How to build a standout brand

Image source: BullRun

If you want to stand out in 2022 — whether as a small business or on your own — having a clear and distinctive brand presence is critical. Branding helps to position yourself or your company as an authority or expert in your space, but it takes both time and effort to build. And to maximize your impact, you need to know the most important parts of creating a strong brand.

With insights from branding experts, like Brandon Groce who has helped guide companies such as Disney, Hilton, Wix, Dannon and Huggies for over a decade and social media coach Skyelar Garcia of Managed by Skye who has garnered 4.3M TikTok likes, we’ll dig into what branding is, how to create your own strategy, and a few top tips for building a strong brand presence.

In this article

  • Why building a strong presence is important for your brand
  • Small business branding versus personal branding
  • How to create a branding strategy
  • Define your target audience
  • Elements for your visual brand identity
  • Making a logo
  • Choosing brand colors
  • Personal branding
  • Know what others in your space are doing
  • Create an authentic brand voice
  • Put together a brand guidelines document
  • Making branded content
  • Follow your brand guidelines
  • Use tools that make branding easy

Why building a strong presence is important for your brand

Branding involves building an identity through media such your website, social media profiles, email list, and more, to differentiate yourself and your offerings from others.

This is important because a strong brand presence helps you build credibility, become a leader in your space, and increase your overall following and customer base. It can also help you create a better, more meaningful connection and relationship with your audience, which is a key component to building brand loyalty.

Small business branding versus personal branding

We will look at two different branding strategies: one for building a small business brand and another for a personal brand.

How to create a branding strategy

Whether you’re creating a small business brand or a personal brand, you can include similar steps in your strategy.

Define your target audience

A first step in your branding strategy is to ensure you specifically caters to the people you want to connect with, sell to and join your community — i.e., your target audience. What do you want people to think about your brand. For example, bright colors and fun logos and type might be right for a pharmaceutical company looking to become more approachable and reach a younger demographic.

Groce says defining your target audience may be the most important branding effort you can make.

“You want to sell your product or your service, but to do that, you have to come across in a certain way to the people you’re selling to,” he says. “And if the way the product or the company wants to be represented doesn't go hand-in-hand with what the community is looking for, there's going to be a disconnect. They'll go to a competitor that gets them better.”

Some brands create a symbol for their logo, such as Starbucks, and some use a word mark (also known as a text-only typographic treatment) of the name, such as Coca-Cola.

Elements for your visual brand identity

Your visual brand identity consists of four main elements:

Text typefaces with different weights. The same font, just displayed in different ways.

What is isometric art?

Isometric art is a drawing or illustration style that makes two-dimensional figures appear three dimensional.

“Those visual branding elements are 100 percent important,” Groce explains. “They define who you are and how your audience and customers will see you. And that tells everyone who interacts with you that this company or this person is about these things. And that’s the juice that fires all your marketing and branding.”

If you fail to clarify your brand visually, you may fail to breakthrough or build awareness and recall – critical for any brand to succeed.

“(When) you have to pull things out of the ether,” said Groce, "that’s very difficult. Nobody knows how you want your audience to feel when they think about you, so you’re kind of stuck before you start.”

Defining a clear set of brand guidelines is essential for anyone who works on a brand or is looking to cultivate their own personal brand. This helps to create consistency that leads to instant recognizability.

To Groce, branding is about the audience and the community first, then creating the visual brand and tone that matches.

A logo is a quick way to keep your brand front-and-center in your audience’s mind.

There are so many different types of logo ideas you can try out before you find the best one. And even if you settle on a design now, that doesn’t mean it has to be forever. Many businesses undergo major rebrands periodically until they find something that sticks. When you do, you may also consider submitting your logo design for trademark.

Learn more about how to design a logo and get started making your own with templates using Adobe Express:

Choosing brand colors

As mentioned above, colors help define your brand, so incorporate ones that reflect your company’s overall mission. Many industries with a sensitive product looking to build trust (i.e., healthcare) have historically selected blue. While organic or environmentally forward brands often choose green (perhaps a bit obvious...) to convey their mission.

While it’s important to note what the competition in your space uses as their brand colors, differentiating is also critical and will help your brand stand out in a crowded space. Choosing a color based on the meanings and associations they convey can play a big role in how your audience perceives your brand. Still, be mindful that different colors mean different things to a global audience and cultures throughout the world.

Personal branding

When branding yourself, you have a bit more flexibility than a company — although the first principle is just as important: understand who your audience is.

You need to know (a) what demographics of people you want to appeal to and (b) what kinds of businesses you’d want to partner with. As a professional, consider whose attention you want to grab (HR recruiters? Small business owners?) and ensure that how you present yourself reflects the services you offer companies. For example, if you are a personal chef looking to cater lunches for companies, you may want to fill your social media channels with pictures of food you’ve made in the past.

Know what others in your space are doing

When building a strong brand, it’s important to try to stand out among your competitors. Start by analyzing other brands’ products, logos, colors, and images so you can differentiate yourself and your brand from the pack.

“I like to look at a collection of others in the same space,” Groce says. “Get inspired from a good idea from one brand and another from somewhere else. This will give you a better footing for your journey ahead, because you don’t have to start entirely from scratch.”

