Five Steps to Establish Your Brand Online

No brand is complete without a decent online presence. If you want to be easily found by your customers and prospective customers, you’ll need to establish your brand online.

But where should you start?

Paying an expert to help with your online presence is one way to start. There are plenty of credible SEO, web development, and social media experts who can help you attain your goals; however, it isn’t always affordable when you are starting out. Advertising outside of the shop isn’t always in the cards either. So I’ve described five steps to get your start economically that anyone with a little bit of know-how and experience online can do on their own.

You can establish your brand online by following these 5 steps:

  1. Create a website to establish your brand online.
  2. Set up a Business Profile through Google My Business.
  3. Get on social media.
  4. Blog helpful evergreen content.
  5. Establish partnerships with other brands online.

1) Create a website to establish your brand online.

Illustration of a laptop with the components that go into a website being built with a website builder.

Fewer steps are more critical for a business than starting a website. Your website is a 24/7 treasure trove of information about your business and brand. It adds credibility to your brand and gives you a competitive edge over other brands that don’t have a website. Before you even open a shop or start selling to customers, you’ll want to have a URL that is indexed, searchable and full of branded content. Your website is likely the first touchpoint for your customers, so make it count! People often use their mobile devices to search for things before using their own recall for information. If you’re not even on the searchable list, your customers won’t find you.

Website builders

These days you don’t need to know much about web development or web design to start a website. There are plenty of good website builder platforms that take care of backend coding, SEO, security and all that other important stuff that makes your site function. Some of them have free versions as well. Before committing to anything, you might want to check out a few like Wix, Squarespace, WordPress, and Shopify (free trial). Each website builder has its own strengths and merits. It will be up to you to decide which website builder works best for your brand goals. Of course, free versions are never as robust as the paid versions, and you will have less functionality and tools until you upgrade. As well, you likely will not be able to use your own URL until you become a paying subscriber.

Once you have your website up and running, search engines will index your website, and it will become “searchable”. You can improve your “searchability” by having good content and using keywords that your customers would use to describe your brand. Having backlinks and linked pages also enhances your site’s searchability. The greater the number of connections your website has online, the easier it will be to find.

2) Set up a Business Profile through Google My Business

Google is the world’s best-known and most used search engine. It is continually crawling the internet for new URLs and indexing them accordingly. However, to add an extra layer of legitimacy to your online presence, it is best to set up your own Business Profile through Google My Business. It is a free service from Google that allows business owners to add their location, business hours, contact info, images, and valuable attributes that help their customers.

It’s also another way to communicate directly with customers. Which helps make your brand more accessible.

There’s not much more to say about Google My Business that can’t be found on their site. The following link goes to the Candian version.

Google My Business

3) Get on social media.

The most challenging part of social media is getting started. There are so many platforms out there for reaching different audiences that it becomes overwhelming just to pick one. However, social media gives your audience another way of engaging with your brand. It also provides search engines with another way to find your business to establish your brand online.

Social media is a commitment that most businesses neglect. It is essential to select a few social media platforms to join and make an effort to be present on them. Choosing which platforms you want to use is based on where your customers like to spend their time and how your brand is best consumed. The following paragraphs will discuss the most popular social media platforms and their uses.

Sprout Social has an excellent article for demographics and statistics that might help you decide: Social media demographics to inform your brand’s strategy in 2021.


Facebook continues to dominate the social media landscape in terms of users. This is probably because of the platform’s versatility in what people share and accomplish through the platform. For example, pictures, articles, videos, music, surveys, quizzes and website links can be shared between connected individuals and the general public.


Second to Facebook, Youtube continues to be a popular platform for content creators and vloggers. Youtube offers its users the ability to post long-form video content well over 10+ minutes long. As a result, it has become a wealth of DIY, coaching, entertaining videos and movies. It is also often used as a search engine for finding video content, second even to Google.

You don’t have to be a videographer to be on Youtube, however, good video content takes time, planning and effort to create.


Pictures and videos are shared publicly with your followers and individuals that may be interested based on their search habits. Instagram users are still using the platform to share images like a continuous life-documenting photo album and as a video-sharing platform.

Instagram does not allow for link sharing, a curse and a blessing. The idea is to share your own visual content authentically.


Twitter started as a platform for in-the-moment quick messages or “tweets”. Tweets are then sent into the Twittersphere for other users to like and “retweet”. Everything on Twitter is intended to be short, digestible nuggets of information. Most companies use it as a broadcasting channel for up-to-the-moment news and updates.

The hashtag was created by Twitter as a way to categorize tweets and follow trends. Hashtags have since been adopted by other major social media platforms. Everything on Twitter is searchable by Google (and other search engines), and anyone on the platform can interact with anyone else on the platform (if they so choose).


If you make business-to-business sales, need more employees, network for leads or are looking for business partnerships, LinkedIn is the platform for you. In fact, it doesn’t matter what kind of business you have; there is likely a good reason for you to create a professional profile on LinkedIn.

This is where you can talk about business accomplishments, post jobs, talk about charitable work, post valuable articles, learn and discuss important things to your business. If you serve the business community, be here.

Tik Tok

One of the main ideas that makes TikTok so attractive as a social media platform is its digestibility. Nuggets of video fun served up in 15 second to 3 minute time chunks. Most people are using it as a way to express themselves.

TikTok’s algorithm tries to identify viral videos before they become popular. It also personalizes a user’s feed based on what they watch, like and share. As a result, TikTok is better geared towards connecting users with content they might value. This means people tend to experience greater equality of post engagement than on other social media platforms because the content a user is served is not strictly based on who they follow.

Other social media platforms

There are other social media platforms that are worth exploring. For example, a Snapchat or Pinterest account can be fun for customers to explore. We also know there will be new social media platforms to come that no one has experienced yet. The main thing to keep in mind is how your customer will consume your content best and this depends largely on their social media behaviours which may change over time. So don’t be afraid to try new things when it makes the most sense for you.

4) Blog helpful evergreen content.

Laptop with a blog screen on it.

Your blog is an unfiltered look at your brand that also helps make it more “searchable”. It is your opportunity to show your personality without a word count or maximum image size restrictions. Nothing helps a search engine more in establishing your brand online than good content.

Blogs get indexed by search engines and can be shared as links on social media. If people find your blog of value, they may follow you and/or become customers and fans of your brand. Be sure to post long-form and short-form content on your blog regularly for sharing on your social media channels.

