Getting the basics of branding

A solid, clearly defined brand identity is essential to success. Creating a strong identity makes your business stand out in the crowd and creates a stronger connection between you and your customers. It can inform both the big questions and nitty gritty of how you run and market your business. Ultimately, branding is about more than just a logo; design is important, but there needs to be a strategy behind it.

Here at ICON we help translate people’s designs into reality, and work with clients to ensure the finished product is in line with the broader vision behind it. From t-shirts, to baseball caps or gym gear, there’s a whole world of options to underscore your business’ modus operandi – once you’ve locked down what it is. (For an interesting case study, check this post on ICON client Hub Vélo.) 

Before you bring your merch dreams to life, here some key things to consider when figuring out your brand.

What are your values?

Starting a brand relies on one key aim: what the brand stands for. Why did you want to establish this brand, and what makes it stand out from the crowd? Whether it’s the ethical sourcing of your product, the way it makes a customer feel or the need to provide a better alternative than what’s out there, summarise than sentiment and hammer it home in a few key bullet points. 

Who is your audience?

Know the demographic of your target audience inside and out, be it based on age, gender, interests or ethical values. For brands to succeed, they tend to share a set of characteristics. When people think of a successful brand, they will be able to identify who uses it and who goes there.  If you know your audience, you’ll know how to speak to them. 

Engage with emotion

Brands work best when they connect with their audience on an emotional level. It’s about how a customer associates your business in their mind, encouraging repeat business. Do you want them to be happy, relieved, comforted or empowered by their interactions with you? One approach can be to choose a key emotion and run with it to inform your values, tone and products.


Who are your competitors?

In business, it pays to keep a close eye on the competition. Looking into their target market, their keywords and their products is essential to staying ahead. Know what competitors are already offering, and find a way to do it better – or use the intel as motivation to finesse your product, and invest in the appropriate target areas. Through competitor research, you’ll learn new and unique ways to serve your customers.

Consider your visuals

Visuals are essential to making your brand stand out, and creating a recognisable, relatable face to your business. Using a carefully curated font, logo, and colour palette will help customers associate that logo with your product. (At the product level, head here to check our tips for designing an awesome t-shirt.)

Nailed your elevator pitch?

Can you sum up what your brand is about in one lift ride? The elevator pitch is a crucial pathway in finding a succinct and powerful way to define your brand. If you can’t describe what your brand is about in less than a minute, then it’s probably worth finessing the product. Does your brand have a tagline? Most successful brands have a polished phrase that stands alongside their branding. 

Tweaking your tone

To make a strong brand identity, the brand needs a signature tone. Prefer informal greetings for customers and workers, or a more formal approach to suggest care and professionalism? Letterheads, digital assets and customer service should all be in line with this set tone, which gives a customer more information on what a brand is about. In particular, social media channels can be a place to establish this, an especially important medium for many new and developing brands.

Create consistency

Using the same tone, visuals and values throughout your workspace, assets and products creates a strong and concise brand. Finding those principles and visuals and sticking to them – whether they’re displayed at the front of house or in a discrete work email – reaffirms what you’re about at every level, underscoring who you are and what you’re about. 

Looking to market your brand with custom printed merch? Want to ask us about the range of options for printing your designs? At ICON Printing we can create deliver fast turnaround custom printed t-shirts, tote bags, and more, counting clients from Boiler Room to WeWork, the Tate to Niketown. Get a quote in 2 minutes online.