Best practices for creating a memorable brand

ultimate guide to branding

Why do certain brands elicit eye-rolls while others constantly sell out of their products or services? There are some brands we tend to avoid as consumers and others that make us feel good. So what's the determining factor that differentiates our experiences between brands?

The answer: great branding.

Creating a memorable brand (for all the right reasons) will help you attract new customers and maintain loyal ones. It is the key ingredient for a long and fruitful business that makes a positive impact on your industry and your customer experience.

Your branding efforts communicate a promise to your customers on what you will provide and how you will provide it. With a deep understanding and the best branding practices, you can create an effective brand identity to push your marketing and sales forward.

Table of contents

  • What is branding?
  • Why you should invest in good branding
  • Devise a brand strategy
  • Design your visual identity
  • Avoid these common brand mistakes
  • Make time for brand management

What is branding?

Branding is the marketing practice that gives meaning and personality to any business. Branding is often seen (but is not limited) to a logo, company name, packaging, website design, or distinctive colors that run across all brand collateral.

There are many types of branding, but three of the more common types are:

  • Personal branding — Encompasses shaping the perception of a person to appeal to audiences and stand out against the competition (typically used among celebrities or political figures but can be anyone trying to build a business or get hired).
  • Product branding — Drives brand awareness for a product through design, strategy, customer service, and more so that it stands out in the marketplace.
  • Regional branding — Capitalizes on the unique aspects of a geographic location or culture to attract new business and maintain loyal customers.

Other types of branding include retail, corporate, online, offline, service, and co-branding.

Why you should invest in good branding

Branding is important because it helps create a memorable experience for the consumer. Branding helps businesses go beyond their product offering, and instead helps provide brand awareness and brand loyalty.

Just think, how did Apple manage to go from a two-man team working out of a tiny garage to a company with a fiercely loyal customer base now worth about a trillion dollars? They developed relationships. They spent half a century building products and working out ways to sell them that fed the interests and emotional needs of their target consumers.

Shapes the perception of your brand

A good brand positions itself in a positive light among its target audience. It helps you stand out against the competition and become a winner in the eyes of your consumers. Great branding improves your brand equity—the social value of your company.

Well-known brands have high brand equity, and their branding efforts tend to focus on influencing emotions rather than simply laying out the facts about a product or service. According to research from Advance: Social Sciences & Humanities, emotional branding is a good selling tactic as “emotions play a major role in consumer behavior.”

For example, Nike has never really focused on selling sports attire. Instead, it spends billions of dollars on endorsement deals and marketing campaigns with the world’s biggest sports stars while at the same time communicating the idea that if your dream is to be an athlete, you belong with Nike.

Improves the customer experience

Branding is also important because it helps create a memorable experience for the consumer. Part of your branding process and strategy should be to communicate your brand values and increase brand trust. Personalize the user experience and align every aspect of your business with the brand image you set forth.

Just think, how did Apple manage to go from a two-man team working out of a tiny garage to a company with a fiercely loyal customer base now worth about a trillion dollars? Apple developed relationships. It spent almost half a century building products and working out ways to sell them that fed the interests and emotional needs of its target consumers.

It was able to attract new customers who were looking for the user-friendly and powerful tools Apple created. It infused its branding into its customer service department and developed the “Genius bar” to offer education and customer care. Each year, it hosts Apple events that set the expectations and excitement for new products. It continues to innovate and update its products based on user feedback and the changing technology landscape.

A screenshot from Apple’s event page with a multicolored Apple logo and the title “Apple Event.”

Apple’s Event page includes a list of previous events to watch and learn about its new product launches.

Devise a brand strategy

Based on your brand values, decide what your brand image is and how you plan to communicate that to your target audience. An effective brand strategy reflects your core mission and values and shapes the features of your company.

To devise a strategy, ask yourself some questions to get a well-rounded idea of who you are and what message you want to send to your customers:

  • Why does our company exist?
  • What qualities do our customers already associate with us?
  • What brands do we look up to, and who are our competitors?
  • What is our brand promise?