Set yourself apart from your competitors by using your unique voice to tell stories and present useful content that is “evergreen”. For example, recipes, DIY, advice, processes, guides, and checklists will always be valuable. They are considered evergreen because they should remain relevant over time. However, current trends, the latest gossip, events, news, fashion and pop culture are all examples of timely content that won’t maintain its relevancy for long.

5) Establish partnerships with other brands online.

Graphic illustrating the partnership between  "Brand." and "Marque." creating "Inspiring results."

Add more legitimacy to your brand through external links to your website, blog and social media channels from other businesses and vice versa. Linking to other brands and having them link to you in return adds legitimacy to your site and increases the likelihood of others finding you in internet searches.

Be sure that the partners you engage with share similar values and make sense for your brand. Good partnerships are mutually beneficial and help to amplify your collective reach and messaging. The results can be something truly inspiring.

Final Thoughts

These 5 ways to establish your brand online are only effective if you follow a good brand strategy and prioritize consistent design.

Most people understand what a brand strategy is but don’t start one. To read more about why you could use a brand strategy check out my blog post – 10 Reasons You Need a Brand Strategy.

There are many more ways to make sure that your brand gets noticed and established within Google rankings and beyond. I’ve simply provided the easiest ones to effectively start your organic rise to the top. Your next steps should involve consistent content creation, good SEO (I recommend working with a specialist for this), and social media participation.

Don’t spread yourself too thin. Scheduling and creating can be time-consuming, so if you plan to do it yourself, be sure to make goals that you are capable of completing. The easier, the better. Consider working with a content creator or social media expert if your day-to-day business takes up a lot of your time.

My final tip is to keep it light and fun. The way you engage your audience should reflect your brand’s best personable qualities. As soon as it becomes a chore to keep up with the brand you’ve built, it will start to show in your interactions. Send out positive vibes, and you will get them in return.

Need help establishing your brand online? Email me to inquire about a business start-up package to help you with the steps I’ve listed in this blog.


Personalize Your Brand for the Customers You Want

Every brand has a relationship with its customers. Great brands make those relationships last. The key to fostering long-lasting relationships with your customers is through a deeper understanding of their motivations to buy from you and engage with your brand. However, there are simple things you can do to make your brand more appealing to prospective customers and your target audience. Those things stem from empathizing with your target audience (customers) to personalize your brand experience for them.

There’s no “you” in brand.

It’s not personal. There’s no “i” in brand either.

Just like there is no “i” in team, a brand is much more than the personal preferences of one individual. Even if your brand comes from the work of one person, it needs to have a life and personality of its own. A brand is more about appealing to your audience than adding your unique flair. Knowing your audience well allows you to objectively cater to their wants and needs and make decisions based on what resonates most with them.

Here are five ways to personalize your brand for the customers you want.

Create Community

Customers want to feel connected to their community

A brand community is made up of customers that have brand experiences and stories to share.

There are social aspects to branding that are often overlooked. Being on social media and creating a blog isn’t enough to foster a connection with your customers. You have to be conscious of how you use your platforms to communicate with your audience. Fostering a social environment for customers to share their experiences with your brand and engage with others can help your brand gain popularity. Using your social media channels and blog to highlight what is remarkable about your brand will make your followers feel like insiders. Giving your audience a reason to care and share will also expand your reach. If your content is valuable, helpful, and something people care about, they are more likely to share it with their followers.

You can create content of value for your audience by tapping into the things they like most about your brand. If you crowdsource opinions, ideas, and thoughts on your brand, you will receive useful qualitative data on improving your brand from the people who are already responding to it. You can also share stories about your brand and encourage others to do the same. If you personalize your brand story to include your customers’ experiences, you’ll form a deeper connection to them.

Above all else, be sure to make your content fun. Most people are tired of seeing advertisements, so if you are strictly using your social media for sales, it’s not likely going to get you very far.

Be Consistent

Customers want consistent brand experiences

An example of a consistent brand experience is as simple as your morning coffee routine. When you purchase from a well-known brand it needs to meet expectations. If it isn’t as expected every time, a customer is not likely to return.

Every customer wants to feel special. Or at least they want to feel like they are getting the same service as everyone else that interacts with your brand. Exceptionally positive experiences equate to positive reviews, which strengthens your brand. A business can tell its audience about its brand value as much as it wants, but it becomes more legitimate with social proof. As soon as your audience tells a consistent brand story, it becomes more convincing.

Consistency also creates reliability. When your customers can rely on your brand to behave according to their expectations, they are more likely to return.

“When we try to please everyone we end up pleasing no one…least of all ourselves.”

Simon Sinek on Twitter

Inversely, if you try to personalize your brand for every single customer, you’ll confuse people and exhaust yourself in the process.

Simplify Processes

Customers want simplicity

Successful companies know this and do it well. From the awareness phase to the point of purchase and every customer touchpoint along the way, your customers expect things to be easy to follow. And let’s not forget the follow-up actions and customer service. Just because your brand has made a monetary transaction with a customer does not mean the relationship is over. One way to stand out from the competition is to personalize your brand’s customer journey in a way that creates a clear path from the point of awareness to the post-transactional relationship. The more straightforward this path is to follow, the more likely a customer will return.


Customers want human connection NOT corporate robots.

Automation at the cost of authenticity detracts from a customer’s experience with a brand. Not everything can or should be automated.

Be a human’s human. People connect to people, not robots.

Customers don’t buy from corporate entities and bots. They buy from people. If your brand behaves like an authentically caring person, it is more likely to form a connection with a customer. The reverse is also true. If your brand behaves dishonestly and uncaringly, you won’t keep your customers for long.

Show personality and human qualities like empathy, kindness, and intuition to anticipate the needs of customers before they come up. Solve challenges with creativity and passion to improve your brand. After all, enthusiasm is infectious. Above all, be responsible, bold, and brave. Own your brand mistakes and do your best to set things right.

You can’t personalize your brand with robots. They may come close, but nothing can fully replace human connection on the other end of a conversation.

Be Responsible

Customers want a brand of substance.

“Syrup on shit doesn’t make it a pancake.”

