12 Best Branding Tools You Need To Get Your Business Noticed
What are branding tools?
Branding tools are software applications, frameworks and processes that anyone can use to define, create or distribute their brand on marketing channels. This guide runs through our favorite branding tools for building either personal brands or business brands. Fundamentally these branding tools work the same way in either context.
Branding encompasses the intangible side of marketing that can make or break an organization. Branding is based on perception, style, nuance and taps into audiences’ emotions and psychology. It can even inform or reference popular culture and the zeitgeist. For this reason, branding is hard to get right. This is why we’ve put this guide together containing the best branding tools to help you define, communicate and leverage your brand on digital channels.
1. Start with ‘Why’
Simon Sinek’s viral TED talk back in 2009 is an 18 minute masterclass on how to build a brand. He references Apple heavily and their “think different” brand platform. He talks about how it informed their decision-making and why it led to their global dominance.
If you’re starting out, take the necessary time to think about why you’re doing what you do. Focus on your potential customers / users / audiences - by understanding them inside-out. A good starting point is Answer the Public.
This handy research tool is great for finding search terms used around your industry online. This can help you quickly understand what people think about and what queries they have in mind around different topics. It's an excellent way to inform your understanding of the target audience.
In the example above, I searched for “life insurance” and I can already see some interesting / unexpected searches that might help me understand this industry better from the customer’s perspective.
2. Define your mission and vision with The Brandling
While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably they are quite different. The Brandling is a branding education company who explain the difference between the terms very clearly:
Your Vision should be big, bold and focused on a long-term future outcome. Working backwards from your Vision your Mission Statement should explain the tangible things you will do today and in the near future to make progress towards achieving your Vision.
The Brandling also have a great Brand Thinking Canvas which provides a framework for how you build out your brand from the Mission.
3. Define customer personas with Cubb
Personas are used heavily at the start of the branding process to illustrate who your target audience are. What do they look like? What are their preferences? What do they care about?
The objective of developing personas is to build ‘customer empathy’ among the business. A persona can be a single-page document which profiles each target customer. It usually contains a photo of a typical person in the target group with descriptions and attributes. Making these personas ‘real’ is the key. Marketers usually develop personas after conducting thorough online and offline user research such as talking to potential customers, existing customers or analyzing online behaviour.
Cubb is a UX (User Experience) tool which enables you to create personas and build customer journeys around these personas. We recommend this process should be collaborative with your whole team so everyone can share their learnings about your target audiences.
4. Define your brand style guide with Frontify
A brand style guide should dictate the look and feel of your brand and provide direction on how to use the brand in all online communication channels. This is perfect for instructing teams internally or briefing external agencies / consultants. The goal of the brand style guide is to maintain visual consistency of your brand across all channels.
Frontify is a branding tool which enables you to build and define your brand style guide in the cloud!
5. Choose fonts with Google Fonts
While your brand style guide will include the accompanying font(s), you should be mindful to choose web fonts for headings and body copy. This is especially relevant for your website. We recommend choosing web fonts from Google Fonts as this will ensure visual compatibility across the widest range of browsers and devices.
When it comes to fonts in email, you can use Google Fonts but compatibility is not guaranteed on all email clients. For this reason, it's much safer to use a smaller sub-set of email-safe fonts which have the widest support across email clients and devices.
- Arial (Gmail default)
- Helvetica (Apple Mail default)
- Calibri (Outlook default)
- Times New Roman
6. Determine your tone of voice with Portent’s ToV Generator
Tone of voice describes how your brand ‘speaks’ in all channels. The purpose of documenting this is to provide a way for potentially many people in your marketing team to align on how they write copy on behalf of the brand.
There are many ways to define tone of voice. Some marketers adopt a brand personality by referencing a popular celebrity. The idea of this is to pick someone who is well-known (by everyone on your team) and constantly keeping this person top-of-mind when writing web copy, email copy or social media posts / comments. This puts everyone on the team ‘on the same page’ with how the brand constructs sentences, chooses words and expresses their vocal style.
