branding

6 branding mistakes to avoid

Branding is made up of the values that guide you, the visuals that communicate who you are, and the language you use to communicate with your customers. 

If you’re a regular reader, the number one thing you’ve probably learned from our blog is how important branding is. That’s because it’s essential to attracting, converting, and keeping your customers. It builds loyalty, brand recognition, and acts as a touchstone for consumers. 

We believe branding should be flexible and fun. And, while consistency is important, that doesn’t mean all of your assets should be identical. No matter what your industry or offering, there's a few things we think you should avoid. Here’s our top six: 
 

6 branding mistakes to avoid  |  Hue & Tone Creative

 

1.  Sea of sameness

Think outside of the box and make sure your logo, values, and messaging differentiate you from what’s already out there.  

Everyone has competitors -- and chances are they sell similar or identical products/services. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to imitate what they do! Work with a designer to create a strong brand identity for yourself and then stick with it. It may take time, but you want to establish your identity separate from the competition. 

 

2. Behind the times

Don’t let your branding give off a less-than-contemporary vibe. In the customer’s eyes outdated branding translates to inferior products and subpar service. 

Just because you went through the branding process when you first started your business, that doesn’t mean you’re set for life. Your business’ branding should be periodically reviewed and tweaked to reflect the constantly evolving digital landscape.

 

3. Inconsistency

Consistency is key. Your market needs to be able to identify you across every channel and it’s counterproductive to have an entirely different look and feel across different mediums. Whether it’s on social media, direct mail, a billboard ad, or website banner, your brand should be instantly recognizable across everything you produce. If it’s not, you could miss out on brand awareness and the benefits of an omni-channel campaign.

 

4.  It’s not all about you

When you’re establishing your branding, it’s imperative to remember that what you’re aiming for isn’t about you and your personal preferences -- it’s about your potential customers or clients, so try to avoid getting too personal. 

Just because a color isn’t your favorite, doesn’t mean it won’t connect with your potential customers. If you're having trouble separating your emotions from the process, consider putting some data behind your decisions by conducting market research to gain valuable guidance.

 

5.  Lack of clarity

Your branding should quickly and effortlessly communicate what you do -- and it should easily grab your potential customer’s attention. In a world where time is a highly valued commodity, it’s essential you snag people’s attention quickly.

If your branding’s unclear, you run the risk of not being memorable…which may send them running to your competitors. 

 

6. Not following through

Never, ever make false promises. If you are a delivery company and your tagline is “always on time,” make sure you’re always on time! If you fail to deliver on your promises, your branding is irrelevant, and you leave yourself open to complaints and lost customers


Hue & Tone: Branding for the Piedmont Triad

Branding doesn't have to be hard -- in fact, with the right people in your corner it can actually be fun! Let us turn marketing into something you enjoy doing -- not something you dread. We can help you with everything from your initial branding to your day-to-day social media needs. 

The essentials: must have marketing assets for new businesses

Get your new business of to the best start possible with the right marketing materials! 

Get your new business of to the best start possible with the right marketing materials! 

So, you’ve decided to start a business. You know you need the basics like a logo and business cards – but what other marketing assets should you make a priority?

Marketing materials can encompass everything from websites and letterheads to social media graphics and promotional videos. If you’re just starting out in the small business world, chances are your budget is probably a little tight – but skimping when you start up can mean unnecessary spending down the road.

Think about it: you pick the first business name you think up and print up a bunch of business cards, letterheads, and pens. A few weeks later, you’re hearing from your customers that they can’t remember your business name. Now you’ve confused people, still have to pay for proper branding, and you’ve got to pay to reprint materials you could have gotten right from the start. 

The good news is that we’re here to tell you what you need it, why you need it, when you need it, and how you get it. We hope this run down of essential marketing materials helps empower you when you’re hiring a graphic designer or marketing agency.

Here’s what you need to successfully get your business off the ground:
 

1. Brand Values

Because no physical products come out of this stage of the branding process, it’s often rushed or disregarded – but this is one of the most important stages, and it will influence everything you do from here on out. Your brand values are the set of principles that will dictate every aspect of your business, including the look, messaging, and customer service approach.

Here’s what you’ll want to define:

  • Values: what does your business stand for?
  • Objectives: where do you want to be in 1, 5, or 10 year’s time?
  • Customer personas: who are your talking to and what do they care about?
  • Tone of voice: how will you talk to your customers? And why?
  • Proposition: what will you do for your customers? And how will you benefit them?
  • Tagline/mission statement: how can your brand’s essence be summed up into as few words as possible?

