The thing I find truly fascinating about visual branding is the layers of meaning that can be brought into the design work.
Layers of meaning and symbolism can of course be used in all types of visual art, but in my opinion, it’s an especially important part of branding.
To be clear, what I mean when I talk about symbolism here is the use of imagery like the illustrations in your branding to represent ideas or qualities.
Symbols can come to mean something in retrospect, and that will be true for imagery used in your branding, that’s true for many big brands and was certainly true for my own logo design. Sometimes the image comes first and it gathers meaning as the brand grows.
But it’s also wonderful to make design decisions from the outset based on what has meaning for you as a business owner, and also what will have archetypal meaning for your customers or clients too.
Again to be clear…
“An archetype is a term used to describe universal symbols that evoke deep and sometimes unconscious responses. Archetypes are defined as recurring patterns of situations, characters, or symbols existing universally and instinctively in the collective unconscious of man.” Citation
When we use imagery that has universal meaning behind it we’re holding up little green flags for our audience that show that we’re the same as them, we think the same, we care about the same things. This is the very start of building up that ‘Know, like, trust’ factor with your audience.
When we add a layer to our branding that has deep meaning for us as the business owner, it means it’s more likely to feel right for us long-term. We do it once, we do it well, and we do it with meaning.
Take this Moth design for Helena Rose Photography; There is a layer of archetypal meaning with the design that like minded people will be drawn to.
The style of drawing, the witchy vibe of the elements, the Moth being a creature that is drawn to the light. This last point makes sense for a photography business where working with light is part of the skill of the art form. These are things that we intuitively understand as humans when we look at imagery, without really thinking about it.
And then we uncover the symbolism of what the design means for the business owner. It’s a deeper layer that might not always be apparent at first glance, but it’s important none the less.
Here the Moth represents the ethical and sustainable businesses that Helena works with; they are drawn towards the light in the sense that they are conscious of the how they impact the world.
If possible, we’re looking for something that works on more than one level, but you can always combine symbols together or weave meanings into other parts of your brand identity.
If you’d like to explore weaving symbolism into your brand identity with me you can can apply to work together in my Signature Branding Package called ?The Unfurling.
A question I frequently get asked is how to make sure a brand identity stands the test of time. It’s so hard to work on your own brand identity; you’re really close to it and you see it so often that your own perception of it is skewed from what other people see. People need repetition!
The main thing to note about your brand identity is that people need to be able to identify you again once they’ve seen your branding the once. So there is a little wiggle room for variety, but things always need to be identifiable as being yours. This is where trends can harm you rather than make you necessarily look more up-to-date.
And so here are my thoughts on making sure your brand identity stands the test of time.
Firstly, you’ll need to think about what your brand stands for on a wider level. If you had to pivot and change your product or service, what values or elements of your story and brand would stay the same?
An example is if you’re a jeweller, your work and style might evolve over time, but what inspires you at it’s core probably won’t. What is it that’s at the very core of your brand – the why or how you got here?
It could be a set of values, it could be your story, it could be a number of things. I don’t mean all the rest isn’t important, it totally is…but you want to get right to the heart and work out what’s unwavering.
And so how do you translate that into design?
The fun bit! You’ll want to build these foundational things into your main brand identity – so into your logo and branding elements, your colours, the mix of fonts you use. It’s about finding the balance.
It’s not an easy process, but what I mean is that different parts of your brand foundation can come through in different areas. Always try to see the bigger picture of how things work together.
Not every part of your brand identity needs to convey EVERYTHING. That’s why you have different ‘moving parts’ (logo, palette, font system)
Colour is great for quickly conveying FEELINGS, EMOTIONS, and VALUES. Typography can show if your brand is MODERN, CLASSIC, or RUSTIC.
And logo icons, graphics, and illustrations can actually tell stories, or convey ideas and meaning in visual form. Everything works together to build a picture for your audience.
You’ll want to make sure it’s clear and that the things you’re showing are going to resonate with your audience. BUT at the very beginning you might not know your audience well, so don’t let that bit hold you back.
Focus on conveying the true essence of your brand so that people can quickly self-select. “That’s for me”, or “That’s not for me”.
