We’re taking you back to school — brand school.
As a business owner, you probably didn’t start out with a polished brand and a gorgeous website. Maybe you had a logo and a scraped-together web template that “worked” as you grew.
But now that you’ve grown… darling, it’s time to make sure you have your brand basics in place. So sharpen those pencils, grab your books, and get ready to learn. Brand Basics is in session!
Do not pass go. Do not collect $200… until you have your brand’s values solidified.
This is one of the most important elements of a brand, and often the most neglected. We always start with a brand’s values before we get into the visuals, the tone, the marketing, or any other element of a brand.
Why? Because values guide everything. Now, values aren’t meant to be cookie-cutter archetypes — they’re meant to be unique to your business, your team, your offers, and your audience.
Our very own Megan Dowd has a process she walks clients through to pinpoint and flesh out a brand’s values. The boiled-down, busy-gal version is this:
This will help you find 5-7 values that align with your brand, in terms of how you show up in the world and serve your audience.
If you’re already feeling behind on your “brand basics” studies, don’t worry. You’re not alone if you don’t have your brand values identified or outlined. The good news is: This is a fairly simple fix.
Spend the next 15-20 minutes writing in response to the prompts above, and then use your brand values to guide everything we share below.
You know your colors, you know your fonts, and you have a pretty good eye for what looks “on brand.” That’s all you need, right?
Sure, doll. Sure.
Actually, what you need is a “brand bible” of sorts — something that you can refer to again and again to ensure that what you’re creating is on brand. This “brand bible” is more often referred to as a style guide, and is one of the pieces that so many brands don’t have.
A style guide should include anything relevant to how your brand shows up in the world. To start, you want to include:
While we just listed what your style guide should absolutely have, let’s talk about what’s “nice to have,” as well.
Be honest… do you have this brand basic in place? If not, it’s OK. Set aside time to at least fill out the non-negotiables — and expand from there.
A brand moodboard is like an extension of your style guide. Think of it like the sketch of a custom-made dress, come to life.
We love a moodboard because they are a visual representation of your brand’s identity and overall “vibe.” It is a collage of images, colors, textures, patterns, typography, and other visual elements that show off the mood, tone, and personality of your brand. It serves as a visual reminder of what your brand looks and feels like in the real world.
Moodboards usually include:
You can make a moodboard in the “old-fashioned way” — by pulling out a poster board, your best scissors, and some glue. Or you can create your moodboard with tools like Canva or Adobe.
Here’s just one example of a moodboard (this one is for our very own brand!)
Is your moodboard hanging over your desk as a constant reminder of your brand’s inspo? … or is it nonexistent? If it’s nonexistent, that’s alright.
But it might be fun to create one and see how much you’re inspired by what you find. Plus, when you have a shareable moodboard, it’s easier to bring more people into the fold, whether that’s a designer, social media manager, etc. You don’t want your brand’s vibe to be siloed between contractors or departments!
There are few things more disappointing than creating a gorgeous brand… and not knowing how to use it. This is where pre-designed templates come in, especially for your website, social, and customer or client experience resources.
The fastest and easiest way to stay on-brand with your business? Create assets like:
Of course, what you choose to create depends on your business model and what you offer. This list is not exhaustive, but it is a good starting point!
“I have Canva, so I’m covered.” Not so fast.
While Canva is wonderful and we recommend using it if you’re managing all your design by yourself, it’s not going to work unless you have a style guide uploaded into Canva.
Make sure you’re customizing every template you find with your brand’s logos, fonts, imagery, and colors. It may also help to have assets (like the list above) designed by a professional, but editable in Canva.
This way you know exactly how to use the asset and it’s 100% on-brand.
A note from the editor: Please, please, please stop using Canva templates just because they “look neat.” Use templates that are on brand — or bust.
One thing about a gorgeous, perfectly curated brand? It won’t grow legs and market itself.
This is where we’ve seen so many wonderful brands falter. Owners invest so much money in how the brand looks, but they forget one very important thing: You have to share it to build it.
Brand identity isn’t just the way your brand looks. It’s the way your brand engages with the world. It’s the content you create. The offers you sell. The people who engage with customers or clients. It’s the ads you craft, the follow-up emails you send.
Brand identity is when someone is scrolling their feed and they stop because they know your content on sight, and they know they want to hear what you have to say.
Your brand touches every element of your business — and if you’re not looking at how to get more of your brand out in the world, all that hard work will start to feel like a wet rag. Boring, suffocating, and uncomfortable.
A marketing plan might feel like it’s out of the realm of brand basics, but trust us: Brand and marketing go hand-in-hand. One cannot exist without the other.
Look at how your brand is currently showing up on its platforms, whether it’s your website, your social, your email, your podcast, or your YouTube channel.
Are you presenting your brand the way you want (and need) on those platforms? Can you show up in more on-brand ways? Is the way you’re showing up now not in line with the brand you ultimately want to have?
Take the time to craft a marketing plan that’s both manageable — we’re not asking you to burn the candle at both ends! — and impactful. That’s how you see real, long-term results.
Our entire blog, The Gossip & The Gab, is geared toward helping you understand your brand and how to build it well. We share other tips about branding, offers, and strategy that will take everything we just covered… and kick it up a notch.
in your inbox.
We share our best branding tips, insights into business trends, and more in our Rendezvous Roundup.