Taking the time to properly develop your brand values will allow you to properly train your workforce and will help you communicate your brand to third parties. We suggest asking your marketing team for a brand book or set of written guidelines that you could hand off to an outside team.

The essentials: Must have marketing assets for new businesses  |  Hue & Tone Creative


2. Brand Identity

Now it’s time to develop the look and feel of your brand. This is where you’ll work with a designer to create a logo and everything that goes with it. You’ll want to come out of this stage with:

  • Primary logo: as well as any alternative logo formats you might need for packaging, online use, or small sizes
  • Logo usage guidelines: what is the smallest size your primary logo should be printed? What do you do when you can only print your color in one logo? Make sure your designer provides you with guidelines for every situation you might encounter.
  • Font palette: what fonts are you going to use on print, web, and in Microsoft Office?
  • Color Palette: what primary and secondary colors will complement your look, logo ad tone?
  • Graphic elements: anything needed to complete your print and web designs.
  • Sample usage: make sure your designer provides examples of how all these elements will come together to create your signature look. 

 

3. Build a winning website

We talk a lot about the importance of a well designed and properly optimized website, so we won’t waste a lot of space here talking through why you need one. Instead, we’ll run through a few key considerations when it comes to building it:

  • Get to the point: you’ve got a limited time to capture visitors’ attention, so get your message across clearly and effectively on every page.
  • Contemporary: outdated websites make your brand look instantly aged and untrustworthy. Take the time to get your website looking slick, and outsource it to a specialist if you need to.
  • Architecture: once you start adding menus and pages, they can be a right pain to change down the line. To make sure you’ve got a great user experience from the outset, map out your site’s architecture before you start building it.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO): with a reputation for being the cheapest marketing method around, it’s crucial that you build and write your website with SEO at the forefront of your mind.
  • Contact: make your call to actions and contact information crystal clear.
  • Host: choose a content management system that’s reliable. Personally, we would recommend Squarespace – here’s why.
  • Domain: be sure to match your domain name to your business’ name.
     

4. Social media

Did you know, 70% of the US population have at least one social media profile? That’s a whole lot of potential customers to capture.

We suggest selecting just 2-3 platforms to get started on – especially if you’re handling your social media in house. To effectively leverage social media, there’s a few things you’ll need to do:

  • Only use high resolution profile and background images (pixilated pictures make you look untrustworthy and out of touch)
  • Write a succinct and enticing bio
  • Link back to your website
  • Include contact details
  • Keep an eye on your inbox/direct messages
  • Commit to regularly posting
  • Reply to those who engage with you
  • Interact with relevant people and/or profiles

Maintaining social media should be a daily job – if it’s not, you’re not doing it right. We suggest creating a content calendar to stay organized. And, make sure you have a set of templates on hand to save time when you need to create a quick Facebook graphic. 

5. Blogs

Investing in content marketing comes with endless benefits. A well maintained blog boosts your SEO efforts, helps you build backlinks and brand awareness, generates leads, adds brand value, and ups engagement.

Just remember the golden rule: the content you’re publishing must be quality. Churning out subpar articles won’t get you far -- if it even gets you anywhere. Here are a few general post types to get you going:

  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Webinars
  • Tutorials
  • Whitepapers
  • Presentations
  • ‘How to’ guides
  • Buzzfeed-style listicles

With good content, you need good images. If you’re not in the position to fork out money for sites like iStock and Shutterstock, consider Unsplash, Pixabay and Pexels for good, free alternatives. 
 

The essentials: Must have marketing assets for new businesses  |  Hue & Tone Creative

6. Templates

Next up is templates. The extent of this list will vary depending on the nature of your business, but below is an idea of the types of templates we suggest you think about:

  • Email campaigns - sales, welcome, thank you, updates, or otherwise
  • Newsletters
  • Direct mail
  • Job descriptions
  • Email signatures
  • Powerpoint presentations 
  • Social media graphics
  • Letterhead/memos

Your logo should feature on each and every one of them -- which is why it’s important to have a logo that sits well in different settings, and your brand’s look, feel and tone should be encapsulated too. Remember though, your templates don’t need to be uniform to be consistent.