Seattle-based digital agency Portent developed a quick Tone of Voice Generator tool to help guide your tone of voice development. It asks four multiple-choice questions and provides a ‘brand personality’ at the end. These personalities are akin to the popular ‘12 brand archetypes’:
7. Define your content pillars
Content pillars (also known as content themes) are the subjects and topics your brand publishes. You should begin by looking internally at what content pillars your organization has a viewpoint on. Then look at the needs of your personas - what kind of content are they looking for or interested in. The intersection of these two areas is ideal for defining your brand’s content pillars.
Put simply, content pillars are a way to organize all content you create under categories or groups. By simplify down to a few pillars, you can better manage the content workflow process and also assess content performance across your various content pillars.
8. Build your brand on social media with Upflow
Once you have determined your content pillars you need to execute this consistently on your social channels. If you’re relying on an organic approach (non-paid) on social, it's all about post frequency. Keeping post frequency up (minimum 3 posts per week per channel) is key since post lifespans on social channels are quite short - the average is under 24 hours.
For most marketers, they’ll need to rely on not only creating content, but curating content in order to keep post frequencies (and quality) up. This is where a tool like Upflow becomes indispensable in your marketing toolset.
Upflow is a branding tool that automates your content curation and ensures only relevant content that aligns with your content pillars is published to your social channels.
9. Brand your visual assets with Snapseed
Branding in your visual assets relates mostly to your images and videos. These are primarily used on your website and in social media but also across all your online channels including email and offline channels. Sometimes the hardest task is maintaining branding consistency. If you snap photos on your phone for social, there’s an advantage of posting ‘in the moment’, utilizing Stories or Twitter’s new Fleets format. Sometimes you need to go beyond the built-in filters that Instagram or Facebook provide you. Google’s app, Snapseed is perfect for this.
Available for both iOS and Android, Snapseed is one of the most powerful image editing / manipulation tools you can use on your smartphone. You can adjust brightness, contrast, color tones, isolate colors, apply subtle filters, there’s even a band-aid tool to remove unwanted pixels or touch-up photos - its super useful!
10. Brand your email signature with HubSpot’s Email Signature Generator
Continuing your branding into your email footer is a fantastic idea when you think about how many emails you send in any given week. At the very least, adding your logo and using your color palette is a great first step. HubSpot have made this easy by creating a free Email Signature Generator which enables you to pick an email signature from a gallery of templates and populate your details in a matter of minutes:
Gone are the days of bland signatures, you can create a modern-looking signature with minimal effort that links out to your website and social accounts. You can even add custom CTAs (call to actions) too.
11. Review your keyword rankings with SEOptimer
According to eMarketer, 35% of product searches start on Google. While it might seem like your presence in Google’s search results is less of a branding exercise, there are still some pointers to consider. By using an SEO auditing tool like SEOptimer you can see what keywords your website ranks for, how many searches are on those keywords and how competitive they are.
Knowing which individual pages are ranking can help you focus on re-writing Meta Descriptions or Page Titles to better represent your brand in search results.
12. Review your brand health with Refiner
Ultimately after trying some of these branding tools and adjusting what you do, you’ll want to assess what difference it is actually making. This is unfortunately quite difficult because branding is so subjective and doesn’t directly impact conversion but certainly affects it - making it quite difficult to even measure.
Nonetheless, the marketing industry has thankfully invented the NPS (Net Promoter Score). NPS is used to measure overall customer experience via loyalty. Have you ever been asked the following question “How likely are you to recommend this product / service to your friends?”.
The response is then provided on a scale of 0 to 10 with 0 being “not likely at all” and 10 being “extremely likely”. It's seen in many places, both digital and real-world. This is NPS in action. From this single question, it provides a measure of brand health on an overall scale of -100 to +100.
Tools like Refiner have built simple NPS widgets that you can easily embed into your website to capture responses from your visitors / customers.
The idea would be to implement an NPS system before making any branding changes, then over time assess the movement of NPS among your customers. In some organizations, branding plays a negligible role in improving NPS but in others, it can be a big contributing factor. It all depends on your organization, industry and customers.
Get your business noticed
It’s time to start implementing some of these branding tools! Start at the top and establish your ‘why’, your mission and vision. Everything you do next will then be based on these so spend the time to get these right and take it from there! Let us know how you go, tweet us @UpflowApp.