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10 things to consider when rustling up a brand

“He needed a smack on the head. That’s what he got. What’s the big deal?”

This is probably my second favourite Tommy Lee Jones quote.

I can’t remember how I got to this point, but I know it started when I was looking for interesting Harvard alumni. I wanted a quote that would get everybody fired up, and the gentle words of Yo-Yo Ma the cello superstar just wouldn’t do.

But anyway, I was looking for this article I stumbled across ages ago in the Harvard Business Review; A logo is not a brand.

Your brand is a complex and delicate concept:

  • It’s always under threat of getting a smack on the head
  • You have to constantly work to nurture it
  • There are many parts to it that you may not be monitoring (or even aware of)

So, I’ve been busy digging out 10 things that you should consider when building or maintaining your brand. Some are visual, others more abstract and less tangible. It isn’t an exhaustive list, but it gives you some context on the elements that contribute to how your brand is perceived in the wild. As a bonus, I’ve also included links where suitable, to content produced by the Yardstick team that explore the concepts in more depth.

And before we start, make a quick note to watch the 1992 masterpiece Under Siege, about Tommy Lee Jones doing some kung-fu with a chef on a boat.

1. Logo design

We’ll begin with your logo. Not because it’s the most important element, but it seems a logical place to start. Your logo is often the first thing people see when they are introduced to your brand, so it needs to engage your target audience.

This section is merely an honourable mention for logos, as I’ll be writing an in-depth piece on what makes an effective logo in the near future. So keep a beady eye out for that, and repeat with me: “a logo is not a brand” and “I must watch 1993’s The Fugitive which has Tommy Lee Jones and derailed trains flying all over the shop”.

2. Colour palette

The selection of colours that you choose to associate your brand with is important, as it will be used consistently in your online and offline communications.

Don’t think your colour palette is part of your brand? Well, consider the following:

  • Which three supermarkets come to mind when you think of green, then blue, then orange?
  • What two petrol station forecourts might you be at if one is green and yellow and the other is red and blue?
  • You’re on the motorway, you need a meal (ideally, a happy one); what colour are you hoping those magnificent arches are?

I wrote a few words recently about building a colour palette, which explores what works well, what doesn’t, and more importantly, what is right for you and your clients. It’s also about a murder, and in many ways is like 1997’s Men In Black which just by coincidence stars Tommy Lee Jones. Tony Shalhoub is also knocking about. Oh, and the aliens.

3. Typography

Choosing the right font for the job is important for any piece of content, but selecting a consistent set of typefaces to represent your brand is even more so.

Sounds severe, doesn’t it? After all, they’re only fonts, right?

<insert that loud noise off of Family Fortunes and think of a very disappointed Les Dennis. He’s very cross.>

What you say is one thing, how you visually represent it is another. Carefully considering your brand typography and using it consistently will instil confidence within your audience. And don’t worry, if you don’t know (or particularly care) about the subject, I wrote a piece that explains why you should give a font about typography.

You should also give a font about 1998’s Small Soldiers. It has Tommy Lee Jones’ voice as an evil toy and there are some creatures called Gorgonites or something.

4. Imagery

This section covers any type of:

  • Photograph
  • Video
  • Infographic
  • Animation
  • Icon set
  • Graphical element

Each one requires a conscious decision to be made, so carefully consider what your imagery is telling people about your brand.

Are your photographs all the same style? Do your icons look cohesive and part of a set? What art style has been used for the graphics on your website? There are lots of small decisions that must be made before your audience sees them in situ, so ensure that you make the right ones for the right reasons.

I’ll stop being selfish with the blog links now; Naomi wrote an excellent piece on selecting the perfect picture for social media engagement, which reinforces the importance of imagery. Reading it makes me want to go and watch 1986’s Black Moon Rising, where Tommy Lee Jones is driving a car that runs on tap water around an office building (either he’s the bad guy or he’s running away from bad guys, I forget).

5. Name

What people call you is important.

Your name is the first thing people will hear and see when they experience your brand, so make it a good one (no pressure).

I won’t go into too much detail on this because I wrote an in-depth piece on the 3 routes to take when naming your business which does it far more justice. In precisely the same way that Tommy Lee Jones does justice to early 1900s baseball in the 1994 biopic Cobb.