7. Print collateral

We’ve been carrying on about online a lot -- and rightly so! -- but don’t forget about good old offline advertising. Depending on your industry, things like physical brochures and business cards can be an important asset.

If you’re investing in printed materials, remember to:

  • Do your research: spending a bit of time selecting a quality printer.
  • Don’t compromise: poor quality paper reflects badly on your business.
  • Don’t rush: if there’s a proofreading mistake that’s your fault there’s no going back -- without throwing money down the drain.
  • Keep it consistent: print materials still needs to mirror your online presence.
  • Think of the bigger picture: think about how you can make print materials evergreen so that you don’t have to reprint regularly. Consider what really needs a date and what could go without one.
  • Get the right amount of copies: you can easily order more, so don’t go print crazy and order 1000s of copies unless you’re absolutely certain they’ll be used. But, you usually get a discount the more you order, so don’t be afraid to print some extras.

Need a little help?

Getting all your marketing assets together can feel really daunting -- I know, I’ve been there! But here at Hue & Tone Creative, there’s a lot we can help you with. From logo design and letterhead to web design and social media management, get in touch to see how we can support your business’ success. 

What does Branding really mean?

ian-dooley-337259.jpg

When the term branding enters a conversation, the word logo usually isn’t far behind. The words have become almost synonymous. Of course, branding is more than the creation of a company’s logo. So, what does branding really mean?

 

The Definition:

The term changes definitions depending upon whom you consult. For discussion’s sake, we’ll use the Business Dictionary’s version which states “[branding is] the process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumers' mind, mainly through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme.” Branding is the personality of a commodity. It’s the feelings and expectations that are connected to goods, services and even people based on lived experience and marketing efforts.

 

The Purpose & Importance:

Businesses use branding for numerous reasons including attracting new customers, securing loyalties, that result in repeat and longtime patrons, and to differentiate themselves from competitors.   

If a business is able to accomplish the above list, it’s safe to assume that it’s at least competitive. With effective branding, it may even be positioned well enough to charge more than market rivals. This increase in value is based largely on consumer perception and is referred to as brand equity. Judging a book, product or service by its metaphoric cover can be extremely advantageous for a company when public opinion is favorable.

 

How it’s Done:

Going back to our working definition that branding is the process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product, person, or service, keep in mind that there are aspects of this cultivation which are entirely controllable. These include, but aren’t limited to, logos, color schemes, public statements, written communications, social media, packaging, websites, and advertisements. Marketing, public relations, and design firms spend their time becoming masters in these areas, so you may consider using a professional here. So often, companies with quality commodities and excellent reputations find themselves in with injured brands do to ill-advised marketing moves.

 

The Fairy and Cautionary Tales:

Most people are familiar with the controversial Pepsi campaign starring Kendall Jenner. During a time where clashes between Human Rights protestors and police were constantly in the media and the topic of much debate, Pepsi wanted to weigh in with a message of collaboration. Unfortunately, concerns of police brutality and violent discord were seemingly solved by Jenner handing an officer an ice-cold Pepsi. People were outraged for many reasons. Some felt Pepsi had made too light of serious matters, others railed against Pepsi using a national crisis as a means to sell more soda. Pepsi soon pulled the ad, apologized, and certainly learned from the branding debacle. The lesson here may be to align your brand with matters in the proximity of one’s wheelhouse.

Contrarily, one can take a devastating and embarrassing event like infidelity and use it to boost a brand. Beyoncé, upon discovering her famous husband was allegedly unfaithful, created an album cathartically working through her personal issues. Lemonade went on to become the highest-selling individual album of 2016 globally, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. The admission helped Beyoncé’s brand by reinforcing her image as a smart and incredibly powerful female force.

 

Questions to ask Yourself:

  • What message do you want your product or service to convey in the public’s mind?
  • What distinguishes your product or service from anything or anyone else on the market?
  • Are you consistently stacking up to public expectation?
  • In what ways (beyond performance) can you demonstrate that you are what you say you are?
  • Are you choosing marketing opportunities and strategies that align with your current brand identity?
     

These questions focus not only on what businesses say and do, but also on how people respond to those messages. In this way, branding is quite interactive. It’s not a business cultivating images of self that customers credulously accept, but a continuous dialogue between consumers and companies.


MARKETING & GRAPHIC DESIGN IN GREENSBORO

Starting a new business? Don’t dive in without a little help from the creative experts. From business card design and logos, to social media marketing, Hue & Tone Creative can help you connect with your customers and creating a lasting impression. 

