A brand is the core essence of what an organization is, does, represents, and how it’s perceived publicly. This is important because perception is EVERYTHING; especially since we live in the age of information where our brands are just one google visit away from being chosen or skipped over altogether.
There’s a common belief, “Every mother thinks their baby is cute”. Our businesses are our “babies”, and we want to hurry up and show them off. Trust me, I get it! We professionals are proud of our hard work and accomplishments. However, if we're not careful, we'll risk producing a premature brand that can hurt our public image. Our “babies" will need some work if our brand game is not up to par. To successfully gain our target audience’s attention, requires us to work objectively. This happens when we begin to see and judge our brand from an unbiased point-of-view. Once we have achieved this ego hurdle, we can begin to make improvements as needed. Statistically, we only have seconds to capture our audience’s attention in a sea of brands constantly bombarding our visual spaces; so make it count by standing out for good reasons, not bad.
Problem: Using Selfies for Promotional Images
Selfies are great for personal and candid moments. They’re fun, relatable, and shows we are human. However, when used as official photos for promotion, it appears small time, unprofessional, and off-putting to someone who doesn’t know just how great or valuable your service really is. It’s just like showing up to a job interview wearing flip-flops, it just doesn’t match and you’ve already lost your audience before they even get to know you.
Invest in a professional photographer, then take a few key images and rotate them on promotional materials, profiles, websites, etc. If you are stretching dollars, try bartering your services with another skilled service provider—it’s a win-win!
Problem: Skipping Professional Design
Treating design as an afterthought is a HUGE faux pas! Frank Chimero says it best, “People ignore design that ignores people”. As I’ve mentioned in my earlier post 'Graphic Designer VS Graphic Artist', a [professional] graphic designer presents visual solutions to communication problems. So if you plan to communicate to your target demographic, it can’t be done throwing clip art and fonts together, then hoping for the best. There has to be thought and precision involved to know how to visually say what you need for your audience to hear.
Find a seasoned graphic designer that will visually communicate your brand correctly. We designers are trained to know how to reach your audience with the right pairing of visuals that trigger action; think of us as visual Jedis. Not only will you see a difference in the responses you’ll get, but you will have a visual brand you are even more proud of.
Problem: Using Personal Social Net Profiles for Business
Please don’t do this, and if you’ve already started, immediately stop! Not only does this create very confusing business management, but it also leads to unsolicited behavior that people run from instead of run to. Personal profiles are designed only for personal use, not selling. So, if you are using a personal page as your main source of advertising by tagging your friends, family, and acquaintances, you are on well on your way to making your business a social network villain. Again I repeat, please stop!
There are a plethora of business profile options that are great and easy to use for productivity, even if you can’t afford to spring for a website right away! Facebook has great apps that you can use directly from your business page including, a shop to sell your items, appointment scheduler, portfolio space, and more. The promotional ads features are pretty nice too if you want to cast your net wider (or smaller) to fit your specific target market to help spread the word in a non-intrusive way.
Problem: Using Personal Email Domain for Business
Piggy backing on the last no-no, using personal email domains for business operations is a definite no-go. If you’ve paid any attention to the great email debacle of the 2016 presidential race, we saw how messy that method could be. It muddies the waters of organization and confidentially, and people want to feel safe when they patronize a business. Seeing firstname.lastname@example.org for a company doesn’t scream “Trust me, I’m a business professional”. Instead, it imbeds the idea that you don’t make your basic business operations priority, therefore making your credibility appear questionable concerning your other business practices.
In the last few years, it’s become so much easier to run an entire virtual office, including professional email. One of the easiest ways to achieve this is utilizing services like G Suite, where you can buy and use your own organization email domain (along with many additional features) starting at $5.00 per month. I’ve been a satisfied user for years and highly recommend it!
Problem: Bad Logo or No Logo at All
Okay, last but definitely not least is what I consider the cardinal sin of bad branding—a bad logo or no logo at all! Reiterating what I wrote in my post ’The Design Dictionary', a logo is a simple marking, graphic or symbol that is the "face" of an organization. If you don't have a logo, your brand is faceless and virtually invisible. What constitutes a bad logo is an image with elements thrown together without any true thought or connection to the brand it should reflect. A bad logo is also created in an improper format that will not adapt to the multiple media avenues it needs to be applied to [see post ‘The Many Faces of Your Logo']. If you are using a $5.00 logo service or a free logo generator online, chances are, your logo has not been designed to yield the results a well designed logo will provide for your brand. In other words...fast food design, doesn’t yield fine cuisine results— #JustSayin.
Repeating solution #2, find a seasoned graphic designer! Although great logos appear simple, they are far from simple to construct. It requires the science of art at work to pull off a mark that burns a brand in the minds of the audience it was designed for. Not only can you have a logo that’s memorable, but it can be also be ageless; saving you so much time, energy, and money to invest in other areas of growing your business venture instead of constantly fixing a “lemon" logo. Think about the most iconic brand logos that have been around for decades like Apple, Kelloggs, Nike, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Chanel, etc. You can have that too with professional logo design!