– Aaron Draplin, Things We Say

It’s not enough to have fancy graphics and bright shiny packaging anymore. Having a good diversity and inclusion policy is not enough either. In fact, these things are expected. Customers need to feel good about the brands they invite into their homes. This means they want quality products and services from brands that show social responsibility. Most customers want to know that the products they buy make a difference too. Brands that engage their community, protect the environment or help to affect social change make a great impression.

Be sure to be listening to what your customers expect from your brand with respect to social responsibility. Nothing is more damaging to a brand reputation than a product or service that doesn’t live up to expectations. Especially if a brand isn’t socially responsible. Brands that are all flash no substance usually don’t last long.

Final thoughts

The actual title of this blog should’ve been “You want to personalize your brand for the customers.” You may have an idea about the kind of dream customers you want; however, your current customers are the ones that keep your brand going. But, more importantly, your avid customers and loyal fans really define your brand. By tapping into their needs and wants with respect to your brand, you create a relationship based on positive experiences. The more positive experiences you can deliver to your customers, the more loyal they will be towards your brand.

If you’d like to talk about how to personalize your brand to make it more attractive to your prospective customers, send me an email or visit my site –

Check out my blog entry – 10 Reasons You Need a Brand Strategy, for more branding information.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions presented in this blog are my own. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the professionals I have quoted. The included quotes are by professionals that I admire and I encourage you to check out their advice and work online at the links provided.


The Categories of Logos

Why Talk About the Categories of Logos?

I love to design logos. As a graphic designer, nothing is more satisfying than learning so much about a client’s business that you’re able to create a trademark that represents it clearly. And when a client is excited to use their logo on every facet of their business you know you’ve done your job well. Being able to deliver the right logo for every situation takes knowledge and skill. Knowing the categories of logos and their applications is a key part of the creative process in logo design.

Everyone has their own ideas surrounding what a logo is and what it should be. But, not many people know about the different categories of logos and how best to apply them. In this post, I explore the categories of logos. I also discuss a few new trends in logo design and what they entail. For my examples, I will be using graphics of my dog-nephew, Finnegan, to illustrate the differences between the types and categories of logos. Isn’t he cute?!

Finnegan the Fox Terrier picture and mascot logo. An example of one of the categories of logos.
Finnegan the Fox Terrier and mascot logo example.

First, What Is a Logo?

A logo (or logotype) is simply a graphic mark that identifies a company’s products or services to the public. It is the trademark under which a company does business. A good logo is unique, concise, memorable, and functional. There are many ways to categorize logos; but, for this blog, I will attempt to break logos down into two main categories with distinctive subcategories.

It is also important to note that a logo represents a brand but is not the brand itself. If you compare a brand to a country the logo is its flag. But a brand is much more than the sum of its tangible and intangible parts. And that is a topic for another blog post.

Two Basic Categories of Logos

A logo can fall into one of two categories by its primary elements: typography-based and pictorial-based. A typography-based logo is any logo that relies on unique letterforms and words to create a unique identifier. A pictorial-based logo uses an illustration, symbol, or stylized picture as its uniquely defining feature. Pictorial-based logos may also include type, but typography-based logos do not include pictures.

Typography-based Logos

There are wordmarks and lettermarks. You can probably guess what the major difference is by the name, but let’s dig a little deeper.


Wordmark logo and example of one of the categories of logos.

A wordmark is a logo that spells out the name of the company. They can be one word, a combination of words, and even made-up words. A wordmark looks simple at first glance. However, the design of a good wordmark is deliberate and considerate. What makes wordmarks logos is the distinct features of their structure. Features such as letterforms and font treatments help to make a wordmark unique. Furthermore, fonts and letterforms have perceived personalities that have a subconscious effect on the viewer. For example, due to font choice in a wordmark, the viewer may perceive a company to have any number of brand attributes such as modern, expensive, friendly and even trustworthy.


Lettermark logo with FFT which stands for Finnegan the Fox Terrier. An examples of one of the categories of logos.

A lettermark is a logo that uses an abbreviation or initials of the company name to create a unique identifier. Similar to a wordmark, you need to consider the qualities of letterforms and fonts when designing a lettermark. Good lettermarks are just as expressive as any wordmark. Monograms are lettermarks with highly-expressive attributes.

Pictorial-based Logos

Four subcategories of pictorial-based logos are mascot, symbolic, abstract, and emblem. It is important to note that pictorial-based logos are often inseparable from their names. We all wish we could be Nike or Apple; however, most businesses won’t reach the same level of recognizability from their logo without their names visually connected somehow.

Mascot Logos

Mascot Logo Example

A mascot logo uses a character or stylized depiction of a person as a defining element of the logo. You often think about their associated mascot when you think about Wendy’s, KFC, Pringles, Mailchimp, Green Giant, Mr. Clean, and multiple sports teams. They integrate well into a logo with text. However, when seen on their own, they are instantly recognizable as the identifiers of their respective companies.

Symbolic Logos

Symbolic logo with an icon that resembles Finnegan's head as a cartoon in a circle in front of the words Finnegan the Fox Terrier. An example of one of the categories of logos.

A symbolic logo uses a simplified picture or symbol as the defining element of the logo. You can think of these as modern hieroglyphs. They are sometimes used in place of text to represent a company. However, the company usually needs to have a very established brand before this is recognized independently. Therefore, before you can recognize a symbolic logo on its own, you typically have to see it combined with its written name. Great symbolic logo examples include Apple, Dominoes, Twitter, Batman, Green Lantern, and Hootsuite. (Arguably, one of the best logos globally, Apple, is the best example of this. Apple has made its symbolic apple icon synonymous with its company name. As a result, they no longer have to spell out their name for their audience to know who they are.)

Abstract Logos

An abstract logo makes use of an abstract symbol or icon (that doesn’t necessarily have to represent anything in particular). The simpler the abstract symbol, the better it is for recognition. By making the abstract symbol a specific colour, you can create a distinct look and feel based on colour psychology. Big companies like Pepsi, Spotify, Nike, MasterCard, Adidas, CBC, and Mercedes use abstract logos to help define their brand.

Emblem Logos

Emblem Logo Example

An emblem logo combines text and imagery inside another structure like a badge or patch. These are in the pictorial-based category because emblems require shapes and symbols. They attempt to capture the essence of the company in a kind of coat of arms. These types of logos lend themselves nicely to patches, stickers, social media profiles, stamps etc. Universities and colleges use them to represent more than one side of their institutions in a concise logo. Think Starbucks, Warner Brothers, General Electric, UBC, and UPS, for example.

