If you’re a small business or a Sole Trader, Chances are that you won’t have the finance available to hire a branding specialist in the form of a big agency. But you know that your brand is a valuable thing and can really help your business thrive. So what we thought we’d do is outline a few things that you can consider to help focus your understanding of your own brand. A knowledge of your own brand will help you communicate with your designers more effectively and be part of the process. Part one of a series in looking at your own brand concentrates on competitor analysis in terms of visual identity.
When you hire a branding agency they will begin by looking at you and also you competitors. The thing is, you probably know who your competition is, so you yourself can, to some extent, analyse and compare them with your own offering. The benefit of this is that is enables you to make clear decisions about how you want to differentiate yourself from them in terms of both the visual and also the intangible, emotional aspects of your brand. This in turn will help you separate yourself from the competition and stand out from the crowd. Then, when you come to have a piece of promotion designed you can be more articulate in expressing what you want your designers to do. The design can be focused more easily on the intent and goals that you have set out as a result of analysing the competition and in turn, your business. The things you learn will become a platform for your visual design to express itself effectively to your clients or customers in a way that sets you apart from competing businesses.
As a business you’ll probably have looked at competitors in business strategy terms but perhaps not so much in terms of their visual marketing and brand identity. The point is that you shouldn’t see your competitors' branding as something to fear or even emulate, but to embrace, reference and differentiate yourself from. It is not necessarily the goal to create something that might be deemed “better” in terms of branding, but to create something that speaks for you and your brand as an individual entity.
You can look at a competitor and analyse the areas in which they are stronger or weaker than you. Look at who they are targeting, where they position themselves in terms of cost and what their unique selling points are. Again, these things can influence not just your financial strategy or the product you sell, but also the visual side of your business. Along with this you can see what visual style they employ to reinforce their appeal to their target audience and promote their place in the market. Look at colours, typefaces and fonts, photographic or graphic styles or elements. What emotional message are they conveying and what is their tone of voice? Are they Cheerful, Sincere, Reliable, Rugged, Cheeky? The most successful brands will have a focus on a specific set of values like these that help them connect with their audience.
Think about what your core values are and what you want to offer your clients or customers? What are the words you use to describe your business values and approach? You can refer to these values at all times and ensure that you are communicating them clearly in your promotional materials or social media posts and so on. Remember, you can’t manufacture these things they have to be true! They need to be ingrained within you and your company and be part of its DNA. It is far easier, and better, to create design based on simple truths about what drives the company, than attempt to shoe-horn in values that you hope your clients or customers will want. it quickly becomes obvious to people that a company isn’t being sincere.
A client who is aware of their business’ personality and values will often find it easier to establish their visual brand and communicate effectively with their customer base. Assessing what the competition is doing right, or wrong, in terms of their visual identity is a valuable tool in turning the mirror on yourself and achieving a clear and relatable identity.