Your company’s small and resources are tight. Should you try DIY branding?

In talking with a prospect the other day, she brought up the topic of DIY branding. “You know, I’ve downloaded one of those DIY brand kits off the internet. What do you think about those? Can’t I just save a lot of money and do my brand that way?”

Great question. 

I regularly encourage my clients to do their own branding and marketing (what do you think this blog is all about?!). There are many good DIY branding guides online and if you have the time, aptitude and desire to do it, doing it yourself will make you a better marketer and steward of your brand AND you’ll grow an appreciation for great branding. 

To reinforce this point, I offer a few DIY toolkits and workbooks that inform parts of your brand (this one is great: “How to Craft Your Own Unique Value Differentiator” and so is this one: “How to Create A Customer Profile.” Check my blog for the accompanying articles). But these are just a few of the many aspects that go into building a brand (competitive research, customer insights, target profiling, brand DNA & benefit statements, archetypal analysis… to name a few). Most guides on the Internet cover just a few of these areas. Until I write my own book, I can recommend Forging an Ironclad Brand by Lindsay Pedersen, a how-to-brand guide that’s very comprehensive and multi-dimensional.

In short: I am ALL for empowering you to craft your own branding communications and marketing. This said, having done branding for over 2 decades, I’m also realistic. It comes down to your time & aptitude, being able to get out of your own way, and seeing behind your blind spots.

DIY Branding Requires Patience.

Brand building is the painstaking exercise of crafting the right message for your business and then ensuring everything you put out is “on brand.” There’s a process to it, and from my experience, it’s not something that’s inherent in most business leaders. If it was, it’d likely be your “zone of genius” and you’d likely be running a branding and marketing business instead of the business you’re in.

But if you still want to DIY, my recommendation is to budget time and patience. It’s a challenging exercise to come up with something catchy and compelling (but also creative) that encompasses customer needs, your competitive white space, your intention, heritage and vision, your brand promise, beliefs and the value you bring. I recommend doing the analysis and writing it all down, and then editing and synthesizing your message down to its essentials.

It Also Requires Objectivity.

Building a brand also requires objectivity. A lot of brand work is inward looking, which means it triggers all those fun psychological reactions to feedback and criticism. And we all come to the table with deep bias around:

  • customers and their attitudes around the category / service / price;
  • the category and the key players that we compete against;
  • patterns and trends that can influence customer behavior;
  • perhaps most importantly: our capabilities and the value we bring our customers.  

Sometimes we’re aware of our bias but more often we’re not. I’ll work with clients who insist their business runs a certain way or that their customers have a particular fixed mindset. Only when I present them with research findings do they digest how much bias has shaped their interactions with partners, stakeholders and customers.

In order to build a great brand that defines the value you bring and what’s important to your customers, you need to get out of your own way, and that can be hard when you’re doing the branding yourself. My recommendation: find an external partner to point out category and behavioral assumptions that you take for granted. Look for someone who is industry-adjacent but not in your space; use them as an editor to weed out your biases.

And Check for Blind Spots.

Like bias, but different: we all have blind spots about our business, industry and customers, and sometimes we can’t see a brand play at all. I once had a client who discounted her expertise as part of her offering. She insisted that her competitors brought the same level of industry knowledge and refused to charge more for her vast subject-matter expertise. Finally – after pestering her for more than a year – I got her to experiment with communicating about her expertise. She was flabbergasted when she was able to TRIPLE her rates. 

Yeah. 

Blind spots work like bias to skew our perception of our brand value, but they’re more insidious because they’re usually our strengths that we discount (“Oh, my put-you-at-ease bedside manner? But that’s a given,” or “My ability to neutralize workplace conflict? But everybody does that,”) and we discard what could be an astonishing point of differentiation. 

If you’re intent on DIY branding, I recommend doing some research to discover why your best customers return, and also partner research to discover why partners choose you over other options. You must throw out easy answers like “convenience,” “great work at a good cost,” and “because I’ve always used them.” The good stuff lies beneath. 

I also recommend running your DIY work by someone who knows you and your business. Not an employee, former customer or partner (too involved), but again: an industry-adjacent peer, or a listener with good intentions at heart who can absorb your point of view and point out potential strengths you’re keen to overlook. 

I’m Innit to DYI-it!

