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Brand building: Actionable tips from Canva’s design and brand teams

brand-building

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For your customers, a strong brand may become as familiar as the face of a friend. Like seeing a familiar face, your customers form an emotional connection with your brand. They come to associate it with the ways that your company makes life better, and it keeps them coming back.

Your brand, like a face, is your identity as a company. It is your connection to your community and the representation of everything you stand for as a business. That’s why it’s so important for you to build a great brand(opens in a new tab or window) that is as distinctive(opens in a new tab or window) and memorable as possible.

What is brand building? It’s knowing who you are as a business, who your audience is, and building an identity(opens in a new tab or window) that connects those two things. Recognizable visual branding is a key part of that, but so are your communications, values, and story as a company.

You may be a startup building a new brand from scratch(opens in a new tab or window) or a successful business owner aiming for a rebrand(opens in a new tab or window). Either way, developing a strong brand identity(opens in a new tab or window) will help you stand out, build an authentic connection with your customers, and create marketing strategies that will grow your business.

In this article, you will learn about:

Building your brand for your target audience - Find your tribe

Your audience is an important part of brand development. Everything ties back to their wants and needs. Identify what target audience you are trying to reach in order to tailor your brand-building strategies to serve them every step of the way.

Use customer surveys and market research to identify your target market. Distribute customer surveys via social media or email and invite existing customers to participate in interviews. This will help you figure out which demographics your brand currently appeals to. Ask demographic questions, like: What is your age range? What is your income level? What is your profession? What is your household size?

Clarify your value proposition for this audience by asking customers about their pain points and identifying how your business solves them. Ask questions about their mindset and needs, like: What are your biggest challenges with (your field)? What is your goal with (your product)? What factors made you choose us over a competitor?

Market research will help you identify your brand positioning in comparison with your competitors. The differentiation between what you offer and what the rest of the market offers is important. What do you offer that your competitors don’t, and what do you do better than your competitors?

Writing a brand story that resonates emotionally

What is your origin story? Write a narrative that tells people who you are and why you exist. Every company—from a small business to a global enterprise—has a story to tell.

Brand storytelling(opens in a new tab or window) is the emotional narrative about what you do as a company, why you do it that way, and what values drive your business. It connects with your brand purpose(opens in a new tab or window) to tell customers why you exist and how you are there to help make their lives better. It helps customers connect emotionally with your brand.

You want to write a brand story that is authentic, consistent with your other communications, and grounded in what makes you unique. You can begin writing a powerful brand story by answering any of the following questions. These questions can be asked to leadership, across the company, and even to your customers to find the heart of your story.

  • Why does our company exist?
  • What is the story of how we came about?
  • What problem does our business solve?
  • How does our brand impact a customer?
  • How does our brand benefit our community?
  • What differentiates us from our competitors?

Your brand story can go on your about page and your social media bio and be included in your brand kit(opens in a new tab or window) to help explain who you are as a company. Your team can also use your brand story along with your brand purpose(opens in a new tab or window), mission statement, and brand values to guide marketing campaigns.

Developing an authentic brand voice and tone

The ways you communicate in your advertising, social media, and customer communications are part of your brand’s identity.

The way you speak in your marketing, on social media, and in all of your customer communications form your brand personality. Your brand voice and tone help you connect with your customers across all your communication channels. Your brand voice should align with your brand story and your target audience.

Outline your brand voice with a style guide that identifies how to talk to your audience. Will they connect more with casual writing that uses contractions, slang, and informal turns of phrase? Or will they feel more comfortable with big words and longer, more complex phrases? An informal brand might talk to customers like a best friend or the server at your favorite coffee shop, while a more formal brand might speak more like a colleague or a clerk at an upscale department store.

Really dig into the specific tone that will resonate with them. You can look at how customers speak in reviews, comments, and across social media channels. You can even run A/B testing to see what type of language in posts and ads gets the most positive response.

Your brand voice may be positive and inspiring, like Nike. It may be friendly, positive, and down-to-earth like Coca-Cola. It may be confident, speaking to quality with short, declarative sentences like Apple. That brand voice is used everywhere, from your content marketing to your tagline and advertisements.

Building a recognizable visual brand identity

Visual branding includes all the visual elements that make up your brand, including logos, colors, fonts, and images. Your brand image should be unique and instantly identifiable.

Customers may not even need to see your company name to recognize your brand visually. Amazon’s arrow, the siren on a Starbucks cup, and McDonald’s golden arches are all instantly recognizable.

This is also why it’s important to make sure all your designs stay on brand even when there are multiple designers or non-designers working on creating visual assets. You can use brand management software(opens in a new tab or window) that allows you to create brand kits, manage access and brand controls to ensure your team - no matter the size - always stays on brand.

Logos are a key part of branding. They distill your brand identity into a succinct and recognizable symbol. It will often be the first impression customers get of your brand, along with your business name. Your logo design should be able to scale to fit on everything, from signs and websites to business cards. You can use a logo maker(opens in a new tab or window) to experiment with shapes, colors, words, and letters. It can include your brand name, initials, or just symbols.

Your logo should be recognizable no matter where it appears. Use Canva’s logo maker(opens in a new tab or window) to build a logo that’s iconic and perfectly expresses your brand’s identity.

Typography

Typography(opens in a new tab or window)—which fonts(opens in a new tab or window), sizes, and layouts you use—is part of your visual identity as well. You want to identify a few key fonts that align with your design style and use them across all of your print and digital marketing materials to create visual consistency.

Your logo and slogan may use a particular font to stand out. Choose font pairings(opens in a new tab or window) that communicate your brand in words on your website, advertisements, and communications. You can take a free typography(opens in a new tab or window) course to help you understand how to pair fonts in a way that is beautiful, legible, and suits your brand.