6. Positioning

This refers to how you place your brand in the minds of your audience and can have external influences such as:

  • Your offering and price compared to competitors
  • Your reputation and what others are saying about you

And internal influences such as:

  • Aligning who you say you work with vs. who you actually work with
  • How you adapt to changes in the business

To know how to position yourself among your peers (or to see how you appear among them), you can utilise the numerous directories that are available to advisers and planners. Conveniently, Phil wrote this piece recently that describes each one in detail. I read it a few weeks ago, and I couldn’t believe how much it reminded me of 1995’s Batman Forever. I forget why exactly, but by some miraculous coincidence, it stars Tommy Lee Jones.

7. Brand personality & image

Your personality is formed by your output. This is ultimately how you want your brand to be perceived by others. This includes factors such as:

  • Corporate tone of voice
  • Social media tone of voice
  • How you react to situations (both good and bad)
  • The efforts you take to manage your reputation
  • The medium for advertising and marketing campaigns

As an additional point to the tone of voice; good grammar and spelling are also crucial for reinforcing your brand personality. Nick wrote a great piece about it recently and he’s absolutely right. If a client sees you being sloppy with a blog post, will they assume you give as little thought to their financial future?

Brand image is the flip side of personality, as it refers to how people outside the business perceive your brand.

This isn’t always easy to directly manage, as it is propped up by so many other things in the list. You can measure it, however, by utilising client surveys to get direct feedback on a number of things within your business.

There will always be nervousness that comes with asking people to anonymously rate you, but we’ve found client surveys to be nothing but a positive thing overall. If you get lots of claps from your clients; great. If you get a bit of red pen and a ‘must do better’ – again, great. You now know what you need to improve to get lots of those aforementioned claps.

Phil gave six reasons why client surveys can help you grow your business a while back. Take a peek and make sure you avoid flying pianos and lava, which is what Tommy Lee Jones failed to do in 1997’s Volcano.

8. Core values

Why do you do what you do?

Your core values are a set of principles that shape and guide your actions, behaviours and give deeper meaning to your communications.

These should be as specific to you as possible, and avoid the obvious things like ‘being honest’ and ‘putting the client first’. That’s all very well and good, but exactly how do you do that? Better starting points are ensuring that your values are:

  • Actionable
  • Meaningful
  • Clearly defined
  • Memorable
  • Unique to you

I don’t have a blog post that gives more insight into this yet, but I’m keen to explore in more detail and show examples of firms effectively demonstrating their core values.

While you wait for me to write that, let’s all sit down and watch Tommy Lee Jones in 1988’s Stormy Monday. I don’t remember what it’s about, but I know he’s knocking about with Sean Bean and Sting, which sounds fun doesn’t it?

9. Brand experience

How people feel when interacting with your brand is absolutely something you have control over. Beyond the visual elements and the actual nuts and bolts of delivering valuable advice, there are plenty of opportunities to create a great experience.

The design of your collateral documents, for example, is an effective one. As is the way they sign a document, have a proposal delivered to them or receive communications.

Phil wrote a piece a while ago that shows the six tools we use to improve our brand experience. It’s a little outdated on one point (we use Everhour rather than Toggl now) but the spirit of the piece remains as relevant as ever; take advantage of the technology that will improve the experience at every step of your client’s journey with you.

And of course; take advantage of 2007’s No Country For Old Men. I know we’re making a funny with the whole Tommy Lee Jones thing but it’s a trout tickler of a film.

10. Brand equity

Brand equity is, as the name suggests, the perceived value of your brand.

Do your fees reflect the service you give? Are you too expensive, or too cheap? The sweet spot is often calculated by a myriad of influences such as peers / competitors, the type of charging structure you personally believe in, and the complexity of the task at hand.

When the perceived value aligns with the actual value, it reinforces and strengthens your brand. Choosing whether to show your charging structure is one way this can be communicated.

I know, I know. Fee disclosure is a tricky fish, so please don’t shout at me. I’ll just leave this link to our last First Wednesday Club webinar where Phil and Paul Armson discuss fees and demonstrating true value to your clients. And while we’re all wound up, let’s watch 1980’s Coal Miner’s Daughter, have a cry and enjoy Tommy Lee Jones tapping a toe to some country music.

Define each element of your brand, and get to work!

If you made it this far, you’ll have a nice long list of Tommy Lee Jones films to watch. You’ll also have a more holistic view of the elements that make up your brand, which I suppose is a fair trade-off.

Over the next few articles I write, I’ll be covering some of these in more detail, but until I get a new ribbon for my typewriter, it gives you a starting point on the things to consider when defining your brand.

Want to know more? Get in touch with us at or call 0115 8965 300.

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