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Editor’s note: This is a sponsored story in co-operation with 99designs.

Developing your brand should be more than than picking a logo and a colour scheme for your website. Branding can often be confused with an image or a visual identity, it is, in fact your entire package. From your humble startup roots, to your product, to your sources on to your employees and your customers.

At 99designs we are all too familiar with the process of designing a logo, organising your business cards and finessing a website; so here are a few tips on how to get it right, the first time around. .

1) Who are you?

Let’s start off with figuring out what makes your brand. To create a brand and a sustainable company message you need to be asking yourself a handful of questions:

What’s YOUR story, how did you find your way to this business idea?

What made you take the leap, and launch it?

What’s in your future?

Startup business owners engage their employees, customers and investors by naturally telling a compelling and personal story. Think about your customer facing employees, what story will they buy into and tell to your customers? How engaged are they in your product? How does your brand and company story set you apart from your competitors?

Two of our favourite startup stories are the Invisible Helmet and Ben and Jerrys. They each have roots based stories of friends passionate about bettering people as a whole through simple ideas – with company messages that battle everything from poor diet to public safety.

The Invisible Helmet was started out of defiance by two Swedish industrial design students, who were told that what they were proposing in the Invisible Helmet was impossible. The impossible spurred them on to prove everyone wrong. Ben and Jerrys the US ice manufacturers story is kind of unique; these guys have gone on to dominate globally not just by producing a brilliant ice cream, but as champions for equality.

Case Study: Ben and Jerry’s

Started in a small town in Vermont in 1978, Ben and Jerry opened their first ice cream parlour. With a $5 correspondence course in Ice Cream making and their life savings they opened a shop in a renovated gas station, the rest is history.

What is really striking about Ben and Jerry’s is that 35 years later, and even after a take over from Unilever in 2001, they still stick to their company ethos. (There’s a nice article here questioning if Ben and Jerry’s changed Unilever for the good!)

“Spreading peace, love and icecream since 1978” is their mantra. They’ve supported various causes, the most recent renaming the Apple Pie flavour, Apple-y Ever After, in Scoop Shops around the country to support the same sex marriage bill. Read their mission statement below.

Source: http://www.benjerry.com/activism/mission-statement

Check out the Ben and Jerry’s backstory here to see their 35 year history and the causes they have championed.

Figuring out your brand’s value is unfortunately all on you; there are no real resources to help you through this. However, a good place to start is to ask yourself a few questions:

  • What social causes strike a chord with you?
  • What’s your background and why do you want to start this business?
  • How can you help others along the way?
  • “When you are led by values, it doesn’t cost your business, it helps your business.” – Jerry Greenfield

    2) What’s in a name?

    When you come to name your business there’s more to think about than just the legalities involved; a bad, ill thought out name can hurt your business. There are a lot of startups, especially mobile tech and app business and getting your name right can be key to your success.

    Do you want a play on words or catch phrases? Don’t, until you’ve read this article. If you go down this route you’re likely to hit problems when you plan to branch into other markets, their the pun will be lost or the translation will do it no justice.

    In 2013 it’s pretty hard to avoid the internet, so always, always, ALWAYS think about your URL, how you are going to display your company’s name and how it will look on the web. This summary has some great examples of business that just didn’t step away from the computer and check their links. It’s a good idea to remember to test your name using the Google Adwords tool so you can see what combination of words yield good results.

    Top 3 things to avoid:

    Web 2.0 speak – it’s getting old now. There are thousands of 2.0 names and businesses and it no longer mean you stand out.

    Beware initials – not only will this make SEO rankings hard but it’s very difficult to convey a company message in just 3 letters (O.K., IBM have done it, but that’s after billions of dollars of profit!)

    Describing your companies product or service – this isn’t forward thinking and if you decide to move into new markets this can present challenges further down the field

    Looking for a girthier “how to get a name”?….Here’s something we wrote earlier; 100% dedicated to guiding you through the process.

    3) Ready to go visual.

    So your forward facing message is ready and you’ve got a great name, it’s now time to move onto what your brand will look like. In your brief, your story and product should dictate who you are – thinking it will be easy? No. There’s a myriad of styles, typography, colour schemes, mascots, 3d or not 3d – it can be a maze.

    Writing a brief that conveys your company message may be difficult, some key things to include are:

  • Your brand and business. What are your goals, markets, locations and target demographic
  • Industry and competitors, what do you like about their designs and what you really don’t want to be included in your logo
  • Values, feelings and messages you want the design to communicate
  • Specific colours, ideas and imagery you like, as a general direction or theme
  • Any specific technical spec that you need to receive from your designer i.e size, format, fonts.
  • If you are looking for some inspiration you will find a great resource of typography styles in ILoveTypography and if you’re feeling a little creative and want to try out some styles Da Font will let you test out how your text will look.

    Not sure on a colour scheme? Scared you’ll do the classic “pink and green should never be seen”, check out Kuler from Adobe to give you some inspiration and work out your colour palette.

    A great brief will mean a design you love, and a design you love will naturally lead to a website and merchandise that looks great. But what if you’re not 100% sure about what you want and want to try a few ideas? Remember you can always crowdsource your design through sites like 99designs (*we’ve prepared a little gift for all you Arctic Startup readers – if you simply want get started on some design options). Allowing you to tap into a community of creatives and get some great designs, sometimes leaving you with too many to chose from!

    Design trends can come and go, and if you hop on board a current trend, in a years time there will be a) a load of similar logos and b) a pastiche about your current style. It’s always worthwhile checking some of the current design trends for some inspiration. YouTheDesigner is a great place to start that has up to date information about current design trends, it’s up to you if you follow them or avoid them!

    And those pink and green logos I mentioned… well… sometimes they work out.

    4) I have code, therefore I exist.

    A business without a website, even just a simple landing page, is really up for startup suicide. The Google index is the modern day phone book, and we bet from day one getting your business launched online is a core goal, and a milestone where everything becomes real.

    A strong logo can make all the difference. Once you have your domain name, it could be an idea to launch a basic site with a coming soon, or just your logo on it with a contact number. If you’re talking about your project people will start googling you and having nothing there can cause distrust in yourself and your product.

    Website design will be the prominent thing that your customers will see and it pays to take time thinking about the look and the feel of the site, but also think about your customers experience.

    About the author: 99designs is the world’s largest online graphic design marketplace. Connecting small and medium businesses who need fast, affordable graphic design with over 230,000 graphic designers worldwide.

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