Read more about these font pairings and why they work in the ultimate guide to font pairing.

For an industrial look, like for a coffee shop or lighting company, you could pair Norwester, Kollektif, and Montserrat (first). Norwester’s boldness catches attention, while lighter Montserrat is easier on the eye while reading, but its angularity still communicates seriousness and intensity.

Alternatively, a whimsical font like Yellowtail paired with a clean, light typeface like Open Sans (second) works perfectly for a company that wants to communicate a carefree sense of play, for instance, for a bike manufacturer or family-friendly outdoors company.

To experiment with fonts, try opening up a Canva file, creating a headline, subheader, and a few other design elements with text, and pairing a few different fonts together. Evaluate whether the headlines catch your attention, the content is easy to read, and the overall look gives an effect that matches your branding.

Brand color palette

Moody natural hues make a perfect color palette for a personal care brand that wants to communicate a calm vibe and highlight natural materials. Use the color palette generator to build a color palette from your brand images.

Colors are recognizable—think of Starbucks’ green, McDonald’s red and gold, and Coca-Cola’s red. Each is as iconic as the brand’s actual logo. Use the color palette generator(opens in a new tab or window) or a mood board(opens in a new tab or window) to build a recognizable color palette for your brand.

Colors carry powerful emotional and psychological(opens in a new tab or window) messages. Seeing the color red actually physically increases people’s heart rate. Conversely, blue makes the viewer feel relaxed. Black may indicate seriousness, formality, and luxury, while white carries associations of cleanliness and purity. Choose the color combinations that will evoke the feelings you want customers to associate with your brand.

Images

The photographs and illustrations you use on your website, ecommerce, ads, online marketing, and social media form your visual brand identity, too. You want to style your brand imagery(opens in a new tab or window) in a way that expresses your brand identity. You can enhance your images(opens in a new tab or window) to create a coherent visual experience in all your marketing materials.

One way to do this is to use Canva’s built-in photo editor(opens in a new tab or window). If your brand has a particular look, you can color-correct your photos to match. A bold, fun brand might punch up saturation and contrast for a bright look. A more subdued, natural brand might soften contrast or even apply a soft color tint across all their images, like in the two templates below.

Another helpful trick? Remove the background(opens in a new tab or window) on an image so your subject can be placed seamlessly into whatever design or color scheme you are creating.

Managing your brand consistency (regardless of team size)

Consistency is key to building a trusted, recognizable, and successful brand. Effective brand management(opens in a new tab or window) is key to creating that consistency across your website, communications, advertising, and social media presence. Once you’ve created your brand identity, create resources to help your team use your brand consistently.

Building brand kits

You’ve developed a bunch of images, fonts, logos, color palettes, and other resources for your brand. Now you need somewhere to store them. A brand kit(opens in a new tab or window) collects all your brand assets(opens in a new tab or window) in one easily accessible place where anyone on your team can use them.

With Canva for Teams(opens in a new tab or window) you can create teams (of all sizes) and start working together on designs - from ideation via brainstorming tools to content creation to planning and scheduling your visual content.

Making branding materials easier to access saves time, so team members don’t have to search for files or ask busy managers for access. This means projects get done faster, which increases efficiency and profits and allows your marketing team to respond to customer needs faster, increasing conversions.

Your brand kit should include downloadable assets, such as files of your brand logo in different sizes and formats, and frequently used media, such as illustrations, photographs, and videos. Include templates like business card layouts(opens in a new tab or window) and frequently used social media posts(opens in a new tab or window). You can add premade Canva templates to make it faster for your team to spin up new materials.

With Canva's brand kit, fonts and brand colors can be automatically applied when your team begins creating new materials for your brand.

Add your brand colors, plus supporting color palettes for use across your website, social media, and marketing materials. It can include icons for your website, primary and secondary fonts, or even a glossary of terms for your brand.

You can build a living brand kit in a tool like Canva to help your team use your branding consistently(opens in a new tab or window). It’s much easier to use your brand in your day-to-day work when every team member can pick brand colors, grab the appropriate font, and download the right-sized logo file right from the design tool they are using to create their brand materials. You can easily design a website mockup(opens in a new tab or window) to visualize how your brand colors, fonts, and ideas would look on your website and assess how you might improve its final look.

Get inspired by some of these amazing examples of brand kits(opens in a new tab or window) from businesses that do branding well.

Establishing brand guidelines

Branding isn’t just about what represents your brand; it’s about how those branding elements are used. Write brand guidelines(opens in a new tab or window), also known as a style guide, to help your teams use your branding the right way.

Include your style guide as part of your brand kit or directly within Canva, and make sure to revisit it with updates every few months to keep it current. Your style guide can even live on your website if you want to show your designers’ beautiful work publicly.

Think of brand guidelines as the manual that lets everyone know where, when, and how to use each element of your brand kit. Keep all this information in one place so designers, marketers, and web developers can quickly access this information and create materials with more brand consistency.

This style guide from Uber doesn’t just tell their team which fonts to use; it explains where and how different fonts, weights, and sizes should be used across any materials created for the company. For more inspiration, check out these style guide examples.

Building brand awareness and loyalty by engaging with your community

You’ve built a strong brand for your business; now, you can use it to connect with your audience across all of your marketing channels. A well-developed brand will make your company memorable and help you connect with your customers.

Over time, you can develop a brand strategy(opens in a new tab or window) to build your brand equity(opens in a new tab or window) and develop a brand that your community recognizes and relates to deeply. Just remember to stay true to what you represent as a business.

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