5 Must Answer Questions for Any New Brand

5 MUST ANSWER QUESTIONS FOR ANY NEW BRAND  |  Hue & Tone Creative

It’s no secret, strong branding is one of the keys to successful marketing. In fact, 69% of marketers insist that branded content is more compelling than advertising through mail or PR.

When it comes to newer businesses, understanding your own brand will help set you apart from your more seasoned competitors. If you’re totally new to branding or you're just trying to figure out who "you" are, grab a note pad and answer these five essential questions.

 

1.    What’s your brand story?

From years of hard work to happy accident, every company and product gets its start somewhere. How did your brand get its start? Is there a story that’s uniquely yours? Think of ways to share your humble beginnings and make your company memorable.

 

2.    Describe your ideal customer?

The most important aspect of opening a business is finding and keeping leads. Taking the time to thoroughly research your target customer will help keep your brand’s aesthetic, feel, and marketing strategies aligned with the wants and needs of your audience.

Because no two customers are alike, we recommend creating personas for three different shoppers. Make detailed lists describing their: age, profession, income, hobbies, where they live, likes, dislikes, etc.

 

3.    What 5 words describe your brand?

In the early stages of branding, you can never make too make lists! We suggest brainstorming as many words or adjectives that you can think of that define you.

When you can’t think of any more, look over the words you came up with and whittle down your list until only the 5 most meaningful words remain.

 

4.    What product or services do you want to be known for?

77% of people choose a product because of its brand name. Think about that statistic the next time you reach for a Post-It or a Band-aid! 

Like Nike sneakers and Tazo tea, every successful business has a well-known product. When people hear the name of your brand, what will be the first thing they think of? 

It's important to define your signature product or services... before your customer defines it for you. 

 

5.    What brands do your customers love? 

This can include your direct competitors or brands that are completely unrelated to you. For example, if you’re opening an organic soy candle store, you may have customers that enjoy buying products from Whole Foods, Anthropologie, Etsy, or Earth Fare.

Check out what colors, words, and imagery they use to figure out where you'll fit in with your competition. 

 

Do you have more branding questions that we didn’t go over? Ask us in the comments!


Marketing & Graphic Design in Greensboro, NC & Beyond

Gearing up for the launch of a new product or business? Don’t dive in without a little help from the creative experts. From business card design and logos, to social media marketing, Hue & Tone Creative can help you connect with your customers and creating a lasting impression. 

Friday Links: The 411 on branding + custom Snapchat filters

Branding is so much more than visual -- it's what people associate with you when they hear your businesses name. You want your brand to give an accurate sense of who you are and what you offer. Today, we've got a few links on how to push your brand to the next level, an inspiring interview on transforming your idea into a brand, and how to boost your reach using Snapchat. 

One | Been building your brand for years, but now sure what to do next? Assess where your brand is at, then check out these 50 ways to give it a boost.

Two | In this digital age, we can’t emphasize the importance of social media enough! Follow these three steps to help embrace social media as an integral part of your business operations.

Three | Have you seen the cool geofilters Snapchat recently released? Did you know that you can make them for your business? With a low cost buy-in and millions of users, it’s a great way to advertise. This step-by-step guide goes in-depth and shows you how to make a filter.

Four | A creative profile + cover photo can make a big impression on a business page. Check out this showcase of big brands cover photos to get ideas for your own page!

Five | “Do one thing extremely well. Refine the process. Do it again.” That's Michael Luscher's advice on forming a big brand. Learn more about how he turned his one big idea into one big brand.

Always keep in mind that your vision + your voice + your visuals = your brand! Enjoy this long weekend :)

Our Work: Comprehensive branding for CSDHH

I've been so excited for this particular post! It was tough to wait until the work was complete and ready to share.

Our Work: Comprehensive branding for CSDHH -- Hue & Tone Creative

I could keep leading up to it forever, so I'll cut myself off. Here's a look at the website and comprehensive branding we created for CSDHH, a fantastic nonprofit that -- as the acronym suggests -- provides communication services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. 

CSDHH just celebrated its 40th anniversary, but had never been branded -- so this was a true start-from-scratch situation, which was a fun challenge to take on. They wanted natural, earth-toned branding that didn't go straight for the obvious -- things like hands or ears. 