Are There Any Other Categories of Logos?

There are hybrids of each category of logo discussed in this blog. In addition, however, different categories attempt to explain the multi-faceted nature of logo design. These categories are unique in that they describe design systems rather than categories of logos. Furthermore, they are dynamic by nature which makes them responsive, adaptive and variable.

Responsive Logos

Responsive Logo Example with progressively smaller sizes

You can’t discuss responsive logos without discussing responsive web design. When a website serves information to the screen of a handheld device, its content becomes more streamlined. Information and content on the website pare down to only necessary, easy-to-read chunks. By streamlining information in this way, a responsive website is more accessible to consumers across devices. This is the basis of responsive design–a design that changes for the size of the device. As a result, logos are viewed in smaller sizes as well. However, most logos are hard to read at small sizes, so responsive logos are helpful.

Responsive logos are a series of progressively simpler identifiers designed to be viewed at incrementally smaller sizes. They are the logo design answer to responsive web design. If you reduce a logo to its most basic elements in incremental steps, you create a responsive logo. Joe Harrison illustrates this concept on the Responsive Logos website. However, responsive design works best with big brands because they have brand recognition beyond their name.

Adaptive/Variable Logos

Adaptive/Variable Logo Example
An adaptive/variable logo was created to represent the energy and movement of a dog that is always on the go.

Some logos are experiments in design. They may come in a few standard versions but can warp, mould, and crop to fit the format of the medium. Most of these are typography-based, and a surprising number of them are for art galleries. It is this avant-garde approach to logo construction that makes an adaptive logo so experimental. An adaptive/variable logo can also be seen as a design system tailor-made for a tradename that creatively captures the entity’s personality.

A great example of a new variable logo and identity is that of Serif by Pentagram. To see this in action, check out the article on Creative Review.

Another great example by Pentagram is the Tribeca Festival identity refresh. Again, the dynamic way they’ve played with the existing logo and new typography create a visual representation of a gathering of people coming together for a festival.

Another example of an adaptive/variable logo is the logo for the Reykjavík Art Museum by Karlssonwilker. The logo is in 3D as a representation of one museum in three different locations. A change of vantage point provides the name of a site of the art museum.

Final Thoughts

Knowing a bit about each logo category and subcategory can help in developing logo options. While categorizing logos may be slightly subjective it helps to know these categories before starting a logo design. Specific categories of logos communicate different attributes to an audience. For example, mascot logos make brands seem more playful, approachable and personable. On the other hand, mascot logos are less serious. You likely would not want to use a mascot logo for a bank or traditional institution built on professionalism and trust.

For the example of Finnegan the Fox Terrier, I think the mascot logo works best. It is a close representation of Finnegan and makes a personal connection. However, it is fun to break the rules and play with alternative design choices. For example, Finnegan the Fox Terrier could be represented less obviously with an abstract logo. The most critical part of logo design is matching the logo to the brand.

I personally love to create symbolic and abstract logos. The potential for using the icons in future branding endeavours is an added perk. Their uniqueness also adds value to a brand. It is easy to see why these subcategories of logos are so popular.

Matching the category of the logo to the brand is a topic for another blog article. Be sure to check back for updates.

For insights on the importance of logo design as it pertains to your business be sure to check out my blog series What Does Your Logo Say About You?

Do have a business in need of a new logo? Connect with me by email for a consultation or visit to check out my work.


10 Reasons You Need a Brand Strategy

So you’ve started a business. You have an idea that works, investment capital and a small customer base. You also know you’ll have to get the word out to acquire more regular customers. However, before you start marketing your business, you need to consider who, how and where to market. This is where a brand strategy is critical and why I have developed 10 reasons you need a brand strategy.

Think of your brand strategy as a road map. Let’s say you need to get from point A to point B. If you only have a general direction to get where you are heading, you could end up aimlessly wandering any number of roads to get to point B. Your trip would be costly and time-consuming. A brand strategy, like a map, provides the bigger picture by showing you the most direct routes, possible obstacles and notable detours you might take.

1) Creates Authenticity

Honest and caring brand graphics

This is the first of the 10 reasons you need a brand strategy. A good brand strategy includes your reasons for starting a business and helps you to communicate that to your audience. It puts emphasis on your mission and values at your brand core. It informs your reason for being in business in the first place, which should always be about your unique selling proposition and how you fit into your customers’ lives. Customer loyalty builds when they understand and trust your business. This can only happen when you can communicate authentically and honestly about your business through a complete brand strategy. Authenticity starts with being truthful about your purpose with your customers.

2) Defines Your Target Audience

Audience of people interested in your brand.

A brand strategy involves research in defining where your business can carve out a niche. This niche should be an audience that would get the most benefit from your business. They are the customers that you want to speak to the most–your ideal target audience. You can’t expect your target audience to understand your business without a fleshed-out brand.

However, once you have a working brand strategy you’ll be able to find those customers that talk about your brand with others. This audience helps to spread the word about your awesome brand defining expectations and sharing experiences. Without knowing who could benefit the most from engaging with your brand it will take considerable time and money to build that audience of loyal fans.

3) Develops Tone and Manner in Messaging

Brand tone and manner graphics for genuine, informative, aspirational and direct

Your brand messaging should follow a unique set of guidelines to create a consistent personality and style. This becomes a differentiating factor when compared to competitors. Even how you use symbols, emojis, and slang can be incorporated into brand messaging. If your customers identify with the tone and manner, you communicate they will be more likely to engage with you. Conversely, if your messaging is inconsistent, it will appear disingenuous and off-putting. A proper brand strategy will account for your brand’s tone and manner in all communications.

4) Helps Define Priorities

prioritizing list organization graphic

We all have strengths and weaknesses; however, that should not limit what we can do with our businesses. Instead, a good brand strategy lays out what should be done to successfully communicate your brand. Whether or not you are good at one thing or another should not dictate whether or not it gets done. Instead, your brand strategy should help you define your priorities, whether you can do them yourself or need to hire someone to do them for you.

Furthermore, a brand strategy will help clarify where you should concentrate your efforts to avoid wasting time communicating with the wrong audience.

