Last week we announced that we would be creating a series of blog posts on how to create a solid foundation for your blog. The idea behind this was to give new bloggers a strategic path to follow to consistently and professionally grow their blogs over time, rather than just implementing day to day strategies and hoping for the best (we’ve all been there!).
But once you have decided what it is that your blog is about, how do you convey this to others?
This is where your brand comes in.
Now, to be up front, I love branding. I spend hours looking at inspirational logos on Pinterest, I am constantly amazed by the number of beautiful colour palettes people can invent. I love it.
But back when I first started blogging, if you had said the word branding to me, my mind would have instantly thought:
Like packaging design?
A business logo?
These things are certainly ‘elements’ of your brand. However, branding is more of an overall arching concept, rather than an assortment of graphics.
And it is vague statements like that, which makes branding such a hard concept to grasp.
In my newsletter today, I addressed a number of branding myths. That branding wasn’t for small business, that branding is just a logo. All the things that branding isn’t. Indeed, it is quite easy to say all the things that branding is not. However, it seems a little harder to explain what branding is.
It is often mentioned in posts, like some sort of ethereal or mystical concept that some blogs just seem to have and others don’t. So before we get into the importance and function of branding, let’s explore what exactly branding is.
What Is Your Brand?
The reason why I think Branding is such an hard concept to explain is that it is fundamentally to do with emotion. Feelings, of course, are intangible things that are difficult to quantify.
The easiest way to think about branding is that your brand is your business’s personality. And your logo, your content and your colours are all physical ways of representing and conveying your personality to others around you.
Just in the same way that people often use fashion to convey their personality.
The advantage with business branding is that you can control, to some extent, what your business’s personality is. And you can use your logo, your content etc to ensure that your readers get a clear sense of exactly what that personality is.
What do you think of?
Now, some of you may have positive feelings, when you think about Gucci’s brand. Lovely clothes, beautifully crafted watches etc
Some one of you may have negative feelings, that it is over priced and a waste of money.
But, you all knew who I was talking about and, in one way or another, the thought of luxury goods popped into your mind. If you thought about it a little more, the associations will probably lead you to thinking about luxury lifestyles as well. Gucci bags on well dressed women in the city.
Whilst Gucci can not control how you react to their brand message, they have made sure that their brand is associated with luxury and wealth. And you don’t think that just because you have seen their logo, right?
It’s because they have crafted their whole identity, their adverts, their models, their photograph locations and their products in order that you continue to constantly associate that brand with a luxury lifestyle. It is not one single element but several elements, all brought together and repeated across every aspect of their business to build the whole picture.
“Your brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room” Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon.Click To Tweet
So, your brand is your business’s personality. Why is that so important?
Why Should YOU Brand Your Business?
1. Quick Impact
I mention this statistic quite a lot, but when I am designing, it is one the first things that I think about.
There are a few variations on this statistic but the overall message is clear. On average, you have ten seconds to convince a visitor to your website to stay, or they are gone. For good.
Hubspot is a bit more generous and reckons that 55% of your visitors will only spend 15 seconds on your website before leaving.
So, the question here is, what can you do in 15 seconds and under to make sure those people stay? Basically, you need to visually communicate what your business is about and why that person should stay.
I say visually because, the human brain processes images 60, 000 times quicker than text. So, given the short amount of time you have to communicate with your viewer, you can say a lot more in that time with images than with text.
This is why your branding is so important. It has to tell your visitor what you are all about, before they ever reach your ‘About Page’.
First impressions do, unfortunately, tend to stick. So if your visitor gets a negative impression of your website, that it’s badly designed or doesn’t look professional, then they are not likely to give it the benefit of the doubt and come back a second time.
2. People Judge a Book by it’s Cover
As a book cover designer by day, this old adage is particularly relevant to me. However, it is also true of business websites as well.
For example, if you walked into a doctor’s office and the walls were peeling, the carpet was stained and it was damp. Would you feel comfortable and secure about the doctor you were about to see?
Now, does the state of the decor of an office automatically correlate to a doctor’s skills? Absolutely not. But you are still probably going to turn on your heel and mosey on out of there.