The solution: the repeating motif of keys, which represent with the right level of subtlety that this is an organization that's unlocking doors and breaking down barriers for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. CSDHH's new tagline -- Opening Doors, Connecting People -- brings that theme full-circle. 

Our Work: Comprehensive branding for CSDHH -- Hue & Tone Creative

Now after 40 years of service to the community, CSDHH has clean, comprehensive branding that communicates, subtly but clearly, what they're about as an organization. That was a cool thing to be a part of -- and it was even better to get to know the people of CSDHH. My gratitude to them for allowing me to be a part of the process, and more than that, for all they do for this community!

If you have questions about your organization's branding, I'd love to talk. Email me at hannah@hueandtonecreative.com, or you can click the contact tab here.

Hue & Tone Tips: Easy, do-it-yourself stock photography

I have a confession to make: when I post on the Hue & Tone Instagram, I don't actually reach out to snap a photo of the office supplies (in branded colors) already artfully arranged on my desk. Those are stock photos -- at least in the sense that I shot them all in one batch and stockpiled them for later. But I didn't have to spend a ton of money on them, since I took them myself.

If you want to keep your business photography on-brand and avoid spending a ton of $$ on stock photos, here are a few tips I've picked up from trial-and-error experience.

Hue & Tone Tips: Easy, do-it-yourself stock photography -- Hue & Tone Creative

Buy props that match your brand.

This doesn't have to be expensive -- if you go with office props like we did, check out the dollar section at Target and the clearance sections of office supply stores. And, in my case, none of these are solely a prop...I just kept an eye out, when I was buying functional office supplies, for a few that matched Hue & Tone's bright look.

Hue & Tone Tips: Easy, do-it-yourself stock photography -- Hue & Tone Creative

Get outside.

Unless you have professional lighting equipment or a ton of well-placed windows, heading outdoors is your best bet for well-lit, appealing photos that don't require a lot of editing. Wait for a sunny day, pack up your supplies, pick a spot without too much shade and head out for a photoshoot.

Hue & Tone Tips: Easy, do-it-yourself stock photography -- Hue & Tone Creative

Use a solid background.

Keep it clean and sharp by shooting props arranged on a solid-color background. I used a sheet of white posterboard and it worked out great -- just make sure to use the matte side so you don't wind up with a glare in your photos.

Hue & Tone Tips: Easy, do-it-yourself stock photography -- Hue & Tone Creative

Get creative.

Bring a bunch of different props and shoot them in every angle and combination you can dream up. Write something out. Try neat lineups and jumbled-up piles. You'll want variety, and you'll have to take a ton of photos for every one you'll actually like, so give yourself options!

Hue & Tone Tips: Easy, do-it-yourself stock photography -- Hue & Tone Creative

Keep it simple + make minimal edits.

For me, at least, clean, uncomplicated photos were easier to shoot on the front end, and easier to use in a variety of projects. This meant staying away from over-complicated setups and keeping the post-shoot Photoshop party to a minimum -- just brightening and sharpening where it was needed.

If this isn't for you, there are some good places to find royalty-free, non-cheesy stock photography. But, personally, I find that creating my own on-brand, simple stock photography is the way to go. If you decide to try it out, I'd love to know how it goes! hannah@hueandtonecreative.com, or comment below.

Friday Links: Fostering creativity, boosting productivity and more

Hello, Friday! I'm currently in the office wrapping things up for the week...which usually means scheduling social posts, wrapping up larger projects and a few last client phone calls and meetings. I won't say I never work on the weekends (if I said that, it wouldn't be true) but I do try to reserve some weekend time for recharging. 

As another weekend begins, here are a few links I've been loving this week...

Hue & Tone: Links to end the week part two

Hue & Tone: Links to end the week part two

One | I've mentioned this before, but I'm really interested in creativity and how it works when you need to be creative on a regular basis -- not just after sparks of inspiration. I loved this article explaining how Pixar fosters creativity and good ideas among its staff. 

Two | There's a lot of great advice out there to help you harness social media for your business...there's also a lot of really bad advice, something this article sums up well. (You REALLY don't need an account on every platform. Or a post with 15 hashtags.) 

Three | This is a great roundup on apps to boost your productivity as a freelancer. We'll definitely be trying a few of these.

Four | Finding the best creative solution to a problem definitely requires a lot of brainstorming. If that's not something you're used to, this is a good way to get started

Five | You need a brand, not just a logo. Here's why.

Wishing you all an excellent weekend! We'll be back here on the blog next week.