5) Guides Visual Consistency

"Brand." typed out over and over again with one "Brand." in a different colour

Most first impressions are made by look and feel. This is why the visual voice of a brand is just as important as the brand messaging. When a brand’s visuals are cohesive and consistent, it provides comfort and trust for the viewer. Once viewers expect something to look a certain way, they usually have the opposite reaction when it isn’t as expected. The brand strategy helps to guide your brand’s visual representation consistently. The brand strategy informs the brand identity document. I believe you should always consider one as a part of the other, so I usually include a brand identity document with any brand strategy I help develop.

With a good brand identity you can create visuals and messaging that is on point and identify the places where your brand in not being represented correctly. However, you can’t develop the brand identity with a solid brand strategy in place.

6) Informs Media Usage

Graphic of a "Brand." on a mobile device and in newsprint.

Your business might be product-based or service-based. Your business might be targeting tech-savvy adults or experienced seniors. It might be local, national or international. Defining these things in your brand strategy informs your media mix for communications. For example, you wouldn’t market to seniors using a new social media platform, nor would you market to people in a national newspaper if you only served your local community. But beyond these examples, you want to know which media will see the most return on investment (ROI), which is informed by the target audiences defined in your brand strategy.

7) Helps to Inform Decisions

Different possibilities for a brand where one choice is obviously correct and the other is not.

Your business will undoubtedly confront difficult decisions. Some decisions may test your brand’s values, personality and style. Only by remaining true to your brand personality will you be able to make informed decisions that stay true to your brand. By having the guidelines laid out in a brand strategy, you are better equipped to respond to crises and make the best decisions for your brand.

8) Goal Setting

Brand reaching for the stars.

A brand strategy is all about setting the stage for action towards a greater goal. For example, if your goal is to go from a local company to a global company in 5 years, your brand strategy should provide insights on how to get there. In addition, it should provide key achievement milestones along the way. It is important to note that a brand strategy is not the same as marketing; it explains and sets the goals but doesn’t provide the incremental tactics in achieving them. A brand strategy informs a marketing strategy, but it does not replace one. A marketing strategy is filled with tactics and time-bound activities to achieve specific goals within a brand strategy. Tactics may be altered or changed over time, but their end goals shouldn’t.

9) Removes Personal Preferences

There's no "i" in Brand.

A brand strategy provides the parameters through which you interact with your customers. It understands the needs and interests of your target audience in a way that makes a lasting connection. You may have strong personal ideas on how to foster a relationship with your audience. Have these ideas properly set into a brand persona and make sure they are pragmatic to your brand goals. By doing this, others can objectively understand how your brand should interact with its audience.

Furthermore, it removes the tendency to react and make decisions based on personal preferences. After all, you may be the brains behind your business, but you are not your business. Remaining objective and basing decisions on the needs and interests of your target audience makes things less about you and more about them. By making this clear distinction, your business becomes less about you and more about your customers.

For another perspective on objectivity versus personal preferences regarding other aspects of branding, check out “Website Objectives vs. Personal Preferences” by Karen Jensen at

10) Helps in Succession Planning

Splitting up the Brand amongst shareholders or partners in succession planning.

The last reason of 10 reasons you need a brand strategy is succession planning. Everyone needs to have a contingency plan in case they become unable to continue their business. Further to this, you should have a plan for your business when you hope to retire. Who will carry on this legacy? What will the company look like in the future? A brand strategy helps to maintain focus and provide direction as the business moves on without you. It may sound bleak; however, we all need to know when to move on and just how to formally retire.

What’s Comes Next After Creating a Brand Strategy

Let’s take another look at the analogy from the beginning of my blog. If the brand strategy is the map, marketing is the mode of transportation. Whether you walk, swim, bike, drive or fly to get closer to your goal, you’ll need to use a map to make sure you are getting there efficiently. So you should try to have a brand strategy before any marketing takes place. Or you could spend more time than necessary getting to your destination.

Let your brand strategy be your guide in creating a marketing strategy and developing effective tactics.

There are more than 10 reasons you need a brand strategy. However, these were my top 10. Still not convinced? Check out my blog on how to personalize your brand for the customers you want.

Do you need help with a brand identity project? Reach out by email to schedule a consultation or visit for more information.


Why You Need an EPS Logo for Your Business

As a business owner, you likely aren’t doing your own graphic design work. Instead, you’ve probably hired someone you trust to create the digital assets you require to make your business look good. No doubt you’re considering a logo too. However, there’s more to creating a logo than just designing something that looks good. First, you need to know where and how you intend to apply your logo. Once you determine this, you will know the file types you need. Yet if you don’t know common file types, you won’t know what to ask for from your designer. Whichever file type you decide to get, I can assure you that getting an EPS logo for your business is necessary. To show that EPS files are necessary, I describe common image file types in the following article.

visual comparison of an EPS vs JPEG when enlarged
EPS vs JPEG enlarged as a visual comparison shows the need for an EPS logo for your business.

Aren’t JPEGs and PNGs enough?

All digital images are either raster or vector. Two of the most common raster image file formats are JPEGs and PNGs. These raster files are collections of tiny squares (pixels) of varying colours that collectively make an image. JPEGs (Joint Photographic Experts Group) and PNGs (Portable Network Graphics) are okay raster file types for print and web applications when they are the correct size and resolution for a specific situation. However, because they are limited by their size and resolution, they can’t be blown up to larger sizes. You can save many sizes of JPEGs and PNGs for several situations, but this just adds to the number of files taking up space on your hard drive. However, there is a better file type for images that keeps its clarity at larger sizes–a vector file.

Close up of an EPS vs JPEG visual.

There are a few different vector file types–EPS and SVG are the most common. Vector files use mathematical formulas that computers read to produce images. This makes vector files essential because they can be blown up to any size without losing their resolution. JPEGs and PNGs are great when you know the specific logo size required for a project; however, they aren’t enough when considering all logo applications.

What about PDFs, are they just as good?

Yes and no. PDFs (Portable Document Format) can be created with editable vector artwork, but not always. For the most part, they are used for creating multi-page small file size documents for sending in emails and saving on portable USB flash drives. Whether or not a PDF is a vector file depends on the program that makes it. Therefore it is best to ask for vector artwork from your designer specifically.

The case for an EPS logo for your business.

EPS stands for Encapsulated PostScript. It is a vector format file that is still one of the best choices for printing graphics and illustrations. Because of its vector attribute, it will print in large sizes at high resolutions. Often you cannot read an EPS file outside of a design program; however, printers and designers can. In addition, they will appreciate their versatility when creating new JPEGs and PNGs for different media. So, despite not always being able to access EPS files in typical programs outside of graphic design applications, EPS files should always be a part of any logo file collection for your business.