And when you’re looking for great branding ideas, keep that focus on your target audience.

“Think about what meshes with you and what will mesh with the people who are already paying attention to you.”

Many brands publish their brand guidelines publicly. By viewing the guidelines of other brands you admire or take inspiration from, you’re able to get the full scope of their brand — logo, colors, fonts, imagery, and all.

Pay attention to whether there’s a common theme in colors or design elements and understand why different brands are using them. For example, if every brand in a certain space or vertical is using yellow in their logo, there may be a reason, and you may want to weigh the risks on incorporating that color in your branding – or bucking the trends and differentiating your brand.

Create an authentic brand voice

Your brand voice is the way you speak to your audience, and how they hear you. It guides every piece of messaging you communicate, including your website, social media posts, emails, and marketing materials. It should also be used by sales and support teams, as a guide to help them interact with customers.

“If you’ve clearly defined your brand voice,” Groce explains, “then everyone involved in your marketing efforts has a clear guideline of what to do and what not to do. That's the scaffolding for you to build from. Without that clear voice, there’s a lot of uncertainty that leads to errors and a lot more work to fix them.”

Consider how you want your brand to be perceived and use that to create a brand voice that will resonate with your audience.

Note too that when creating a brand voice, it’s extremely important to remain genuine and authentic. Today’s customers will see right through a facade and flee to your competitors instead.

To pinpoint the best voice for your brand or personal content, find three to five characteristics that you want your brand to represent.

For example, let's say you want to convey a friendly and approachable feel. Your preferred characteristics might be:

You can reinforce this friendly “feel” in your content — for instance, the product How-To you create for customers. Make it easy to understand, eliminate technical jargon and lengthy explanations. Instead, use easy-to-read words and simple descriptions that avoid industry jargon.

Social media coach Skyelar Garcia of Managed by Skye (4.3M TikTok likes) says, “Discovering your brand's voice or your authentic voice is so important. We've all heard of influencers where people buy anything they share on social media. It's all about discovering that voice and portraying it within the trends that are on TikTok or other social media.”

Put together a brand guidelines document

When you’ve created the different elements that define your brand, it’s time to document it so you have a roadmap to refer to as you make business decisions. If you ever hire someone new on your team, brand guidelines will help them understand what you are all about, get them up-to-speed, and ensure your brand remains consistent and recognizable.

“Brand guidelines definitely help,” says Groce, “because once you have that document, everyone you work with will represent you in the way you want — the way that’s most inviting to your audience.”

Brand guidelines can be an infographic, presentation, a one-sheeter or an entire web site. No matter its form, make sure you incorporate all the most important elements: your visual brand identity, your brand voice, your target audience.

Consider creating your branding document in Adobe InDesign with this pre-made brand guidelines template, which will help you quickly get critical elements about your brand in one place and ready to share.

Making branded content

Once you’ve built out your branding strategy and have created your visual brand elements, it’s time to put those visuals into practice. Any type of content that you or your company creates should be recognizable and traceable back to your brand guidelines.

Follow your brand guidelines

You’ve created your brand guidelines, so adhere to them. What good is building out your branding strategy if you don’t use it?

Make sure to share your brand guidelines with each customer-facing member of your team. Sharing your guidelines will help team members understand how to communicate with customers. The information in your guidelines about font specifications and color values will make it easier for your team to create branded content.

Use tools that make branding easy

The right design tools can help ensure you use the right font or color when creating branded visuals for digital channels. For example, Adobe Express lets you add your specific brand colors and fonts so you can easily access them when creating graphics and video content.

Screenshot of Adobe Express

Social media coach Garcia says, “For a creative graphic, I typically use Adobe Express. The most important tip is to have your formats, fonts, and brand colors already saved on whatever platform, to make sure things stay as easy as possible. You shouldn't be spending tons of time making a graphic. It should be really easy.”

Start with a template

Another way to create branded content quickly and easily is by starting with a professionally designed template. Adobe Express offers thousands of templates for nearly any type of visual content, giving you the perfect starting place for personal branding content.

Screenshot of Adobe Express templates

After you upload your branding to Adobe Express, you can easily swap out the fonts and colors in the template and replace them with visuals that match your brand.

Templates can also be customized to perfectly fit your needs and the channel it’s for — whether it’s for a blog, website graphic, social media, or even a video for Instagram Reels or TikTok.

Some brand assets or templates you may want to have on hand are:

Pretty much any type of visual content you create should have a consistent look and feel. You don’t want them all to be identical but using some of the same concepts throughout can help strengthen your brand.

One of Groce’s favorite brands is Apple, because they know they're not just a technology company and that through a well-defined aesthetic that is rigorously adhered to across everything they do, they’ve been able to elevate themselves as a luxury brand.

“Apple is like the Louis Vuitton or the Gucci of the tech world,” Groce says. “They keep their brand nice and clean and minimalistic and luxury based. The iPhone isn’t just a device. It’s also a symbol. You’re either rich or you like to feel that way. And when people see you have an iPhone, you’ve already told them a lot about your own personal identity.”

Building a brand takes time and effort but it’s well worth the investment and the right tools can make it easy. Don’t forget to take advantage of the free tools available in Adobe Express to create your own brand elements and stunning content that brings it to life.