Same Brand, Different Networks: Visual Branding 101

Related: How to Build Your Brand Name Through Social Media: A Primer. Weave your brand into everything you do. Personal branding should be a large part of everything you do. It should be weaved. Over 12 years of marketing, branding, eCommerce & online experience allows personal examples when writing posts. We have a broad, but defined niche that offers plenty of content that will resonate with readers from many industries. We have a large network of influencers to consult & tap for information.

  • That means you're subject to the same brand demands as Apple, Coca Cola, and General Motors, only with an infinitesimal sliver of their marketing and advertising budgets. You've got to do the same things they had to do – come up with a unique name, a catchy tag-line, an easily identifiable logo.
  • Having a good brand can make or break your business. Image by Mark Nazh. In the following article, we’ll be sharing a few branding tips for you to implement in your photography business. You can apply the same general rules if you operate any kind of visual online business where your goal is to sell your creative work.

As a fashion business, you know how important visuals are. Often it’s the first impression your customers get of you – and you make a visual impact for your brand every day:

  • Instagram posts
  • One sheet
  • Lookbook
  • Emails to your customer list
  • Packaging
  • Kickstarter video
  • Hang tags
  • Garment tags
  • The photo of you or your team on your website
  • Heck, all the photos on your website
  • The invitations to your launch party
  • And even how you’re dressed when you walk into a boutique that sells your garments. (I once heard a woman say she always wears the same striped dress when she gives talks because it helps people remember her.)

As a fashion business, you have a head start in mastering your visual branding. You’re already focused on developing a cohesive collection that fits into your brand’s history and your clothes are always speaking for your brand. But it’s not enough to let it stop there.

“Great!” you say, “But HOW?!”

Figure out who your ideal customer is.

You have probably worked some of this out either in your business plan or something less formal that serves the same purpose. Remember that your visual brand is supposed to attract your customer, not represent you personally. (That’s especially difficult if you’re a one-person show, but even then there’s a difference!)

Here are some questions to ask yourself about your ideal customer:

  • The basics: How old are they? What is their gender(s)? What are their life circumstances (married, single, kids, job)?
  • Where do they live? In the heart of the city? Far from an urban center? In your city? Farther afield?
  • Where else do they shop? At local boutiques? In person? Online?
  • What do they want/need from your business? Why would they choose it over a similar business? As you answer this, ask yourself “does that really make my business different?” For instance, you could say that your brand is high quality – but so many brands will say that! Dig deeper by asking why. Why are your jeans high quality? Because you use American-manufactured Cone Mills denim dyed with 100% natural plant indigo.

Narrow your brand down to five adjectives.

I love using this task to help people get to the heart of their business. Choose five adjectives to represent various aspects of your brand. Pick words that are packed with meaning. For instance, “unique” just means “different” – without any context as to what it’s different from. Check out this great big list of adjectives if you need inspiration.

Keep your five adjectives close to you – physically too! write ‘em down and tape them to your computer monitor! – as you continue on to the next step.

Create a moodboard.

This process might be familiar as a way you gather inspiration for each collection. It’s just as helpful for defining your visual branding!

Start by making a Pinterest board for your brand then get pinning! Keep referring back to your customer description and your five adjectives to make sure you’re not just pinning stuff you like. Go wild and fill up that Pinterest board.

Create a blank document to which you can add images (e.g. Photoshop, Illustrator, Canva, or heck, you could even use Word). Narrow it down to nine images. Don’t cheat and do 13 because you just couldn’t choose.

Here are some ideas for how to choose what images make the cut:

  • Make sure each of your five adjectives are represented. You want the moodboard to feel like the whole of your brand.
  • Choose a consistent color palette. What colors keep showing up on your Pinterest board? You don’t need to narrow it down to an exact color palette just yet (that’s next!) but consider if the colors “go” together.
  • Choose a mix of subject matter: typography, interiors, fashion/people, packaging, flowers and plants, illustrations, patterns.
  • As you’re choosing images, keep referring back to your customer description. Will your ideal customers be attracted to this?
  • Play around with different combinations of images. Maybe you’ll have 15 images in the running for those final nine spots. Find the nine that work the best together and say YOUR BRAND the most.

Once you’re happy with it, print it off or keep a copy somewhere easily accessible.

Pick a color palette.

Stare at your moodboard…keep staring…okay. Now you’re ready to pick a color palette. There’s no hard rule about this, but aim for 1-3 main colors and, if you want, 1-3 supporting colors.

Some brands have one main color (think Twitter blue) and others have a broader palette.