Be sure to make a point of asking your graphic designer to create an EPS logo for your business with JPEG and PNG files to create a more helpful logo package for various situations.

Don’t have a designer yet? Check out my blog article “Interviewing Your Graphic Designer” for tips on what to ask your potential designer before you even start the design process.

Curious about branding and logo design? Connect with me for a consultation through my website


What Does Your Logo Say About You? INSIGHT TWO

Why You Need the Right Logo for Your Business

Creating the right logo for your business is a creative exercise that requires research, patience and a deep understanding of your brand message. Knowing what you wish to convey in your logo is the first step. You can then focus your narrative and clearly communicate your expertise. As well as a key identifier, your logo, says “I know what I am doing.”

Avoiding Logo Clichés

“All I need is a logo!”, Maybe you’ve said it, or you’ve even thought it. “After all, once I have a logo for my business, I have something I can put on my website, business cards, packaging, signage, social media pages and letterhead. Once I have a logo, I can brand everything easily.” Unfortunately, this is a common misconception about the role and use of a logo often made when starting a business brand.

A decent logo can say “I’m doing things well”. A great logo will say “I know what I’m doing and I’m doing it right!”

Nothing says “I DO NOT know what I am doing” more than incorporating some tired cliché into a logo. We’ve all seen them. The fingernail half-moons, planets, rocket ships, swooshes, houses, trees, leaves, acronyms in boxes, checkmarks, stylized swoosh people and a tiring long list of things that have been exhaustively done already. Using any design cliché also risks appearing as though you are trying to copy someone. You should avoid copying to capitalize on others’ success because it can become a copyright infringement nightmare. It is best to avoid cliché altogether and create your own logo following a few unique identifier tips.

“Too many elements does not a logo make” should be a mantra running through your head when designing your own logo.

Real-World or Abstract Icons in Logos

Here’s something you might not have been told before, but I firmly believe creativity is something that CAN BE learned and developed. Thinking creatively is key to portraying the unique selling features of your business. So try to use some creative thinking exercises. Forego exhaustively trying to make one thing “happen,” like perfecting that realistic representation of what your business does into icon form, and explore your options. Symbols and shapes don’t necessarily need to be obvious representations of their real-world counterparts. They can even be abstract so long as they don’t detract from the overall purpose of the logo. However, if you decide to go with a logo that includes a symbol or shape icon that looks like a real-world object, try to stylistically make it your own. Visual double entendres, ambigrams, abstract designs and well-executed letter marks can make your logo into something special.

Looking at several logos that use these techniques can provide you with inspiration. For example, The Guild of Food Writers, Spartan Golf Club, MyFonts and The Pittsburg Zoo use visual double entendres. Nine Inch Nails, Abba, Aerosmith and New Man Clothing make use of ambigrams. Mitsubishi, Nike, BHP Billiton, Chase Bank, MasterCard and Sony Vaio are clever abstractions. The logos for Chanel, Toyota, Gucci, Hewlett Packard, IBM and CNN make good use of unique letter marks.

But perhaps you don’t even need an icon. Keeping in mind that a logo doesn’t necessarily have to have an icon opens up more design options in terms of fun typography for a wordmark. Look at Disney, Sony, Visa, Canon, Coca-Cola, Dell, Facebook, Budweiser, Ray-Ban and Fed Ex, for example. Each word mark is instantly recognizable and uses unique fonts, simple letterform adjustments and/or custom type design in a way that makes sense for their company. Another takeaway from studying logos of big-name brands is their simplicity. “Too many elements does not a logo make” should be a mantra running through your head when designing your own logo.

Clichés and Copyright Infringement

Knowing what you are doing requires that you do your research well. It’s not enough to avoid the design clichés and try to make something original. You should look at competitors’ logos and search for things similar to what you are proposing to design. If your proposed logo looks similar to something already created, you will need to explore other options. It’s not a bad idea to have people you trust look over your logo to make sure it doesn’t look like something they’ve seen before. It also helps to see if it looks like anything that could be mistaken for something else too. For example, the new Meta logo makes use of an infinity symbol which has been commonly used in many logos before it.

This doesn’t mean you couldn’t emulate a particular style for effectively creating, for example, a retro-style logo. It does mean that you’ve taken the time to make sure you haven’t created something that has already been created. The important thing is that your logo makes sense for your business and is as original as possible. If you don’t have an original logo, the same will be assumed of your business.

Following these few tips can help you on your way to creating the right logo for your business. A decent logo can say, “I’m doing things well.” A great logo will say, “I know what I’m doing, and I’m doing it right!”.

If you’ve enjoyed this you will likely enjoy the next blog. What does your logo say about you? Insight THREE: My logo says, “I communicate well. Check out previous articles in this series like What does your logo say about you? Insight ONE: My logo says, “I am deliberate and purposeful.

Let’s chat about logos! Send me an email or visit for more learn more about my work.


What Does Your Logo Say About You? INSIGHT ONE

In business, our actions must be deliberate and well thought out. Whether to create awareness, make money, foster relationships or simply reward customers, every effort requires some thought before execution. In addition, actions a business makes are also open to public fanfare or scrutiny. Therefore, it is crucial that a business’s image matches its overall purpose and is created with deliberation. Creating a deliberate and purposeful logo takes a bit of forethought.

Creating a Deliberate Logo

How to convey that in a logo is no small task. If a logo looks rushed or falls short of considering the details, people will wonder if that is how that business operates. For example, suppose a business’s logo is a bit messy. Perhaps, the letter spacing is slightly off, it’s a little pixelated, there are weird-looking letterforms, or the icon/symbol is difficult to decipher. People will wonder if that is an indication of the attention to detail a customer can expect from that business. It is easy to venture down this “good enough” path to save on time and cost. However, creating a quick logo and calling it a day is somewhat a “false start.”. Re-designing a logo after it is already on business assets is a costly endeavour. If the logo is done right the first time, this will not happen.

Being deliberate in all aspects of your logo and keeping it clean and simple is not as easy as it seems. However, it is of utmost importance to ensure that nothing is misconstrued. This means spending time with your logo and making decisions based on how clear and sharp it looks up-close and from a distance. Ensuring that your logo is a scalable vector file is one way to achieve this. (Look for files such as an EPS, SVG, or AI for your logo collection.) Keeping a logo clean and simple also means assuring that your logo doesn’t look like something unintended.

