If you’re the owner of a small biz, you’re probably aware that your branding is the first touchpoint a customer (or potential customer) has with you — it’s their first impression and, like most first impressions, it matters; a fair bit actually.
But chances are, unless you happen to run a brand design business, you’re no expert when it comes to the signs of a successful brand or the branding no-no’s it would serve you well to avoid.
Marketing and design undoubtedly go hand-in-hand, but I’ll be the first to admit that, although I love a good colour palette, I’m certainly no brand expert.
So, I’ve called in the big guns.
If you wanna know what the biggest design mistakes people make are and how to spot a smart brand, then I recommend you keep reading…
But first up, meet Sarah, founder and owner of The Sparkk.
Hello lovely readers! I am Sarah and I am the founder and owner of The Sparkk — a heart-led creative studio for like minded small businesses.
The Sparkk began in 2018 as a freelance graphic design business, which quickly morphed into a branding specialist studio before becoming the all encompassing business/design/strategy model that it is today.
I exist (in business) to support small business owners and start ups, and to equip you with the tools you need to achieve success through branding design, strategy, graphic design (and layout creation), business coaching, content creation, and copywriting.
And why do I do it?
There is just something about seeing a concise brand come together and grow, and about seeing what lights people up — when people find their ‘spark’ (corny…right?! haha) it fills my soul.
How do you spot a smart brand from one that’s had less thought put into it?
A clear, refined strategy STANDS OUT.
It’s when everything just flows, when the branding, messaging and tone just lands correctly and coherently. That’s a smart brand.
What are the three most common mistakes you see biz owners make when it comes to brand design?
1. Rushing it
Branding isn’t just a pretty logo, a brand colour and your favourite font. It requires thought, meaningful strategy and a clear plan.
2. Not researching their market
When business owners don’t have a clear picture of their ideal audience, who they’re competing against or what’s happening in their market, it can majorly impact the success of the branding.
3. Not being consistent with it once they have it
Another thing that is important, is to follow through with your branding. Some businesses just think a logo is enough… but you need to consistently use all of the elements of your branding — the carefully chosen fonts, colours and general aesthetic to ensure consistency and strength.
Would you encourage any entrepreneurial family members or friends to DIY their brand design?
I like to keep things real and honest, so I would never push anyone in a direction just to make money or to benefit from them — but I absolutely, hand on my heart, believe that brand design should not be DIY’d.
Branding gives your business permission to exist, it introduces you before you get a chance to do it yourself. I can’t over-emphasise the importance of really getting it right. And working with an expert truly is the best way to get it right.
Take us on a short walk through the brand design process. What does the process look like when you’re designing a brand for a client?
When designing a brand there are a few steps before we even get to the logo creation. Here’s a look at the (ideal) process:
1. Strategy Call
Here I take a deep dive into the client’s business idea, we analyse the market and their target audience, and we discuss goals for the brand and visions.
2. Brand DNA Document is developed
This is where the juicy bit happens. We outline everything about your brand and put it into a neat little ‘bible’. Things like tone of voice, words you use, your visions, marketing and sales pitches, theming, and vibe of the brand.
This ALL dictates what we then create together in terms of visuals for the brand.
3. Logo Concept Stage
Here I usually create 3-4 initial logos to send to the client. We pick one, make adjustments (and repeat) until we get the logo right. This includes colours and basic fonts.
4. Style Guide Time
Once the logo is ‘decided on’ I work on a style guide for the brand including images, graphics, colour and font suggestions and pairings, ways to use the logo etc.
This is then all delivered in a cute little package (read – dropbox folder) to my client and I watch in excitement as it’s popped onto socials or wherever else.
6. Other brand bitties
Then we work on other collateral, maybe flyers, digital content, business cards, email footers etc.. as we said brand consistency is KEY so the more the merrier!
Do you have any practical tips for ensuring the consistency of your branding — even when you’re under the pump and just want to get a social post up?!
Take the time to AUTOMATE things for yourself so that you don’t fall in a heap when trying to do something quickly.
I set up all of my brand style guides in Canva for my clients (so colours and fonts are ready to just simply click).
Invest in templates through your designer that are set up to brand and ready for you to just add in your custom info, and TRY where possible to batch create content so you aren’t often having to create on the fly.
Do you recommend brand refreshes or do you think a brand should be able to stand the test of time?
I think there is a place for both. Some of the biggest brands in the world (Coca-Cola) have evolved their branding. Times change, audiences change and naturally our branding should move with that.
It is important that your audience has trust in you, and that comes in consistent branding — refreshing is okay, but jumping on the back of trends, changing major elements and ignoring your signature style could be detrimental to your business.
So, absolutely I recommend brand refreshes, but clear thinking and strategy needs to back it up!
For any readers that are looking at the current branding and not feeling as proud of it as they’d like to, what would you recommend as a first step to rectifying their situation?
Firstly, I would have a think about WHY you’re not feeling proud of it. Get really clear on what it is you’re not loving and think about if it is detrimental to your brand.
Then get in touch with a designer to discuss your options and their packages.
Got any final pearls of wisdom for us?
Branding is EVERYTHING.
Get crystal clear on your strategy and your plans for your business, THEN you are ready to invest in branding.
Also remember, when you own your own business, it IS personal! So, take your time to build something you’re really proud of and that feels authentic to you. The rest will follow.