This is particularly unfortunate in the world of blogging because I know some fantastic writers who have lots of useful information to share. However, they, understandably, don’t have a particularly good eye for design. So, their websites might be less than appealing.
Because, no matter how much we like to keep an open mind, if you have a well designed and attractive site you will appear more professional.
However, you can use this to your advantage. For example, there is a blogger who I came across recently who had a lovely website and exceptionally cohesive branding and I assumed she had been in business for a while. Turns out she had only been running her blog for a few months.
So whilst bad branding might hinder your efforts, the plus side to this is that good branding can lend you credibility when you are first starting out !
This point veers a little into why your ‘niche’ is so important. As we discussed before, posting within your chosen niche is important because your readers will come to feel secure knowing what to expect from you. Both in topic and in the standard of your content.
With your branding, you will be communicating a specific ethos. A key component in successful branding is continuity. If someone is thinking of buying from you then they will be looking for security and certainty. By keeping up your clear focus in your branding, your audience will feel secure that you will be staying ‘on topic’ and there won’t be any unsettling changes coming down the pipeline.
When we talked about Gucci, we discussed how their brand’s values immediately came to mind. So, if you saw their logo on, say Pinterest, you would know exactly what to expect if you clicked on it.
This is the same in blogging. If you see a blog post on Pinterest and you recognize it has come from a blogger you know and trust, you are more likely to click through on to it, right? They key point here is ‘you recognize it’. In order for your audience to begin recognizing your brand, you will need to keep it consistent and frequently in their minds. The same style of images, the same colours, over and over again until readers begin to associate you ( and your wonderful content) with those, particular graphics.
5. Jogging Their Memory
I had a email a a while ago from a blogger whose mailing list I had obviously signed up to. Her name was in the ‘from’ line on the email but I had absolutely no idea who she was. I couldn’t recall her blog or why I had signed up to her list. In short, I had no emotion other than confusion.
This is not, I imagine, the emotion that you want people to associate with your brand.
The same way in which bloggers often have pictures of themselves on their pages, so people associate their blog with a real person, it helps to job peoples memories. How many times have you thought to yourself, ‘ah, the person looks familiar, but I can’t quite remember the name’.
If your branding is doing it’s job properly then people should see your logo, feel the emotion that it is conveying and their memories will be jogged.
Now, you may think, well surely people aren’t that forgetful. But think about how many people you follow on your Twitter feed, for example. Can you remember all their names? Is it easy to remember when you see their profile picture?
6. Standing Out
I talked a little about this in my Etsy Success post a while ago, but it is one of the most important business lessons that I have learnt.
When I worked in sales we did a lot of intensive training in marketing and selling, unsurprisingly. One of the key things they used to say to us was this:
‘Do not mention the price. Instead match the benefits of the product to the lifestyle needs of your customer.’
Can you tell it was a soulless, big corporation?
But what has this got to do with branding? Good question. Let me ask you this:
Why do people pay more money for things than they need to?
Well, for many reasons, but let’s pick one.
A friend of mine recently brought a plain black jumper from a fashion label. It is is nearly identical to one of my own jumpers, which…is not from a fashion label. She paid considerably more for hers and when I asked why, she said:
“Because this one is better quality material.”
A perfectly valid reason. But did she read the labels inside both jumpers to determine what the cloth was made of? No. Did she wear mine, to see the comparison? No.
So how did she make the determination that her jumper was better quality? For the simple reason that she associates that fashion label with good quality, expensive materials. That brand differentiated itself from its competition by associating itself with luxury and quality.
To return to the world of blogging, it is almost certain that their are many blogs that exist in the same niche of yours. However, if you have a strong, branded presence that differentiates yourself from all the other blogs in your niche, then you are going to stand out to your ideal audience.
A cohesive and professional brand experience will allow you to stand out in the minds of your readers. Not only will it encourage them to stay on your site, but when they see your brand again, they are more likely to click through and visit again. From a business perspective the trust and loyalty of your readership can lead to increased visibility in your marketing, increased brand engagement and ultimately, sales.