For Apple, its promise reflects its values of providing new and innovative products that offer users “new ways to express their creativity and enjoy the creativity of others.” And it follows through with this promise. Its products are user-friendly with advanced technology that continues to improve every year. Moreover, it uses sleek, uncomplicated designs that resonate with its values.

Develop your brand story

Develop a brand story that helps set you apart from your competition. As you develop your core mission, use market research and a SWOT analysis to produce a unique brand story that impresses your audience.

The SWOT analysis is a planning technique that has been popular with businesses for many decades. Its strength is in its simplicity and involves a thoughtful analysis of four areas (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats). As you do your analysis, note the key characteristics and relevant information pertaining to your business.

Questions that could help you answer this effectively include:

  • Strengths — Does your business have an interesting backstory?
  • Weaknesses — Do you have a lack of resources that affect the acceleration of the business?
  • Opportunities — Are there any current trends that could align with your business as it stands now?
  • Threats — What do your competitors possess that you do not?

Oftentimes, this exercise can also help you build a tagline or slogan associated with your brand. When Nike pivoted its marketing to resonate with the everyday consumer (rather than professional athletes), its branding reflected a relatable message. It produced ads that showed everyday people from all walks of life running, hustling, and practicing. It emphasized that greatness isn’t just reserved for the elite. Its slogan: “Find your greatness.”

An image of a young boy standing at the end of a pool’s high dive with the words “Find Your Greatness” superimposed on the image.

Still from Nike’s “Find Your Greatness” campaign.

Create a brand guide

During your branding strategy process, take specific and detailed notes that you can turn into a user-friendly guide for all teams and stakeholders involved in the branding, marketing, or design for your company. Effective brand guidelines include a description of your brand identity (mission statement, voice, audience, and values), relevant language and phrases, a brand kit with branding elements, and design guidelines.

If you’ve decided your brand’s focus is “fun” and “frivolity,” consider the ways you could incorporate this: should you use sober, serious typefaces, or would it be more appropriate to try lighter, more spontaneous-style text? From your website and external emails to billboards and podcast ads, a brand guide can help ensure continuity and consistency in your content and how you present your brand to the world.

Design your visual identity

With brand identity guidelines in place, your graphic design team can develop a visual identity that reflects your brand strategy. As your team works on the visual side, add their specific guidelines for future visual designs and brand elements to the brand kit.

Brand colors

A brand color palette can be defined as the core colors your company uses to help convey your brand identity. It aims to underpin and communicate the defining characteristics of your brand. A successful color palette can help you become recognizable at a glance (think Google, Instagram, and Facebook, and their brand colors instantly come to mind). Color is crucial in improving recognition and sales by up to 80%.

An image of many different color palette combinations that Canva recommends.

Use Canva’s color palette generator to get colors from your photos or use our color combination resource.

If you don’t already have brand colors, or if you are considering rebranding, research the meaning behind colors. Select colors in order of importance, from the one you will use the most—the primary color/voice of your brand—to the ones you will use the least. Choose colors that are functional and accessible, for example, good contrasting tones to layer text on flat-colored backgrounds. Ensuring that your colors appeal to your audience and conveniently reach more people can help you grow your brand.

Colors can make all the difference when it comes to branding. Canva has a wide range of templates to suit your brand, no matter your mission. ABeige, Pink, and Gold Banner or Facebook Cover imageis perfect for upbeat, positive brands, while something likeHealth and Fitness Business/Advertising Websitecommunicates a more professional, nurturing message.

Fonts and typography

Similar to your color palette, the fonts and typography you choose should reflect your brand personality. Your design team will likely include someone familiar with font psychology. Font psychology refers to the inherent traits each font category has and how they affect the viewer. Understanding the emotions you want your audience to feel will help you determine which fonts match your brand.