And remember to include neutrals! Will you use stark white or something a little warmer?

Here are some suggestions for picking a color palette:

  • You know how your moodboard has a fairly consistent color palette? Start there. What colors are showing up the most?
  • Choose one photo from your moodboard and take the colors directly from that! If you don’t have software that lets you do that, you can use websites like this.
  • Think about the clothes that you make (and not just for your most recent collection). Do they have anything in common color-wise? Build from there.
  • Consider color psychology. Google it. I take it with a pinch of salt: YES colors can draw out different feelings, but there can be good reasons to choose an unexpected main color.

Typography time!

When choosing typography, you don’t need to use exactly the same font as is in your logo, but they should play well together. Going to a free font website and choosing three at random does not a cohesive brand identity make.

Pick one display font – that will be used at large sizes on headers, posters, etc. – and one body font that is easy to read at small sizes (around 8-10pt) for long paragraphs. Your display font can be “fancier” but beware: it always needs to be legible. (Want to see an example of a display font used badly? Check out Upworthy. Don’t be Upworthy.)

Visual

Some tips for picking fonts:

  • Check out Google Fonts. They have a library of some of the internet’s better free fonts and offer suggestions for pairings.
  • Another good resource for free fonts is FontSquirrel. It has fewer fonts than other free font sites, so it isn’t overwhelming and the fonts are generally higher quality.
  • Your display font and body font could be from the same family. For instance, you could use Helvetica Regular for your body type and Helvetica Bold Condensed for headers. This way you can be sure that they’ll work well together.
  • When in doubt go simple. You’re less likely to fall into any traps if you stick with easy-to-read, unlikely-to-look-dated fonts.

Then use these fonts and only these fonts. On your one sheet. On your Instagram quotes. On your website. On your hang tags. You get the idea.

Let’s talk photography.

Your brand photography likely comes in two forms: casual, phone-snapped images for social media, and professionally shot images of your collections (which you might also share on social media).

Building a visual brand on Instagram:

  • Choose your brand filters. Narrowing it down to just a couple of filters (or edit settings) that you use on all your photos will make consistent. For example, I always increase the contrast and saturation on my images.
  • You know your moodboard’s color palette? Stick to that (at least somewhat) with your Instagram photos.
  • If you like sharing quotes or text posts, create a template that you use every time. (Using the brand fonts you just picked!) This will not only speed things up down the line, but will make your posts more consistent.
  • If your business Instagram doubles as your personal account, beware how many and what kind of personal posts you share. Keep your customer in mind. Do they want to see five photos a day from your trip to Hawaii? No they do not – unless you’re wearing garments from your clothing line.

Photoshoots

Likely every time you release new clothes you’ll have a formal photoshoot. While each season/collection may have a different theme or feel, there should be some consistency that connects it all and makes it obvious that it’s part of your brand.

Here are some brands that do it well:

Instead of shooting against a white backdrop, sewing pattern company Tilly and the Buttons uses brightly colored backgrounds.

A post shared by Tilly and the Buttons (@tillybuttons) on

I am always excited to see the incredible handmade sets from Birds of North America. They shoot all of their garments against a white backdrop for the web shop, but take a set of stylized photos as well.

A post shared by Birds of North America (@birdsofna) on

Christy Dawn has a boho chic vibe and shoots their garments outside.

A post shared by CHRISTY DAWN (@christydawn) on

Don’t forget about packaging.

If you’re doing any selling via a website, packaging matters. After all, it’s the first impression your customers will get of your physical goods! Give them something to unbox for their Instagram stories!

Here are some things to consider:

  • Will you get custom-made branded tape? Will you use tape in your brand color?
  • Will you get your packaging materials made with your branding on it or will you use a stamp to add it yourself?
  • Will you use boxes or envelopes?
  • What color will your boxes/envelopes be? Kraft is cool, but not right for every brand!
  • When people open up the box/envelope, what will they see? Will their items be wrapped in (branded? colored?) tissue and tied with a ribbon or string? Fastened with washi tape or a branded sticker?
  • If environmentalism and sustainability are part of your brand (or even if they aren’t!), look into eco-friendly packing materials.

Defining your complete visual brand is a big job. As you can see, it’s part of every freakin’ thing that you do. But it’s also an opportunity for you to continue to tell your brand story and connect with your customers! Nail it and it gives them yet another reason to come back – and tell their friends all about you too.

