Branding stands as a cornerstone of modern business, serving as the identity, personality, and promise that an organization works to present to the world.
A corporate brand is more than a logo, name, and catch phrase; it encompasses every facet of how a business presents itself, communicates with the world, and ideally, contributes to a positive public perception. A well-crafted brand establishes a distinct market presence, fosters customer loyalty, and ultimately drives business growth.
Take a look at the following table of contents from the University of Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School 2023 Branding Guide.
A brand should encapsulate the essence of a business, its values, mission, and unique selling proposition. Every element, from visual design to messaging, should consistently reflect this identity. For UNC Kenan-Flagler, that identity centers on “Business for life
From the table of contents, you can clearly see that branding consistency is a priority across all touch-points, from their logos, fonts, color palettes, and photography, to editorial standards and social media. Inconsistencies can confuse and dilute brand-impact.
While developing a Branding Guide may be over the top for your startup, getting the basics down on paper can be a valuable exercise. Knowing your color palettes and typography, for example, can be a time-saver when working with outside design firms.
At a minimum, a basic startup branding plan should include the following:
Brand Personality and Values
– This can come out of your Statement of Purpose (discussed in our Creating an LLC
article) and/or Business Mission Statement. Answer the question, “Who are you, as a business?”
– This is how you look across media, and includes your logo (at various sizes and aspect ratios), typography, palettes, and visual elements. UNC Kenan-Flagler always uses FranklinGothic Compressed Demi set to all caps for website page titles, for example.
Messaging and Content
– Consistent with your Brand Personality, establish your brand voice and tone from the beginning. This is also where you start to condense these ideas down a tagline or slogan. We’ve already mentioned “Business for life
” for UNC Kenan-Flagler but let’s take a look at some others:
Nike - "Just Do It"
Apple - "Think Different"
McDonald's - "I'm Lovin' It"
Burger King - "Have It Your Way"
Subway - "Eat Fresh"
L'Oréal - "Because You're Worth It"
KFC - "Finger Lickin' Good"
Mastercard - "There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's Mastercard."
Lays - "Betcha Can't Eat Just One"
Visa - "It's Everywhere You Want to Be"
American Express - "Don't Leave Home Without It"
Disneyland - "The Happiest Place on Earth"
Avis - "We Try Harder"
M&M's - "Melts in Your Mouth, Not in Your Hands"
“The happiest place on Earth” absolutely nails Disneyland’s brand. L’Oréal says, “We’re higher end, but you’re worth every penny,” while KFC using “lickin’” instead of “licking” establishes a casual and approachable ease.
Registering trademarks can help safeguard brand assets. A trademark grants exclusive rights to use certain words, symbols, or designs in connection with goods and services, preventing others from capitalizing on your brand's equity. “Taco Tuesday”
a great example. Taco Bell
to use the phrase, but another chain
the trademark (Taco John's recently relinquished the trademark).
Clearly establish who owns the rights to various brand elements, especially if developed by third parties. Contracts should outline the transfer of these rights to avoid disputes.
Ensure all content, be it website copy, images, or videos, is either original or appropriately licensed to avoid copyright infringement claims. A simple rule of thumb: If you don’t own the work, don’t use it, not even in part.
Contracts with third parties should, wherever possible, outline deliverables, deadlines, payment terms, and intellectual property rights.
Adhere to advertising laws and regulations in your industry and location. Misleading claims, false advertising, or non-compliance can lead to legal penalties.
If your branding efforts involve customer data collection, obtain proper consent and ensure compliance with data protection regulations.