Major font categories include:

  • Serif: Classic and traditional
  • Sans serif: An updated, sleek, or modern version of serif
  • Slab serif: Bold and offbeat
  • Script: Elaborate and elegant
  • Decorative: Highly stylized
  • Handwritten: Informal

The title and cover of Vogue magazine are written in the font Bodoni, a serif font that matches Vogue’s classic and dramatic brand identity. Vogue’s decision to use all capitals for its logo deliberately reflects the Vogue personality as an icon for all things fashion, beauty, and celebrity life.

An image of the cover of Vogue magazine with the singer Dua Lipa reclining on a chair.

Vogue’s magazine cover uses a distinctive and memorable font.

Consider what emotions you are trying to evoke from your audience. Choose a few different fonts that pair well together but can be used for different occasions and marketing purposes. Are these fonts flexible regardless of the medium you use? Are they legible and accessible to all readers? Do they reflect the tone and voice of your brand?

Logo design

A great logo represents everything your brand is about in a simple yet eye-catching manner. Since your customers will search for your logo, it is critical to design a logo that accurately communicates who you are. Whether the logo will appear on your products, your website, or any other marketing materials, nailing down an effective logo will help you stand out from the competition, build recognition, and resonate with your audience.

  • Do your research. Establish your unique selling proposition (USP)—what makes you unique from your competitors?
  • Keep it simple. Your audience should never be confused by your logo.
  • Decide on the type of logo (such as pictograms, wordmark, lettermark, combination mark, emblem).
  • Maintain consistency by using the chosen brand typography and color palette.
  • Test out different iterations of your design. (Your first idea is not necessarily the best. In fact, the best ideas are often your last ones.)

As a well-established brand, Coca-Cola has a very recognizable logo. In fact, it’s so distinguishable that even when written in foreign languages, consumers recognize the brand. If you’ve traveled abroad, you may have seen Coca-Cola apparel with the logo written in the country’s respective language.

An screenshot from Coca-Cola’s apparel shop of the Foreign Language Men’s Hoodie. The hoodie is red with the Coca-Cola logo written in different languages all over.

Coca-Cola’s Foreign Language Men’s Hoodie is covered in a variety of languages but maintains its consistent look.

Product packaging and website design

To adequately streamline your brand presence, apply your branding guidelines to your product packaging and website design. Not only will this make your brand look more cohesive, but it will also positively shape your customers’ perceptions. Successful companies infuse their branding into every part of the customer experience.

Whether customers are perusing a website or buying a cup of coffee, design can affect consumer behavior. Once you’ve become an established brand, you can experiment with unique branding campaigns that stray from your usual appearance.

For example, Starbucks is one of the most well-known coffee brands globally. With over 30,000 stores worldwide and as the leading coffee house in the U.S., it’s safe to say that most people recognize the Starbucks logo and color palette. However, each holiday season, Starbucks designs a new red holiday cup.

This festive seasonal change in branding has become a beloved Christmas tradition among consumers. “The red cups have taken on almost a cultural role, at least in the US, and now in a lot of other markets around the world as well. When the cups turns red at Starbucks, that’s one of the first cues that the holidays are upon us,” says former Starbucks senior vice president Terry Davenport. Starbucks capitalizes on its recognizability to influence consumers during the holiday season.

A screenshot from the website article with an image of a barista handing a tray of red Christmas-themed holiday cups.

Starbucks presents an inside scoop on the 2021 red cup campaign.

Avoid these common brand mistakes

Branding mistakes happen. Even big, experienced brands make incredible costly mistakes. Luckily, you can learn from their past mistakes. In order to grow your brand and maintain a loyal customer base, avoid these common branding mistakes.

Design inconsistency

Inconsistent branding—such as using random colors or fonts that aren’t relevant to your brand identity—can come across as unorganized and unreliable. Moreover, you risk confusing your customers, who might mistake you for your competitors or other brands. To avoid future inconsistencies, establish a defined style guide for your business.

A screenshot of a list of the various Wildlife Conservation Society logos.

Pentagram designed a cohesive set of logos for the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The above design for the Wildlife Conservation Society by Pentagram is a great example of consistent branding, following a precise style guide to maintain a sleek and consistent look. These examples can be included in a style guide to prevent future designers or content creators from using the wrong type of logo.