Elise Epp is a graphic designer for creative entrepreneurs – especially makers and sellers of clothing and home goods. Her made-to-measure visual branding and websitescapture the heart of her clients’ businesses and give them room to grow. She has been pursuing an ethical wardrobe since 2015 and loves cats, feminism, and ice cream.

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When creating your , it’s imperative that you think about everything from your to color scheme to to the tag line. You also have to have a memorable brand name, strong message, support system, and all of the necessary legalities, like getting trademarked, in place.

But, that’s only the beginning of your process. To help you complete creating your awesome brand, give these nine tips a spin as well.

1. How do people see you?

“The interesting thing about your personal brand is it’s never what you say it is, it’s actually what everyone else says it is,” writes founder and chairman of the award-winning matchmaking firm PCBA Paul C. Brunson. “Therefore, the first place to begin in the building and growth of your brand is to know what people think of you.”

Paul adds that you can find out how others view by: “googling yourself, holding a focus group (of close friends), or asking a life coach or coach to conduct a 360 analysis on your behalf (we do this for all of our clients and it’s very effective).”

2. Build your online platform.

Blogger, author, digital strategist, and speaker Jeff Bullas recommends that you, “Build your own online platform such as a or website that you own, then amplify your content and engage with your audience on .” Be adds, “Use , Facebook or Twitter or even and . You have options. Find what social network resonates with you.”

“The secret. Don’t wait to be perfect. Just start.”

Here are a couple of pointers to keep in mind when creating your brand;

  • Be authentic.
  • Have a unique voice.
  • Build an email list.
  • Have a memorable design.
  • Create a memorable slogan that expresses your mission and purpose
  • Empower your customers

Also don’t forget to harness the power of content marketing, guest blogging and networking.

Related: How to Build Your Brand Name Through Social Media: A Primer

Same Brand Different Networks: Visual Branding 101 &

3. Weave your brand into everything you do.

should be a large part of everything you do. It should be weaved into your life. It shouldn't just be in the clothes you wear but in your every action with friends and business colleagues.

Your brand should show in how you blog online. For example, my personal brand always is helping entrepreneurs. When I attend networking events I try to have the same person you read about online, shine at networking events. If you try to be someone you're not, it will show.

4. Be consistent.

As a customer, think about the that you are most loyal to. Chances are that they’ve earned your trust because they are dependable. For example, is known for delivering superior customer service. Dropbox includes its signature hand drawn blue box logo on all of its messaging.

Bot examples prove at just just how important consistency is for brands.

As Hannah Fleishman states on HubSpot, “All of your communications and marketing assets should tell your brand’s story.”

5. Don’t try to please everyone.

Years ago at a marketing conference, my friend Jonathan Long from Market Domination Media told me that 'You're never going to please everyone, so don't try to be everything to everyone. Learn to be the best brand possible to specific set of users.' This still sticks out to me as myself as a business owner really can't do everything. If I try and please everyone.... it's not even possible.

Don’t be afraid to be yourself - even if that means saying the things that no one else will. Remember, you’re not in business to please everyone. You're in business to grow a business, not please everyone.

Related: Why Building Your Business Comes Before Building Your Brand

Same Brand Different Networks: Visual Branding 101 Reviews

7. Produce value.

You should be producing value with whatever you do. You don't have to be Apple to have an amazing product. Even lower end products like Ikea produce a lot of value to their customers.

When thinking about the value that you can add, ask questions like;

  • What sets your product, service and company apart from your competitors?
  • What value do you provide and how does that value differ from that provided by your competitors?
  • How do these benefits tap into your customer’s emotions?
  • Is what I'm producing for my customer produce enough value for the price I'm charging?
  • Is my brand in sync with how I'm marketing myself?

8. Associate yourself with strong brands.

“Your personal brand is strengthened or weakened by your connection to other brands,” said Shama Hyder is Founder and CEO of Marketing Zen. “Find and leverage strong brands which can elevate your own personal brand.”

You can begin by looking at the three C’s: company, college, colleagues.

For example, you could contribute content to your alumni or company newsletter or blog.

Related: 4 Signs You're Doing All the Wrong Things as an Entrepreneur

9. Get sneaky with brand-building awareness.

Finally, you can start spreading brand awareness by using some outside-of-the-box techniques like;

  • Setting up a referral program.
  • Creating an infographic.
  • Offering freemium content.
  • Partnering with local businesses.
  • Wrapping your car with ads.
  • Giving away swag.
  • Running a social media contest.
  • Hosting a podcast.
  • Setting up PPC ads and a remarketing campaign.

How have your created your awesome brand?