A while ago, on this very blog, I read a post about how to make a five-dollar logo for your blog.
There were a few things about that post I disagreed with, but chief among them was the assumption that a cheap logo was somehow all you needed to brand your blog.
A logo does not make a brand.
Logos are important, but what’s most important is to have a crystal clear brand promise. This is important in every line of business, particularly in blogging, where competition is brutal and securing a loyal readership is the only way to make your overnight success last more than a few days.
Your brand promise should be felt in every single post
The most important part of your brand is largely invisible—at least, at first.
It’s the promise you make to a visitor the first time you meet.
It is more than just a half-hearted promise to try and be interesting and entertaining. It is a promise to deliver a specific and predictable result every time.
Whether you commit to always making your reader laugh out loud or go into deep thought, to giving her investment advice she can act on immediately, or a gluten-free recipe that her children will like, your brand is the one aspect of your blog or business that people can always trust that you will never compromise on.
Don’t try to do everything yourself
It should be said that DIY brands rarely look as good, or work as well, as the owners think they do. On the contrary, 100% homemade brands often look unprofessional and unreliable.
Unless you’re an expert marketer, designer, copywriter, and web developer in addition to your day job, there are lots of things you don’t know and skills you don’t have. You should admit that to yourself, and invest in some outside expertise. It doesn’t have to break the bank. You can pick one area and start there, but please do make building your brand a priority.
It’s what sets you apart, helps readers quickly understand what you are about, and creates loyal followers.
If you really only have $5 to spend
If you really don’t have more than $5 to spend on design, you’ll be better off spending your fiver at Starbucks. After all, you’re not very likely to get a good logo and visual identity for that kind of money.
So sit down with your grande latte and your free wifi, and be sure to take in your surroundings, because there aren’t many who do brand as well as Starbucks.
What’s special about Starbucks is not just the coffee. It’s that they stand for way more than that. Their brand promise is about community and you can feel that in every single touchpoint, from the comfy chairs, to the online community.
Think about how your brand can show (not tell) what it stands for, like Starbucks does. Even if you exist only in the online world, the types of topics you cover, the products you offer, and the other blogs you link to all serve to create an impression for your brand.
Color can be a great differentiator
Another thing you can learn from Starbucks is the effective use of color. You can see that green from miles away, and instantly recognize the store as a Starbucks.
So take a few minutes to pick a fresh color scheme for your brand. Something that really makes you stand out in your space. Your colors shouldn’t conflict with the promise you’ve made—for example, a site promising inner peace and a site promising playfulness should probably choose different colors—but that’s the only rule.
Almost everything is allowed, and bravery is usually rewarded.
Start out with a single, strong color you’d like to use, then use a tool like Kuler to find other colors that go well with it.
Ideally, you’ll put together a palette of colors that is uniquely yours, instantly recognizable to anyone who knows it, and that you can find ways to implement on your blog, across your social media properties, and in your product designs, both online and offline. Be creative.
Watch your tone of voice
It’s no coincidence that Starbucks has its own language (including words like barrista, grande, frappe, and so on.). This vocabulary helps support the brand’s promise that this is not your run-of-the-mill coffee shop.
Think about your blog’s tone of voice. Is it authentic, distinctive, and consistent? Are you falling into the trap of over-complicating things with big, boring words, and overused jargon? Are you conveying your personality and making it easy for people to understand what you are offering and why they should care?
There is a lot of brand power in the way we say things, not just in what we say. Have someone else look at each of your posts before it goes up and make sure you are choosing words wisely. We all know how hard it is to edit our own work.
Invest in your brand—with money, time, and creativity
Now, these are some quick tips. There’s a lot more to learn about brand. But the key message is that it’s always a good idea to invest in your brand. If you don’t have the money to invest, at least invest the time and energy to learn, and the thought and creativity to do a good job with what you have.
How’s your brand looking? Share your ideas for blog branding in the comments.
Julie Cottineau is former VP of Brand at Virgin and executive at Interbrand. Recently she founded her own brand consultancy, BrandTwist, to help small businesses and entrepreneurs, and will soon launch Brand School, an online course about building, growing and monetizing a brand.