If you don’t have a designer, you can use tools like Canva’s Advanced Filter tool to create consistent visuals and imagery. The tool gives you greater control over image settings like brightness, contrast, and saturation. It also includes access to a variety of predefined filter overlays that you can choose from.

Copying the branding of others

Copying the branding of others leads to an unoriginal and inauthentic brand image. It also leads to a lack of trust with your audience—not to mention possible legal trouble. Your branding ideas will be inspired by other successful brands; however, they should never be perfectly emulated. Use successful brands as an example to work off of, not to plagiarize.

A few years ago, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Organizing Committee experienced the negative backlash of plagiarism. When their poster design was first released, many accused them of copying another designer’s work. Though the man responsible for the design (Kenjiro Sano) denied the accusations, the organizing committee discarded it. This came right after another “high-profile embarrassment” for the Tokyo committee. But it was especially embarrassing for Sano, who continued to receive a barrage of abuse and complaints against his work.

An image of the discarded Tokyo Olympics logo on a poster alongside the Paralympic games version.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics logo that was discarded.

With millions of logos out there, there is, of course, the chance that you will come across something similar to what you’ve created, but try to push yourself to be original and think about what you can do to stand out. Canva’s customizable layouts for every use and occasion are a great way to make sure your branding is always original.

Trying to appeal to everyone

Having no specific demographic may seem like a great idea for your brand at first; the idea that if you can appeal to everyone, you’re more likely to increase your sales. There are very few businesses, however, that successfully appeal to an unrestrained demographic.

You may be scared to focus on a niche market in case you miss out on the larger market, but homing in on your target demographic is actually the best way to build a deep connection with your audience. Stop chasing approval and start focusing on forging an authentic connection with your desired audience by clearly portraying what you value in your visual branding.

Out-of-place visuals

An out-of-place visual has the power to turn new customers away. For example, the type of imagery or visuals that would appeal to children probably wouldn’t be appropriate for corporate branding. Everything from fonts and colors to general imagery should be suitable for your brand and audience.

Great brand visuals usually don’t consist of basic stock photos, amateur photography from a co-worker, or your favorite memes of the week (unless that’s part of your brand identity). In order to attract the right customers, you need to put the research and effort into creating custom photos and visuals that would appeal to your audience.

This is especially important when it comes to stock photos. If your target demographic is “very online,” they’ve likely seen or can recognize stock photos in seconds. This is a turn-off that can come across as inauthentic to your audience.

Outdated and cliche visuals could dent the professionalism of your brand and impact your sales and business growth. Whenever possible, use original images as they tend to drive sales more often than stock images.

Over-reliance on the logo

A memorable logo is important for business growth; however, it is not the only branding feature you should be using. To create a successful brand, incorporate your branding into every aspect of your business. Everything, from your business name and fonts to your videos and customer service emails, contributes to your visual branding efforts.

This is especially true if you’re a new brand, startup, or small business that is still trying to build a presence in your industry. Your logo might be a defining attribute of your brand, but great branding is ubiquitous and should touch everything you produce.

Of course, your logo should always appear on your work or products, especially on shareable content, like social media posts or gift cards. Just don’t slap a logo on everything you make and call it a day.

Make time for brand management

Creating a memorable brand requires a deep understanding of branding and brand management. The land of digital marketing is constantly evolving. Even after you have successfully created a brand strategy and guidelines, designed your branding materials, and maintained a consistent brand presence, there will always be more branding work to be done.

Your brand reputation should be maintained through the relationships you build both internally and externally. Internally, educate your teams and departments on how to become brand advocates. Externally, continue to impress your customers with the innovative content, products, and campaigns, like Coca-Cola’s “pixel flavored” drink that gives us major "metaverse" vibes.

If you can get both your team and your customers excited about your product, you can build a loyal community and a brand that continues to grow for generations.

Related articles

See all

Bring your ideas to life in minutes.

Express yourself with the world's easiest design program.