good logo?
  • Is a logo really important?

Over the years, I have studied logos from various industries. From fast-moving customer brands, luxury brands to startups. There do not seem to be an identifiable pattern that makes a “killer” logo.

However, to me, logo is important in a sense that it should not be inconsistent with your brand personality. This could refer to a mismatch of fonts, colors or style in general.

When it comes to creating a logo, there are various ways I would recommend going about it:

1) Design yourself

If you are very cost conscious and do not want to invest any money into logo design, you can feel free design this on your own. However, to any first-time entrepreneurs, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing this.

Fyi – I am aiming to write an article on how you can design your own logo in the future. Please also let me know if this is of interest to you in the comment section below.

2) Logo creation platform

This method is usually best for anyone who has little experience in logo design (or brand-building in general). The cost is relatively cheap.

Another advantage of this is how fast you can get a decent logo without having to wait your designer (usually 1-3 days). Logo creation platforms now leverage AI technology that can offer multiple logo design suggestions in a fraction of seconds.

I would personally recommend Logojoy – which is one of the world’s leading logo design platform. It claims that the platform only takes “30 seconds” to come up with logo designs.

When you first start off, enter your brand name. If you haven’t come up with a brand name yet, please refer to section 8 of this article.

Enter the type of business of your brand. For bonlam.co I will generally assume it falls under “consulting” as there isn’t an option for “blogging”.

Pick your 5 favorite logos among the hundreds of options. Logojoy AI can take reference from your chosen designs when personalizing your designs.

You will then be asked to pick colors and symbols for your brand. Don’t skip these steps.

Then in a matter of seconds, you will be presented with various logo designs.

If you have registered an account, you will then be able to make all sorts of changes to all logo designs easily. Simply go for “Edit”.

To buy and download the logo, you will be asked to purchase one of the plans:

I would personally recommend the Premium plan which will cover all include a mockup kit (including name card, t-shirt, social media thumbnails etc.) for your brand. This will invaluable to anyone who looks for a onestop shop solution for your brand.

3) Hire a logo or graphic designer

If you have the budget and wouldn’t mind to wait for a customised logo – hiring a freelancer designer can be a great option for you.

Even though I am not going to dive too deep into which platforms you should use to hire the designers, you can try 99designs, Upwork or Fiverr. I will write an in-depth article on which platforms are best for hiring designers in the future. Please stay tuned.

Yet, when hiring designers, there might be a few points you should consider when sending your design requirements:

  • Ideal logo example(s)
  • Brand mood board
  • Preferred color(s)
  • Font type(s)
  • Overall budget

5. Choose the right colors

Choosing the right color is essential to your brand. What color do you think of when people talk about Tiffany & Co? What about Snapchat?

Customers tend to form a strong association between brands and their frequently used colors. However, one key note is you have to be CONSISTENT.

Yes, consistency is key.

Have you ever noticed Tiffany & Co changing their storefronts to a completely different color? Consistency leaves a strong impression over time.

When you are starting off – you can first of all brainstorm the primary color for your brand.

You can start by searching for the particular vibe for your brand, such as energy, femininity, authority etc in color-hex.com. From there you will be able to see numerous palettes that are correlated with the vibe.

For example, I am looking for colors associated with energy:

A screenshot of search results for "energy" in color-hex.com

Another really good way to start is referring to existing brands or websites. You can refer to a blog article from awwwards. where they have listed a number of visually-winning websites and their corresponding color palettes.

Remember this. You don’t always need to reinvest the wheel. Sometimes designing is about learning from how other successful designers created their work.

Once you have chosen your primary color for your brand. Then, pick 3-4 more colors that will blend well with the primary color. They will form the perfect palette that will then become the visual backbone of your brand.

Colormind.io can help you when selecting complementary colors.

Remember to lock the color(s) you want to keep then you can click “Generate”. The platform will then suggest other matching colors for you.

6. Choose the right fonts

Font choices set the tone for your brand.

When we first start off, we should know that there are generally 4 broad categories of fonts.

An illustration showing the difference between Serif, Sans-Serif, Script and Decorative fonts.

1) Serif: Serif fonts have little “feet” or lines attached the ends of their letters. They generally look more traditional and formal.

2) Sans-Serif: Sans-serif fonts don’t have the extra lines on the ends of letters. They are more modern and streamlined.

3) Script: Script fonts generally look like handwriting-style fonts. Letters are generally connected. They can be in various styles and forms, ranging from elegant, to fun and casual.

4) Decorative or Display: Decorative, display fonts – as its name suggests – is for decorative purposes. They are used less often and should be used sparingly – maybe used as fonts for titles or headers.

If you want to choose a suitable font for your brand with only limited budget, you can use what’s available from Google fonts.

These are the 6 personal favorites from Google:

An illustration of six personal fonts, including Poppins, Montserrat, Raleway, Open Sans, Playfair Display and Roboto

You can also refer to this blog article by awwwards for more recommended google fonts.

If you have a bit more budget ($50), you may as well want to get a premium font that will match your brand. It will also offer a more exclusive and unique look to your website, marketing materials, product label etc.

There are many places you can look for a premium / paid font.

I personally would recommend myfonts.com. I will write another separate article on some of the best premium / paid fonts. Please stay tuned!

7. Create a mood board for your brand

If someone asked me to describe bonlam.co without using any words or texts.

I would show them one thing. A mood board.

Yes, a mood board.

A mood board is a type of collage consisting of images, text, and samples of objects in a composition. It can be based upon a set topic or can be any material chosen at random.

Over the years, I have only realized how people downplayed the importance of mood boards when it comes to brand building.

Okay, let me show you bonlam.co mood board.

