Branding, sounds like an awfully serious word doesn't it?
One big mistake bloggers make when it comes to promoting themselves is not recognising themselves as a brand. As a blogger, you are no different from any other online creative and it is so very important that you create and maintain a fitting brand.
So what is Branding?
The promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design.
Why is it important for bloggers?
The same reason that when you see the pattern of the ASOS bag coming towards your front door (after a mad dash shopping extravaganza at 11.47pm last night), you know it's ASOS without even looking at the logo. In a saturated industry you need to have something that makes your brand, your brand as such.
There's no need to panic if you've been blogging for 4 years, and haven't even really given branding a thought. The truth is to some extent you have already started, if you have a pretty logo and all your social media pages use the same images - you've made a start. However, I would say It would be a benefit to you to have a look at your branding in detail, and every few months keep check of it. It's okay for bits and pieces to change over time, but it helps to keep it flowing.
Branding can consist of many things but the few pointers (which I consider to be the most important to bloggers) that I am going to have a chat about are: Identifying your Style, Aesthetics, Consistency, Brand Voice and Brand Ethos.
So grab a cuppa (or a glass of vino if you are reading this on the weekend) and a notebook, we're gonna get all studious and chat about branding!
Identifying your Style
minimalist? Love all the colour?
If you pop over on to some of your favourite blogger's blogs you will notice that typically you can identify their style. Looking at some good examples on one hand you have Lucy from Shiny Thoughts - she LOVES colour, brightness and pattern. That love doesn't stop at her clothes, you will notice her website, her Instagram and even the tone used on her blog emphasises this love for colour. On the other end of the spectrum you have Sophie from The Private Life of a Girl, Sophie is a self-confessed minimalist, her website is sleek in design and the tones are earthy and monochrome - the tone of her brand is clean and easy to read. Both of these bloggers are doing it right, because they have pushed their personal style into their branding. Their content is easy to recognise because they carry it throughout their blog, social media and photographs.
Identifying your style isn't particularly easy, and sometimes you need to blog for a while to realise what it is but the best thing you can do is make notes on what you think you want your style to portray. For me? I wanted my blog to be creative and push blogging norms, I like dark edited photographs and casual clothing styles. Plus, I love typography. So much.
Ways to identify your style
1. Do you have a particular dress sense you can draw from?
2. Do you take/edit photographs in a certain way?
3. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
4. Ask close friends and family to describe you?
5. Create a mood board, can you see any correlations?
What colour? typography? compositions?
The fun part! What do you want your brand to look like? I find personally when I'm planning a re-style of my site or I want to gain inspiration for photography ideas / Instagram theme ideas I head straight to Pinterest and get pinning. Once I've pinned a fair bit over a week or so, I'll identify a key theme that runs through it - usually a colour or a particular photography filter and I'll build a mood board on Adobe InDesign. No worries if you don't have access to Indesign or are unsure how to use it. Even Microsoft Word can be used to create a mood board. Pop all the things which inspire you on there and the you have a base to go off of to create your branding.
From your mood board you will be able to identify key attributes such as colour, usually there will be a few colours which naturally occur across your mood board. Pop onto Pantone and have a look at them, grab the codes and there you have it - a colour scheme. Where can you use this colour scheme? In any buttons, headings, logos and even to a degree as an accent colour for photography props.
Another key aspect of aesthetics is typography, something that I hold weirdly dear to my heart. Ever since I my first dabble on the internet I have loved choosing a font to work with. In fact, I spent a long time and still do spend a rather long time picking them out when creating a new piece of work. I think a font can say a lot about you and your brand, serif fonts give a sense of authority, sans-serif are more informal, script types give a sense of freedom and so on. Think about what your blog represents, if it's minimalism - you want clean lines and so on.
Composition, this is something I thought a lot about when re-designing my website. How the words and images work around each other, how the negative space can create a neatness. Of course then there is also composition within your photos, which needs to be considered as part of your brand. The best thing to do with composition is try and try again, try lots of different set ups and really test what works for you.
choose a style and stick to it
Once you have made some decisions on your branding it is important to be consistent with them. If you use a particular font on any graphics you might make, continue to use the same etc. Sometimes it can be a little disheartening at first if your changes are not immediately recognised, but I think with any big design change - it's a time thing, you need to let your audience get used to the changes.
Consistency matters across all the branding ideas, from the design (keeping the same fonts, colour schemes, layouts) to your brand's tone of voice (the way you engage on social media, on your blog etc). the more you keep up the consistency the more your audience will understand and recognise your brand.
Of course this all needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, if you're gut is telling you to share something which is off-brand or you think a photo is better edited another way - you're probably right. Of course, if you do find yourself needing to change a certain part of your branding, just introduce it gradually!
Ways you can keep your content consistent:
1. Use the same tone across your blog + social media
2. Edit photos in a similar matter
3. Don't go 'off-brand' (i.e. something which doesn't match your blog)
4. Keep your content to your assigned categories
5. Don't be afraid to change something if it isn't working from you, gradual changes can be introduced easily!
Who are you? and what are you about?
If you look at any successful companies, you'll be able to find their ethos / their mission plan. Essentially what they are about. These can develop and change over time but they should always be at the forefront of what you do. For example mine is 'To create a space for women in their 20s to 30s to gain inspiration and engage in topics such as fashion, travel and lifestyle' - It's simple but that's what I want from my brand.
Having an ethos helps you stay consistent and on brand, it also helps you develop your brand voice. Essentially it should be at the heart of everything you create. Just jot down a couple of ideas and word it so it makes just one or two sentences. Placing it on your About page will help any audiences / PR contacts to know your brand.
Points to consider when developing brand ethos:
1. Who is your target audience?
2. What message do you want to convey?
3. What subjects do you want to cover?
4. What do you want the end result to be?
it's all about knowing your tone
Do you ever look at some brands and just think - I love the way they are engaging with their audience? I do this a lot, there's a few out there that absolutely nail it - they're personable yet informative. Blogger's need to consider this too, Zoella for instance - she's cutesy, her audience is young and she appeals to them through her tone. Bloggers who manage the balance between being personable to their audience yet informative in sharing their content are sure for success.
I think it's important to decide the voice your are sharing and stick to it, going from super nice to sulky doesn't look good for your brand. Whilst you should be true to yourself, somethings don't need to be shared online. There's no right or wrong formula when it comes to deciding your brand voice, it needs to feel genuine to you. I could pick out bloggers who have all types of tone and are successful. It's just a case of assessing your natural personality, the audience you are talking to and what you want to achieve.
Key points of deciding your Brand Voice:
1. What audience do you want to appeal to?
2. How serious are the topics you are discussing?
3. Do you want to include emojis? 🌸 🤘🏼
4. Would you engage with someone with the tone you are taking?
I hope you found this little chat about branding helpful. Even I've given one person a little bit of inspiration I'll be happy! Let me know what you think below and if there is anything you could add.