Hiring a designer to build a brand from scratch can be an expense you don't need when starting your social enterprise. Having a brand people can relate to that appeals to your audience and that attracts interest is an essential step to it all feeling real and something that you are proud to be working on. So how do you brand your social enterprise without paying a designer?
Like every other business, you need a brand that represents your services and, most often in the case of social enterprises, your social mission.
Effective branding will help you stand out. We all consider emotional factors (consciously and unconsciously) when making a decision, including purchasing decisions. Your brand and the values of your products and services are vital points of difference that can separate you from the competition. Because regardless of how good your values and intentions are, you'll need to have people choose to engage with your social enterprise over and above any of a myriad of other places to spend their time, money, and attention.
A brand also helps make you appear more professional. A professional look and feel can further help attract support, investment, and customers.
There's no downside to branding your social enterprise. Instead, a brand adds to the core value of your positive impact initiative. Here are the major elements you need for your social enterprise's complete branding.
Regardless of sector or focus, your social enterprise is set to deliver positive change. A major brand asset to think about and bring to life is your values. What do you stand for? How do you intend to behave and operate? What makes your meaningful solutions different? Make a note of your values and work to ensure that they accurately capture how you want people to feel about you when engaging with your social enterprise.
Doing a google search for "brand values" will provide plenty of starting points for inspiration. Use these to get your thoughts flowing and apply them loosely to your own circumstance being sure to make them your own.
As you have these set, you may choose to represent them on your website or other literature. Being transparent and clear on your values can play an important role in representing your social enterprise at its absolute best.
As your values are set keep them in mind throughout the branding strategy process. Have a think and sketch some ideas about how they might come across visually.
Your social enterprise begins with you and can be a lot more personal than a lot of businesses out there, so the first thing people want to establish is trust. They want to know who the founder behind your idea to do good is.
You should have a good profile picture on all your online profiles. The more approachable you appear, the more comfortable people feel engaged with you. Your profile picture(s) should show you in a good combination of warmth and professionalism.
Infuse your brand personality into all your marketing efforts. Every business has a tone which, for example, is why a Coca-cola advert 'feels' different from a Pepsi advert. Your tone should always be warm, friendly, and engaging, but still informed and professional.
Your tone should stay consistent across your website, profiles, social media pages, and blog posts. People want to know that they are talking with someone relatable. They want to come to know the business around the person, being able to understand your proposition and values quickly.
A logo is one of the essential brand identifiers. It doesn't just make your brand more recognizable, but more professional too. Not all social enterprises use logos, but having one is an excellent addition.
A logo instantly makes all your documents and marketing materials appear more authentic. By this, I mean everything from social media posts to emails, presentations, letters of Introduction, and so on.
An email signature is a virtual card that pops up at the end of an email. It usually contains the sender's name, business name, job title, contact information, and sometimes, links to social profiles. Your email signature should always be clear and creative to draw the recipient's attention.
For your message to gain the intended audience's attention, it needs to be presented appealingly. You have the power of social media and other online channels to reach potential supporters.
Before you start reaching out to them, you must establish your brand identity. Your graphic designs are visual representations of that identity. They can convey both emotions and your business principles and values.
All graphic designs that represent your business should use the same theme to keep your marketing uniform and encourage brand recognition.
Every color has been proven to stimulate different reactions from people. Your brand colors might seem like the least of your concerns when it comes to branding, but they play an important role. They influence the first impression of every potential person that is exposed to your brand.
This is because colors carry emotions, trigger memories, and influence experiences. Your color scheme should be simple yet elegant and noticeable.
Designing a brand is fun, so be open to playing around, experimenting, and testing to see what works for you. Your final decisions should convey your values and appeal to your target audience.
Below, I've outlined a detailed plan of action that you can use to brand any social enterprise. To make these work I recommend that you use one or more of these free tools: Canva, PicMonkey, and Snappa.
When combined, they come with hundreds of free templates and easy-to-adapt tools for design newbies as well as those that have been through the process before. The idea here is to help ensure the entire process is easy to complete; of course, you might still benefit from some design help if you can afford it or rope in a favor.