Learn the 13 killer tips in creating an inspirational mood board

Well you may not be able to tell what my brand does but maybe you could tell my brand consists of:

  • Hand-drawn & abstract graphic art
  • Yellow as the primary color
  • Friendly and easy-going vibe
  • Elements of creativity, imagination

Yes. This may just be it. But I don’t need to write a single word to describe the visual element of my brand. And even if I do write – describing in written texts is proven no be no easier than images sometimes.

“A picture is worth a thousand words”

In addition to using mood board, you could also consider putting together a brand style that specifies and governs your composition, design, and general look-and-feel of a company’s branding. You can start by looking at some examples from these 15 global successgul brands.

8. Choose the right brand name

Choosing the right brand name seems to be one of the biggest commitments because this is what your customers talk about and remember the first thing when they think of your brand.

TRUE?

Well yes, but we have a number of toolkits and framework that can help you choose the right name.

Is your brand a personal brand? If yes, you might as well consider using your name as the brand name. An example is bonlam.co as my name is Bon Lam (yay!).

There are plenty of similar examples in the digital marketing world, such as Neil Patel (and well yes he also owns many other brands), Gary Vaynerchuk (self-explanatory) and many more! You name it.

To me, one clear advantage of naming your brand with your name is – this can never be irrelevant.

Because I am working hard to grow my own personal brand name – not someone else’s. Yes this may sound selfish but it works… at least for me!

If you aren’t looking to use your own name as your brand name, that’s totally valid as well. There are also a couple of things you can refer to:

Award-winning brand strategist Marty Neumeier shares seven criteria for choosing a good brand name.

A strong name is referred to being:

1) Unique

It should be unique from competitors’ names. It should be differentiated such that our eyes or ears can pick out the name as a proper (or capitalized) word instead of a common word

2) Brief

Four syllables or less would be preferred. if it has too many syllables, it’s possible for people to abbreviate the name in ways that could be detrimental to the brand.

3) Appropriate

Not overly descriptive. Actually, a strong brand name can be slightly ambiguous, that gives no clue as to its connection with the product, service, or company. Yet it should still “feels” appropriate.

4) Easy to spell

If your customers can’t spell your name easily, you are probably creating more confusion among them.

5) Satisfying to pronounce

Does your customers love mentioning your brand’s name because it has that “mouthfeel”? If so, your brand is likely to penetrate into customer’s mind easier.

6) Suitable for “brandplay”

The best names leave rooms for themselves for great storytelling, graphics, PR, advertising, and other communications.

7) Legally defensible

Is your brand often confused with sound-alike names or look-alike trademarks. A good name is one that keeps legal fees to a minimum.

Try to fulfil at least 3 or more of the above criteria and your brand name should be good enough!

Oh, we also missed something. Yes, domain name! You would probably create a website based on your brand name. Ensuring your domain name is available can be as important as getting the right brand name.

In case if a domain name isn’t available, you can try the following:

1) Add an additional call to action word

Example: Dropbox used getdropbox.com when it first started

  • Get / Use + XYZ.com – Great for apps, software etc.
  • Taste / Try + XYZ.com – Great for food-related services and restaurants etc.
  • Shop/Buy/Order + XYZ.com – Great for e-commerce stores, consumer product brands etc.
  • Visit + XYZ.com – Great for physical stores, restaurants, theme parks etc.

2) Add an additional word but doesn’t affect the meaning

Example: Facebook used thefacebook.com when it first started

  • XYZ+ co + .com
  • Your + XYZ + .com
  • The + XYZ + .com
  • XYZ + App + .com

3) Instead of using .com, try others

.co is becoming a popular domain name now
  • Fresh, shorter, social
  • Acronym for “company”
  • More than 20 countries use .co to mean company and commercial content in their websites (e.g. .co.uk, .co.in, .co.il, .co.jp, etc.)
.io is becoming a popular domain name now, especially for technology firms and startups
  • popular for startups and tech websites

Most people believe, that a short domain name must be better than a long one as it’s easier to remember.

It’s not always true.

If a longer name is more descriptive and easier to comprehend, it will be more memorable than a short, meaningless name. Furthermore, if you get a little bit creative, a domain name can reinforce your brand, support SEO.

For example, you might not know what 4hww.com refers to. But if I say fourhourworkweek.com, you would know it’s the international bestseller book.

9. Think about your unique brand voice

When you talk to your customers – talk to them in one consistent “brand voice”. What does this mean?

This refers to the way you write, you reply to enquiries, you interact with customers on your website, social media, printed materials etc.

Depending on your nature of the brand, your brand voice can be:

Mckinsey & Company – Formal

Core values and approach of Mckinsey & Company - the multinational management consulting firm.

Twitter – Casual

A banner showing what Twitter is, extracted from its website.

9GAG – Entertaining

A banner showing what 9GAG is about. It has a funny vibe with a background video of swans

Some best practices that can help you maintain a consistent brand voice are:

  1. Hire a team of writer or copywriters to write and produce all written materials and narratives. Don’t try to ask everyone to write in their own style
  2. Develop a brand guide or manual that can spell out the do’s and don’t with regards to your brand voice. For example – is abbreviation allowed? What about slangs? What keywords should the copywriters focus more on?

For example, in the asset management industry, there are heavy emphasis on “understanding clients’ needs” and “being a fiduciary of clients”. These can be added into your brand manual.

Yay! I have just covered the 9 different tips you can refer to when laying the groundwork of your differentiated brand.

Action now: brand building isn’t as hard – trust me.

Happy to answer them and please do join my email list for more exclusive tips on brand building, graphic design and strategy.

Building a successful brand is nothing magical. Apple doesn’t become today’s Apple overnight. The recipe to succeed is thoughtful planning, creative thinking and experimenting.

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