Get a Second Opinion

The clarity in design should eliminate any missteps in visual double entendre. Just take a look at the logos that pop up after typing “worst logo designs” in a web browser. You will see just how something that might have been created with good intentions could go horribly wrong. There is such a thing as being “too close” to a project, whereby you no longer see the faults in your design. Taking a step back and looking at your logo from multiple angles can help you regain perspective. Getting someone you trust to look it over and give honest feedback could also help. The important thing is not to leave anything in logo design to chance.

Demographics with specific needs may respond better to businesses that speak directly to them and understand them.

Think About Your Target Audience

Consider your audience and their affinity to certain things such as typefaces, colours, and letterforms. By using their preferences you will save yourself from alienating the people you are trying to reach. For example, your audience might be predominantly online, which generally means they read sans-serif fonts regularly. It also means they might prefer to see things with higher contrast. The resulting insight tells you bolder colours might work well in your logo.

Demographics with specific needs may respond better to businesses that speak directly to them and understand them. For example, if you have a company designing a unique software that helps people with vision challenges, you would want to make sure your logo was well-spaced, a bit larger and had a significant amount of contrast. You would make sure nothing in your logo is too abstract and that there are no unique letterforms. You would also make sure to use a monochromatic colour palette with very few tints or shades. Possibly a one-colour logo that passes the test of an online colour contrast checker is best.

NOTE: You’d also want to make sure you adhere to good accessibility design practices beyond your logo. But for the sake of this article, I am only going to focus on the logo.

Final Thoughts

Take the time to think about where your logo will exist, who will see it and in which media it will be from the beginning, you can make some deliberate and purposeful design decisions that will give your business the identifier it deserves. This means considering things aside from personal preference and making some decisions based on research and fact.

Knowing your audience demographic and catering to their specific needs and interests in designing a logo shows how deliberate and purposeful you are in business. Although most people will not notice some of the best designs, poor design is off-putting and easy to spot. Carefully executed design is another way of showing just how much you care about your customers and the success of your business.

What does your logo say about you? Insight TWO: My logo says, “I know what I’m doing.

Need help with your logo design? You can learn more about how I approach a logo design in my article Add Value to Your Logo Design Process by Creating Options. You can also connect with me by email or through my website


What Does Your Logo Say About You?

This is the first blog in a series that discusses the importance of logo design for small businesses and some best practices in finding the right voice for your logo. Do you know what your logo should say about you?

“All I need is a logo!”, Maybe you’ve said it, or you’ve even thought it. “After all, once I have a logo for my business, I have something I can put on everything. I can put it on my website, business cards, packaging, signage, social media pages and letterhead. Once I have a logo, I can brand everything easily.” Unfortunately, this is a common misconception about the role and use of a logo often made when starting a business brand.

Your logo is the identifier under which your business operates. It’s like the flag of your own personal country complete with its own culture, beliefs and supporters.

The Argument For a Logo Budget

In business, your budget is always top of mind. The things that don’t immediately improve the bottom line don’t usually get a large portion of the operating budget. After all, businesses are meant to make money, and more money can be dedicated to design once it is there to spend, am I right? Not quite. This way of thinking can be counter-productive and could lead to a logo created in haste and regretted soon after that. Logos created with little thought can appear cheap and tarnish a reputation that is just developing. The saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” rings true for businesses as much as it does for people.

Your logo can make a good lasting impression and give you some credibility. If you make sure, it is saying the right thing about your business from the very beginning. It is also essential to understand that your brand is so much more than your logo. However, starting your business conversation with a carefully executed logo can speak volumes about your brand.

Reasearch Your Logo Options

People make inferences about the world around them daily. Big businesses will sometimes take advantage of colour and environmental psychology when developing visuals, storefronts and graphic identities. They will use personality and social psychology to make decisions on messaging, experiential and interactive design. Big businesses usually have the teams and resources to make a positive and lasting first impression. However, most small companies and startups don’t have the luxury of conducting exhaustive surveys and beta tests before making decisions.

Often times in a small business, it is one person taking responsibility for all of the decision-making. Weighing the pros and cons of every situation and taking stock of time spent on tasks that aren’t directly making money. Small businesses often don’t have the funds to hire an agency to help them with their design and marketing challenges. This shouldn’t mean things are developed by chance in a vacuum. It does mean that small businesses have to find cost-effective ways to develop things such as logos.

While I would advocate engaging the services of a seasoned graphic designer, there are ways of limiting your costs when employing a contractor’s services. Good research and the opinions of other professionals you trust can be a cost-effective way to start to develop a logo. You want to make sure it has the character you intend to put forward. Researching on the web is the first step but should not be your last. Exploring design magazines and books in your local book store or library can open your eyes to the possibilities out there. These should give you ideas for how you want your logo to represent your business.

Doing your homework can help you when you need to involve a graphic design expert because you will have done much of the legwork necessary to develop well-thought-out concepts and ideas. Honest criticism is key. If you can’t count on someone to have a different opinion than yours from time to time, then an exercise in finding your logo’s voice will be fruitless.

The Difference a Good Logo Makes

Your logo is the identifier under which your business operates. It’s like the flag of your own personal country, complete with its own culture, beliefs and supporters. It should speak volumes about your purpose, knowledge, character and ability to communicate as a business. A good logo tells the world what kind of business you run and what type of business you aspire to create. It is for all these reasons that extra care and effort should be taken when approaching logo design.

Want to read more? Check out the next article in the series – What does your logo say about you? Insight ONE: My logo says, “I am deliberate and purposeful.”

Need help executing your logo designs? Connect with me by email through my Cyan Bold Design website.


Interviewing Your Graphic Designer

It seems as though graphic designers are a dime a dozen these days. Competition is fierce, and everyone is vying for their piece of the proverbial pie. It is a blessing and a curse for the small business owner looking for someone to do graphic design work. Having options is always great. However, finding that diamond in the rough—the graphic designer that stands out from the crowd and suits your needs best—takes a bit of research and interviewing. This is why I have come up with 4 questions to use to interview your graphic designer.