“Juliana, I still want to do it.”

All right then! Forging an Ironclad Brand by Lindsay Pedersen is a great brand building guide to use. Here are the areas you’ll want to analyze to get at your brand and what you stand for, what your customers value, and what makes you unique:

  • Market research. What’s going on in your industry? Where is the market headed, and where are the opportunities?
  • Competitive analysis. Who is your competition? What do they offer? How do they communicate their offering?
  • White space. Where’s the opportunity for you to zig where your competition zags?
  • Cultural trends. What trends are culturally happening that relate to your work?
  • Stakeholder feedback. Why do your customers & partners come – and return – to you? What (pain) brings them to you? What do they deeply value about how you solve that pain?
  • Target market. Who is the customer that deeply values all that you offer? Use this guide to build out their personas.
  • Mindset & behaviors. How do your customers approach your category? What’s their mindset & behavior?
  • Brand DNA. What do you do and why? Think through your offerings, what pain or problem do you solve for your customers? Consider the benefits you bring your customers – both emotional and functional.
  • Unique Value Proposition. What do you do that your customers deeply value that few others can do? This guide can help you.
  • Brand Promise & Values. Think about the promise you make to your customers, at every interaction. What values do you insist on, so you / your team can make this promise true?
  • Brand Archetype. If your brand were a person, what would be its personality and image? Is your brand the sage or the creator? Maverick or jester? And how does this show up in your brand communications?! Strategist Kaye Putnam has an archetype quiz to uncover your brand archetype & good examples of how brands use their archetype to create differentiation.
  • Logo, font, colors. Work with a graphic designer to bring all these insights into your brand’s look and feel.
  • Storytelling. What’s the story you can tell about your impact on your customers? How do you help them? How do you transform their woes into successes?

These areas will inform and form your brand identity and positioning. Don’t be daunted if that seems lengthy! Especially if you’re just starting out, there’s plenty of online guidance to tap into, and to be honest, most startups do the branding themselves until they’re big enough to outsource it to a professional.

And the work is absolutely worth it.

When you’ve landed on it, brand amplifies your marketing efforts. It brings results you couldn’t imagine. It makes everything so clear and easy to digest. You’re so much more confident about your business and what you stand for and what sets you apart.

So do the hard work. 
Build your brand. 
But if you want all this, but are reconsidering the DIY part, that’s cool too. Let’s connect and zoom or chat. My team and I are passionate about branding small businesses; we’re here to bring that incredible brand your business already is… to life.


As a business owner, you’re always stretched in a million different directions. You don’t often think about your logo and if it’s conveying the right message about your business. But is it helping you leave your mark?

Details matter. Your logo can help attract new customers and  distinguish you from your competition. Since it’s my business to help growing businesses grow magnetic brands, I spend a lot of time working with clients to ensure their logo, fonts and color schemes are telling their full brand story in a simple but compelling way. If you’ve ever wondered what makes for a great logo, if you’re considering designing one for your business, or if your current one makes you cringe: below are some helpful logo design tips to keep in mind.

First: do you even need a logo?

Many small businesses decide to skip the logo in the very beginning, or they get something simple off 99designs.com. Either route is great, especially when starting out. But as your business evolves, remember that we live in a world of symbols, so whatever’s next to your company name is functioning as your de facto logo. So let’s ask this a different way: what’s the point of a logo? And does your current one work to your advantage? Here are some benefits that a logo provides:

  1. A logo tells people the name of your company.
  2. It creates differentiation and a good one makes your brand stand out.
  3. A logo represents your business. A great logo has a symbolic association, making your company instantly more memorable and more endearing.
  4. It invites people to explore your brand. Symbols and colors are more interesting to the human eye and mind than plain text. Logos draw interest and pique the curiosity of your potential customers, prompting them to discover more about your product or service.
  5. It can go everywhere. Website, business cards, office door, letterhead: a logo is a visual representation of your business and can extend your brand  everywhere. With a logo, you have more opportunity to be top of mind for your customers and prospects. And familiarity breeds preference.

Now let’s go back to your current logo. If it’s delivering on all these points, then that’s a win for you.
But if you feel that your current logo isn’t working for you, and you want to make your brand clearer and more inviting, then let’s talk about what you should look for in logo design.

