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Branding Your Blog: You’re Doing it All Wrong

This guest post is by Julie Cottineau of BrandTwist.

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.

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Comments

  1. Lizzie says:

    When I first started my site, I tried to do everything myself using my (very basic) past graphic design experience. I changed the style and logo more times than I can remember. However, as my site has progressed and I have started to take it more seriously, I realise that I need to create a uniform look that will work for the long haul and I realise that I’m not going to be able to do this by myself. Branding is so important – it’s the first thing we notice about a company and, more often than not, the thing we remember about them. Thank you for highlighting this.

    • Great points, Lizzie.

      Over the last few months I’ve learned how to create my own logos and I can agree with the author of this post – it’s definitely not the logo that makes a brand. It’s your voice, tone, the way you write, your customer service, etc.

    • Lizzie, I agree with you about the importance. Glad your making the effort. It will pay off!
      Juile

  2. I was going to pass this post up, because I’m an Rock Star at branding. Not so much. I love love love that you used Starbucks as an example. I walk into a Starbucks at least 4 days a week and I don’t drink coffee. I could complete related to what you had to share and I’m looking forward to taking a 2nd look at my site and my branding efforts to see what I can streamline and smooth out.

    Thanks

    Kimberly

  3. Great advice. As someone who has just barely started to look into the blogging business, this post had a lot of good information for me. Thank you!

  4. Samuel says:

    I love that. I definitely will invest the time and the energy to learn. Just got a laptop and will like to know some softwares that’ll be useful for blogging. Also any tips about a School Gist blog?

  5. Samuel says:

    I’ve been learning writing intonations too on two separate blogs of mine and I found out that it’s quite better when you can speak authoritatively on a topic you know fully about.

  6. Ali zia says:

    Nice article here nice logo have a great impact on your readers, and it also helps your readers to understand about what you are offering on your blog

  7. Claudia says:

    I remember the post about cheap logos but decided at the time it was not my top priority to get a ‘perfect’ logo, even for $5. Companies change their logos from time to time and even they get it wrong according to varying numbers of critics. For my blog I first wanted to get things right like tone of voice and ‘delivering’ someting I wasn’t quite clear about but which showed itself as I wrote my posts. I like your idea of starting with colors and style. Perhaps these will in turn suggest a suitable logo.

    • Claudia, you don’t have to go overboard with design. Pick a few elements (color, typography, symbol) and execute them well with consistency. It will help in recognition and recall. Thanks for commenting. Julie

      • Good points there Julie
        I must admit that I to spent alot of time and effort on my sites asthetics rather than just focusing on a few aspects and designing that well

  8. Jill says:

    You have made some important points here. For people that are just starting out or don’t have much money for branding they could always go with an existing brand and branch out from there. Blog on a ready made platform and take advantage of the branding and ranking juice that has already been established.

  9. Seb says:

    I agree, concentrating on a logo is not nearly as important as what is behind it.

  10. muja says:

    hello. i have a request. can you post about how to promote a personal blog. here, even a personal blog is famous even we dont have any products to sell. but still personal blogs can write reviews on products and get paid from reviews. still we can put banners and ads on personal banners. do inform if you have posted it. it is a great pleasure to read problogger.net. well done :)

    • Hi Muja, I started my blog BrandTwist as a personal blog to share my opinions when I was still working at Virgin. Eventually based on the followers I was attracting I positive feedback I had enough confidence to start my own consulting company and the blog is one element of my website. I think it helps me indirectly sell my brand services (such as brand strategy and naming) because it engages potential clients and highlights my passion and expertise. I have been approached quite frequently to include advertising on my site, but I have set no because for me I think it detracts from the professional image I am trying to build. But that is just my personal experience.

      Does anyone have any experience creating personal blogs that is different that they can share with Muja?

  11. David Landen says:

    I agree that you should stick to what you are good at and let others take care of the rest. Logos and artistic design should be left to the creative people!

  12. Clarkmartin says:

    Your post is very excellent and important. Logos are important, though what’s many critical is to have a transparent clear code promise. This is critical in any line of business, quite in blogging, where foe is heartless and securing a constant readership is a customarily approach to make your overnight success final some-more than a few days.

    • I agree with you. Having a focused and relevant brand promise is the first priority. Then you can bring it to life and help people connect with your promise through strong branding. When people know what to expect from you and connect to you they will turn into brand ambassadors and help promote you to others.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Juile

  13. R&K says:

    The brand will develop. It’s important to think about your brand but not obsess about it. As long as you blog about something you are passionate about, it will develop naturally.

  14. Asher says:

    I run a blog on branding, and I totally agree that a brand is not simply a logo. Everything has to be congruent with what your blog promises to be. I am also learning of late that well-designed graphic elements such as logos, background images, navigations, etc go a long way in creating a professional impression in your readers. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to afford a 5-star revamp of their blog. What I am trying to do is to gradually upgrade my writing and content, and hope that the blog would pay for itself in the long run.

    • Asher sounds like a good strategy. I don’t think you need to do the 5 star treatment. Just do what you can and continue to upgrade. Do fewer things better. I think less is more. For example, if you are going to use photos, post fewer and make sure they are the highest quality possible Thanks for commenting and good luck.

  15. Seb says:

    I think that people often concentrate on the logo because it gives them something that they can point to as theres. I enjoy designing logos for myself and my various sites. More of a hobby than anything else.

  16. Daniel says:

    Some good information about Branding of a site, Julia..

    I think proper site Branding is one of the most important tasks, a site owner has to deal with…

    It’s something I never knew much about until I started paying attention to how with many sites, success revolves around their brand..

    I also got caught up with trying to design an overly flash logo design, thinking that it would make a big impression..

    Later I realized that it wasn’t the amount colors, effects, or layers that make a good design, and that often many logo’s are not that complex at all……

    Good logo’s are well designed…not over designed!

    The reason I got caught up with overdoing the logo designs, is that there is so much talk of how a unique or “stand out” logo design can give a site that something special to identify it(which is also partly brand related, too)….

  17. Shorya Bist says:

    Hi Julie,

    I also believe that logos and looks are important but far more than which matters is making a trust amongst the readers and readership.I find this post with a lot depth and indeed a great post.

    Thank You
    Shorya Bist
    From Youthofest

  18. Color can definitely create a huge impact on a blog site. Just make sure it is friendly to the readers’ eyes or else, potential readers won’t spend a minute into it.

  19. Great article. I’m currently working on building a large site and have been taking my time before really trying to launch it. Items you mentioned like color scheme, tone, etc. are definitely important and I’ve been trying to hammer out those details before it gets moving.

    Thanks!

    • Thanks Rich. I’ve been doing a lot of free webinars lately that delve more deeply into things like color and imagery. You might find some of these interesting. You can get advanced notice of the next one if you sign up our Brand School mailing list http://BrandSchool.BrandTwist.com

      Thanks for commenting and best of luck with your site.