As a small business owner or solo entrepreneur, you need to trust the person offering you a service. This trust is not something that comes easy to anyone with their own business. To rely on anyone else to help with something you’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears into is scary. After all, you’ve had to take on all the responsibilities of being the person in charge. However, being the marketer, accountant, purchaser, salesman, IT specialist, graphic designer, and every other part of the business can prove to be too much for most people. Realizing your strengths and shortcomings can help you decide where to focus your time and effort most effectively.

4 Interview Questions for Your Graphic Designer

I understand the things that run through a business owner’s mind when outsourcing anything, let alone graphic design. Will the contractor comprehend your desired intentions? Will they be as attentive and careful in working for your company as you were in building it? Is the cost going to be worth it? Can I get this somewhere else for less? Can I do most of this myself?

You can answer these questions during your first meeting with a graphic designer and by checking out their work online. However, having a list of critical questions prepared to ask your potential graphic designer will help you with this significant decision.

1) How did you become a graphic designer?

The answer to this question should tell you about the designer’s educational background. Some schools in Canada are affiliated with the Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC) and the Registered Graphic Designers (RGD). Both The GDC and RGD serve as professional governing bodies with codes of ethics and goals in elevating the graphic design profession while advocating its value to society. Not every graphic designer is a member of these professional groups. However, their certification should come from a partner school that offers a recognized graphic design program. Knowing the educational background of your graphic designer is an assurance that their work should be original, professional and warrantied. Self-taught graphic designers can be just as good as those with post-secondary training. Still, they may not have all the knowledge necessary to make the same assurances.

2) Where might I have seen some of your work? (Where can I see some of your work?)

The answer to this question will tell you how much experience your designer has outside of school. Most designers will inform you of the projects they were most proud to work on and lead you to view their portfolio online. New graphic designers will likely have a collection of student work to show and rationales to back up their design choices. It is important to note that a graphic designer with real-world experience is of great value and will likely cost more. However, if you believe in giving people their professional start, you may contact a recent grad. It would be best to remember that an instructor usually directs student work that guides the creative process. The more a student can tell you about their work, the more they understand what their designs accomplish.

Recent Work

This question should also lead to a conversation about recent work and a quick look through a graphic design portfolio. If you aren’t impressed with a graphic designer’s work, don’t work with them. It is that simple. However, if you feel you haven’t seen enough work to decide, feel free to ask to see more work samples. An experienced graphic designer should have several pieces that relate to the kind of work you are offering.

No Speculative Work, Please.

Never ask a graphic designer to create a design for you for free to decide on hiring them. While some graphic designers might take you up on the offer, this practice is “spec work” that most professional graphic designers won’t do. You wouldn’t expect a hairstylist to give you a haircut for free on the off-chance that you might employ them in the future to do your hair–the same goes for graphic designers. You can read more about spec work and how it impacts creative professionals at

3) What is your design process (when starting a new project)?

When you ask this question, you are looking for an answer about the process that involves listening to your requests and taking feedback to complete a design. Involving you in the core design decisions means the research and development phase will create informed concepts. You want someone who will provide viable options in early concept development and further refinement as you make design decisions and give feedback.

Not all design projects require a lengthy process. However, knowing the steps involved in starting a new project will let you know how much care is taken to ensure that you get the designs that work for you. (I will discuss more on the sound design process vs. the cost in a later post).

4) What are your rates?

Lastly, it is important to discuss budget and money upfront when you interview your graphic designer. You are looking for someone who will be upfront with you about payment expectations and varying pay rates. You want to set clear expectations, or else you may open a dialogue for negotiation.

Hourly Rates

Most graphic designers have an hourly rate based on their years of experience, capabilities, work quality, and the local market. Some graphic designers will even have flat rates for specific projects like logo design and visual identity packages. Some designers will also negotiate lower rates if the work spans several weeks of full-time employment or if you arrange a retainer agreement. You can also expect rates to change based on how you will use the designs and whether or not you need all rights to the graphics in perpetuity. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask how many rounds of feedback you get with the project fees and what to expect if a project requires more changes than estimated.

Print Management

It is also essential to ask if your graphic designer will handle printing or if that aspect of the project is up to you to arrange. Graphic design fees are generally for the design only unless you express the need for print management upfront. Most graphic designers will charge a mark-up for managing the printing. However, your designer will usually have a printer they trust in mind to ensure the print work turns out all right. You are taking a gamble when you leave your graphic designer out of the printing process. Even if you want control of who does your printing, it is beneficial to arrange for your designer and printer to communicate directly.

Project Management

Most design professionals will be truthful about their expertise and have partners they trust to do the work they are not experts at doing. This work can be anything from web design to search engine optimization (SEO). However, when your designer is responsible for an entire project that includes work from outside their wheelhouse, there may be a mark-up attached to services for special projects. In addition, if one or more third parties work together on a project, you could expect to pay a project management fee. On the plus side, when your designer works with other professionals they trust, they are working efficiently.

However, if you were to find other third-party professionals to work with your designer, there is a chance it might cost more—the extra cost results from an inevitable get-to-know-you period that may hold up the project. This is why finding a designer you can trust to be upfront about project management and all possible costs incurred on a project is critical. Bringing strangers together to work on a project can also lead to unforeseen problems like clashing personalities and miscommunication.

What is your budget?

Be prepared to have questions about rates and fees thrown back to you. Specifically, the question “What is your budget?” will usually be asked. This question is not a way of probing you for big bucks but gauging your limits and whether your terms would be agreeable for the project in question. If your budget is way off the mark, the conversation will change. Your designer will let you know what they can do for you and what they will do for that price. Your budget is likely to be accepted if it is close to the value of the project. It is usually an excellent place to finish the interview once fees have been discussed. You’ll want to exchange information or let your candidate know what you have decided.

Final Thoughts

When your potential graphic designer has answered these questions, you have a good feel for their graphic design expertise, ability, aesthetic, process, costs and demeanour. You may want to interview your graphic designer a bit more. Be sure to add a few questions about your specific project. Above all, you need to be able to say, “I am confident I can work with this person.” Someone you hire to work for you needs to be someone that is a good fit. All other answers to your questions would be moot otherwise. All that said, you should be ready to discuss contracts and be well on your way to seeing your ideas brought to life by your chosen graphic designer.

Need more advice on creating an effective logo? Connect with me through my Cyan Bold Design website or read my blog series What Does Your Logo Say About You?