The Role of Color, Shape & Font

  • Color. Color psychology goes back as far as the ancient Egyptians; they figured out color can impact mood and human behavior. Today, color is important in our media-frenzied society because it can help draw attention to your brand and make it stand out. And research has shown that 60% of customers’ product choices are impacted by color alone.

    So what’s the right color for your brand? Well, that depends on what you want to convey.  For instance, blue conjures up feelings of calmness, confidence and honesty, while red is the opposite: it conveys passion, intensity and excitement. Yellow symbolizes positivity and optimism, while green conveys freshness, prosperity and nature. There are thousands of color options, so it’s important to first figure out what qualities and values you want to express and then apply that to your brand. For some color psychology basics, the folks over at Green Apple Lane did a nice graphic that conveys many core brand attributes for brands.
Graphic courtesy of GreenAppleLane.com
  • Shape. Our subconscious mind responds to shapes and associates attributes with them, so designers factor in shape when designing logos. For example: are you wanting to convey community, unity, a sense of belonging? Then your logo would most likely be circular or oval shaped. If you’re wanting to express stability, strength and professionalism: squares. A sense of power, science, logic? Triangles. Below are a few examples of global brands that have been using shapes to subliminally suggest brand values; it can work for your company as well.

Pepsi communicates community and unity; Microsoft expresses stability and strength; Google Drive projects technology prowess and logic.

  • Font. It’s not just words on a page. Typefaces have distinct personalities – did you know? The latest research suggests that typefaces convey their own meanings and elicit specific emotional responses independent based on the forms of the letters and words on the page or screen. Serif types are focused and calming; rounder types elicit happiness; sharper types, anger. If you want to convey tradition and respect, a classic serif font like Times New Roman is right for you. Are you innovative? Then consider a cleaner and modern font, a non-serif like Futura or Helvetica.  Is your brand creative or elegant? A cursive font could help deliver that message. Or perhaps your brand is playful and creative – then you might want to lean in to a display style, like Valencia or Cooper.

The brand on the left is conveying modernity, confidence, unfussiness.
The brand on the right is all about heritage and tradition.

 

A Word on Simplicity

Given all the things we want our logo to say and represent – not to mention that some logos can cost a lot of money – the tendency is to make sure they serve up a whole slew of brand message. But that makes them complicated, which is exactly the inverse of what you want. The most revered logos in the world are actually breathtakingly simple.


This doesn’t mean they’re simple to create. Reducing an idea down to an elemental symbol that captures one overarching big idea – that encapsulates other elements – is often the toughest part of the logo design process. Many logos, even those of big and successful companies, fail to stand out or be memorable because they can’t easily be associated with a single idea. Sometimes that’s because they’re too complex, and sometimes because they’re too abstract. 

The original logo on the left, and the updated TGI Fridays logo on the right, with a less complicated shape and cleaner font. Both say festive and fun; which does your eye prefer?

Apple’s original logo: Isaac Newton under an apple tree.  And the Apple logo today.

Does Your Logo Tell Your Brand Story?

Now for the most important part: it’s got to hang together.  Does it all come together to deliver the right message about your brand?  Firstly, if your logo’s not exuding what your business and brand are all about, then your logo is off and needs some fixing.

Secondly, you should love your logo, but your customers are the best judge, since it’s largely for them. Try to see your logo from their perspective. Thirdly, it’s cool to have hidden messages in your logo’s design, but if it’s not conveying the point of your brand to your customers, you’ve overshot the mark. If you have a few customers you trust and are close to, ask them for their thoughts on your logo. Does it convey the points you were hoping to get across?

A famous logo with a hidden subliminal message. Do you see the arrow?

If you’re considering hiring a graphic designer to update your brand look and feel, it’s helpful to speak with someone who can help you hit these points design-wise. Additionally, you want a designer who can convey the bigger picture of what your business  stands for, while remaining dedicated to simplicity. If you’ve worked with designer in the past and like their work and feel your logo could use an update, talk with them about how to make your logo more impactful.

Need a designer to give your brand a new look? We’d would be happy to have a conversation about logos and more. At Magnetic Brand Strategy, we have a team of dedicated creative designers who can expertly shape simple and powerful logos. We’re dedicated to helping small and growing businesses become magnetic to the people who matter to them.