The WORDS you use need to be much more rooted in the knowledge of who your client or customer is, and your WORDS are something you can easily tweak as you get more clear on that. Your brand identity is there to show the core of who you are (as a business), what you value and why, so that you attract like-minded people. Then you can have fun with trending things like gradients – as long as not every part of your brand identity is changing with trends, you’re allowed to have fun!
If you need more help with this don’t hesitate to email me at email@example.com with your questions, I’d love to help. You can see the branding packages and other services I offer here.
This post is written by guest contributor Sophie Livingston. Sophie is a website copywriter working with freelancers and small business owners who want to attract clients they’ll love working with.
If you’re delivering a service through your business, like coaching, photography, virtual assistance or design, for example, you are a big part of what your clients are buying when they invest in that service.
They don’t just want the service you’re selling, they want the way it will make them feel. And how they feel will depend on how you’re shaping the experience you provide.
Your words can have a big impact on that experience. How you talk in and about your business influences the conversations you’re having with people. Both your words and your visuals give you an opportunity to connect.
If you let your personality shine through in your marketing, you’ll connect with the right clients who’re going to truly benefit from working with you.
And finding the right clients is a big deal, right? One of the best things about being independent is getting to choose who you work with and what you work on.
When you put in time and effort to develop a consistent and unique brand, you’ll attract the right clients and projects naturally. You’ll get enquiries from people who want to work with you above anyone else because they’ve come to know, like and trust who you are.
With that in mind, here are my top three tips on how to write with personality in your business.
The visuals we use online play a big part in how people perceive us, and it’s no different when it comes to the words we use.
In the same way that a logo can be recognisable and invoke emotion, the words you use can help you build relationships and trigger actions.
But a brand is about so much more than just a pretty logo or a strong tagline.
Your brand is made up of all the impressions your clients and contacts have of you. It’s your reputation. It’s how people would describe you when you’re not in the room.
And, as you’re building your brand, you have the opportunity to shape those impressions. With a strong sense of what you want your brand personality to be, you can develop visuals and a voice that influences the way people see you.
To define your brand personality, start by asking yourself the following questions.
Q. What feedback have you had from people you’ve worked with? Why do they enjoy working with you? What do they say about you?
Q. What do your ideal clients need you to be? If they were to describe the kind of person they’d love working with, what would they say?
Q. Think of someone in your field or community who you look up to and admire. What is it about their personality that you enjoy or can relate to?
Q. Now think of those you might consider competitors. What makes you different from them? How would you describe their personality and how is yours different?
Q. And finally, which aspects of your personality do you want to see reflected in your brand?
After you’ve answered those questions, you should have a clearer idea of what makes up your personality and which of those traits you’d like to inject into your brand.
To keep you focused, you might find it helpful to create a list of three to five words that sum up your brand personality.
Is your brand personality bold, fiery, calm, direct, charming, formal, cheerful, playful, witty, reflective, friendly, supportive, inspiring or energetic, for example?
Defining your brand personality in this way doesn’t need to be about setting parameters, but it can help you find direction and be more consistent.
Write these words down and stick them up next to your desk so you can keep them in mind when you’re writing content.
One of the golden rules in copywriting is to write like you talk.
And writing like you talk is the easiest way to stay consistent.
A consistent tone of voice helps build credibility and trust. It does this because it feels familiar and unique. When your tone of voice is recognisable across all the different touchpoints in your business, it creates a seamless, personal experience for everyone you’re interacting with.
There is no one way to talk about a business or to communicate with an online audience. In your business, in your brand, there is only you and the way you talk.
Imagine how you’d feel if you decided to work with someone because, online, they come across as bold, fiery and opinionated, but when you meet them in person, they’re quiet, agreeable and reserved. Or vice versa.
We’d feel cheated, wouldn’t we? Like we’d been lied to or tricked into something.
Marketing isn’t about tricking people into doing business with us. It’s about understanding people and connecting with them.
After you write something in or about your business, read it back to yourself out loud. Does it sound like you? Does it feel natural? Would you feel comfortable saying the same thing to someone face-to-face?
