Ugly Never Wins

When it comes to the business of branding, you’ve got to look good to get ahead.

Let’s be real: standing out from the pack these days can be tough.  Simply smacking together a logo from 99designs isn’t enough to differentiate yourself.  Good branding isn’t a luxury for people dabbling in aesthetics; it’s a necessity for businesses that want to succeed.

When navigating the unruly waters of branding properly, it all comes down to my golden rule: The best online branding is when we replicate the in-person experience as closely as possible. Sticking with a consistent font deserves kudos, but it’s a small piece of a marketing pie.  You’ve got to choose an aesthetic flavor that incorporates personality, great visuals, and pretty much anything that captures the essence of your brand.

In today’s screen-driven world, we don’t always have the privilege to communicate face-to-face; combat this with a visual treatment that accurately expresses the real-life experience.  And I know what you are thinking – because I’ve been there myself: With so many fonts, colors, textures, and styles out there, where do I even begin?  All valid concerns.

Before you freak out, remember that this process won’t happen overnight.  You need to start somewhere.  Taking your time to get your brand right is ever so important.  You can’t take a house to market if it doesn’t have a roof.  Before slapping on that sale sign, you need to focus on your abode’s looks and functionality.  Once those aspects are taken care of, you can take it to market and make a profit.  Branding is shockingly similar.

Although branding and housing alike are indisputably overwhelming, like anything in life, bite-sized is better.  That’s why we break down branding into three key steps: position, build, and promote.  Memorize those three stepping-stones and you’ll be skipping off to the bank in no time.

Just like drawing up the plans for a house, you need to position your brand before you do any building.  Figure out what makes your brand different and defining.  Your brand should be that sweet spot where something you love meets something others need.  Don’t make it any more complicated than it needs to be.  From there, base your strategy on your brand’s goals.  Narrow down, specifically, what your brand is looking to accomplish.  Whether you’re selling a product or saving the world, figure it out and make that the crux of your strategy.

Once you’ve got a brand vision and strategy, it’s time to build.

Does an in-person experience mean building a website with pixelated photos and crazy colors?  No.  Remember that ugly never wins.  Nobody wants to look at bad visuals, outdated typeface, and hideous page layouts.  Build a brand that looks good and works for you to make a profit.  In branding, that means a great brand identity and exciting photos.

You would be surprised how many impressive people do not put enough effort into their visuals.  Many have gotten away with utility over appearance.  You wouldn’t show up to an important meeting with greasy hair and stained sweatpants, so why would you use an iPhone photo as your website’s banner shot?

The Internet is filled with brands big and small that are fighting for attention from short-spanned consumers.  Gone are the days of an iPhone pic in front of an off-white wall.  It’s 2016, and time to get some great photos.  Hire a professional, have fun, and make it look great.  When I see your photo, I want to be excited and know what you’re all about within a few seconds.  If not, you’ve lost me to the next open tab.  Showcase your personality and environment.  Take a risk.  The minor discomfort will be a big win in the long run.

There’s no better way to complement your new photos than a fresh brand identity.  A lackluster logo won’t cut it.  When you’re designing the look of your brand, consider your primary logo, various logo composition options, color palette, icons for sub-brands, complementary typography, and mockups for how you will execute it.  Making these decisions upfront will streamline every other decision in the future.

Once you’ve got all of the pieces, it’s time to put it together onto a website.  Building a website can be tough, and if you do it all on your own, I give you serious props.  There are countless platforms for site builds, but it’s most important to make your site simple, easy to navigate, mobile-friendly, and something you can understand yourself. Simplicity equals more control.  And from a well-seasoned control freak, the ability to manage your website is a great thing.

Like a house that’s ready to be put on the market, your brand is now ready to take on the world.  You’ve done the planning and building, and now you just need people to get there.  That’s where the last stage comes in: promote.  You need to drive exposure to your content, all while being efficient.  The best and leanest way to do this?  Social media.  But don’t just go into a free for all and use every platform under the sun.  You need to prioritize your social media platforms.  Instead of being mediocre on ten, be a rockstar on three.  Create a purpose for each platform to make them worth your while.

With a unique position, solid strategy, and an exciting visual expression and aesthetic, you’ll stand out from your competition and achieve your goals.  And you’ll look damn hot while doing it.