No enterprise exists alone. Before going to the drawing board, conduct research on your industry and other projects like yours. Google your sector and click on images to get an idea of what is acceptable in your industry. Benchmark other brands and businesses that are appealing to a similar audience as your own.
Your aim is to come up with a concept that will fit in but in its own unique way. Also, consider your social story; what aspects can you retell as part of your branding? Visually or in supporting copy.
This is because your target audience already has an expectation from enterprises like yours. Another good source is Pinterest, where you can find different types of branding material in every industry.
Consider everything you've noticed, and write down some of the common elements you found, liked, and would like to reflect in your new brand. When you've gone through your design process, you can come back to this list to identify what you might have missed.
Your USP is your Unique Selling Point. It's something you either realize from experience in the market or by researching your industry. Your USP should be a gap you can fill or a solution you can provide (that is unique to your brand). It's a term most commonly used in business however it can and very much still does apply to social enterprise.
Beyond the expected services you offer, what else can you throw in that immediately puts you above the competition in the eyes of your potential customers? The answer to this question is your USP, in many ways, is the foundation of a solid brand. And should be present in good brand design.
Traditional logo design involves a lot of conceptualization and planning, but you don't necessarily have to do that. My favorite tool to recommend is Canva. For logos, it comes with pre-made designs that you can adapt to your brand for free. Professional designers created all these logos, and you can easily make changes to adapt the pre-made templates to fit your brand.
At this point, avoid dwelling on just one option. Explore the templates available, and adapt as many as you want to fit your brand. Once you do this, start selecting and narrow down to three options.
You can show trusted friends or other social entrepreneurs your options and ask them for their opinion. Invite constructive feedback and ask them if your brand makes sense to them.
Their answers will let you know if your options have the right appeal to existing and new customers or appeal to just you. This is important as your brand isn't just about you or what you like. You should also consider the interests of your target audience to inform the decision-making process.
Eventually, your decision should be based on which option best represents your brand visually.
At this point, you have a logo with the default colors still retained. It's time to personalize it by introducing your brand colors. Some social entrepreneurs start their businesses with a good idea of their preferred brand colors.
However, if you're struggling with colors, go to Adobe Color to browse hundreds of color templates, and choose one or more that you like. You can try each template on your logo to see if they are a good fit until you find something that feels right.
Just like the logo, ask for external opinions on your choice to ensure your audience will also find your colors appealing. Consider if, alongside your other brand assets, they help you tell a good story, and don't be afraid to test and refine them to arrive at the best solution for your business or social impact project.
These are essentially the fonts in which all your written documents will be presented. Most designers encourage brands to use two typefaces, one for headers and slogans and the other for body text. Just like designs, typefaces can influence the appeal of your content. Avoid anything that is too animated, chunky, or faint as they could be distracting or, worse, difficult to read.
There are hundreds of fonts to pick from, and you will be sure to find several that suit your brand perfectly. Try your options on your logo and other documents. Try printing them out to get a better appreciation of how they look. Consider that your final options must be adaptable to any type of marketing material you might want to create in the future.
Your brand identity goes way beyond your logo. It also includes other elements such as graphics and photography. This is where you can get really creative and try out themes, styles, etc. In all your experimentation, ensure that the key elements (logo, color, and typeface) stay the same. The other elements and images you use will always change. These include text content, photos, and sometimes, the addition of new colors.
However, don't let variation 'water-down' your own story and brand identity. Stick to one design style and one photography style to ensure consistency in your branding.
You're done with the basics, congratulations! At this point, you should be evaluating how your target audience responds to your brand. You should keep an open mind to the possibility of making changes if you see the need for one.
That being said, don't waste too much time trying to 'perfect' your brand. If you wait till you get everything perfect, you can delay what's most important and that getting out and delivering your services for good. Nothing is permanent, and if you find out that your branding does not resonate with your target audience, you can always make changes as you go.
There's no science to design. Professionals get it right quickly because they've spent a lot of time studying the process, but with the right approach, you can also create something that brings in the exact results you want.
You can create your brand from scratch without paying a designer when you use the proper process and tools (like the ones shared above). Here's a shorter version of it all:
Anything I've missed? Or comments that may help other social entrepreneurs create branding that works without spending a fortune? Please let us know below.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.