Imagining that you’re writing to (or talking to) one person is a useful trick. If you’ve developed a good idea of who your ideal client is, it can help to give them a name and write directly to them when you’re drafting content.
It might be a made-up name that suits the persona you’ve created, or it might be a real-life person from your community who embodies all the traits you hope to find in the people you’re working with.
Write “Dear [name]” at the top of your content draft and write like it’s a message or email that’s going directly to them.
The copy or content you write for your business doesn’t need to appeal to everyone. In fact, if you try to appeal to everyone, you’ll be doing more harm than good.
It can feel scary, at first, to be so relaxed in your writing when you’ve probably been taught to always be “professional”. Being professional means delivering on what you promise. It doesn’t mean being formal or boring or writing like a robot.
Writing like you talk will help you feel so much clearer about who you are in your business and who you’re here to help. And it’ll help you attract like-minded people who want to work with you because they like who you are.
One of the things I admire most about Meg (the brand stylist behind this blog), is how authentic she is in the content she creates and the stories she shares.
In her blog post on the importance of being visible in your business, Meg says “What I love about the internet and social media is that it allows us to be seen just as we are. Real people telling real stories. You write the script, you set the scene, you can be inspirational just by being your very own self. People buy from people, and when you are visible and you share yourself and your story, people get to know you. They root for you, they want you to succeed.”
When you think about the people you enjoy following online, I’m sure you feel a connection to them. You probably feel like you know them even though you’ve never met them in person before.
As humans who spend a lot of our time online, we’re seeking those genuine connections. We want to feel seen and understood, and when we hear from other people who are sharing openly, it helps us feel a little less alone in the world.
Being authentic doesn’t have to mean baring your soul. You can share honestly about your working life without talking about the things that feel private and sacred to you, like your health or family life, for example. Or perhaps you’re someone who feels comfortable sharing some aspects of your personal life, but you draw the line at talking about the struggles you’re facing in your business.
Whatever feels right for you, it’s important to have boundaries and keep some things back. You don’t need to tell the whole story for the online version of yourself to be authentic.
Remember that the content you’re sharing is part of the experience you’re providing to your clients or future clients. You’re not sharing because you want the whole world to know everything about you, you’re here to help a small, select group of people overcome a problem they’re facing.
To help you find the right balance, consider what your ideal clients will find helpful or relatable. That’s who you’re here for, after all, and I know you want to show up in the best way you can for those people.
Q. What experiences have you gone through that your ideal clients might be able to relate to?
Q. What lessons have you learnt, in life or in business, that can help your audience with the challenges they’re facing?
Q. What do you wish you’d known 3, 6 or 12 months ago that could be useful for someone who’s a few steps behind you?
Q. Why have you made [X] decision? What’s guiding you? What do you believe in relation to this that’s given you the confidence to move forward?
Q. What fears have you had in the past that seem silly now? Or what’s something you’ve done recently that you wish you’d done a lot sooner?
After you’ve answered these questions, I’m sure you’ll have plenty of ideas for stories you can share with your community.
Keep a notebook close by or use an app on your phone to develop these ideas and add new thoughts as they come up.
Take inspiration from the real-life conversations you’re having with friends and clients, and remember to write these stories as if you’re talking to that one person who comes to mind when you think about who your ideal client is.
You are a big part of what your clients are buying when they invest in your service – let your personality shine through in your marketing and you’ll attract clients who value you.
A brand is about so much more than just a pretty logo or a strong tagline. Your brand is made up of all the impressions your clients and contacts have of you. It’s your reputation. It’s how people would describe you when you’re not in the room.
There is no one way to talk about a business or to communicate with an online audience. In your business, in your brand, there is only you and the way you talk.
People buy from people, and when you are visible and you share yourself and your story, people get to know you. They root for you, they want you to succeed.
The content you’re sharing is part of the experience you’re providing to your clients or future clients. You’re not sharing because you want the whole world to know everything about you, you’re here to help a small, select group of people overcome a problem they’re facing.
This blog post was written by Sophie Livingston. Sophie is a website copywriter working with freelancers and small business owners who are ready to start attracting their dream clients. Find out more about her website copywriting service, or join her community of determined creatives on Instagram.