BRANDING

Intro

Branding… It surrounds you, you consume it every day, and you often don’t understand just how much you know about it. For example – you could tell me the name of a well known brand just based on a single letter written in a specific font or even by the exact shade of colour taken from their logo. It’s entirely impossible to think of a world without any branding whatsoever – from the red of a Coke can to the ‘M’ of a Mars bar, these brands have imprinted themselves in our everyday lives without us even being aware of it.

We are enveloped by branding each and every day; in our homes, on our daily commute, on our clothing, in the food we consume and the way we communicate with the wider world – yourself as an artist should be no different to this.

As you may have (correctly) assumed by now, this course is designed to teach you all the elements which you as an artist need to grasp, implement and maintain your career as a musician, in the same way you would with any other business.

Branding as an Artist

As you may have (correctly) assumed by now, this course is designed to teach you all the elements which you as an artist need to grasp, implement and maintain your career as a musician, in the same way you would with any other business. 

This module is going to look at branding as an entirety and also how it ties into pretty much everything you will do as an artist. Yeah… I know you’re sitting there now thinking “couple of colours, fonts and a logo then I’ll be good to go”. Umm, think again… branding seeps into all four corners of who you are as an artist, how you interact with the wider world around you, how the media will portray you and the types of fans who remain loyal to you – to name just a few. 

Identifying the branding of other entities is easy, it’s been ingrained into us since birth. The tricky part is flipping the script onto yourself and creating a brand so strong that people know who you are and what you stand for immediately. Notice how I said tricky? Not for long… you’ll have a firm idea of not just the key principles of branding but a clear explanation of your brand by the end of this module.

A brand guideline will help to keep your vision on track throughout everything you do – from the music you write and record to the frequency and style of posting you do on social media. You may be heading into this module with a clear idea of your brand or, you may be starting completely from scratch – you may even have a clear idea of your brand but through this module change your plans completely! 

So… let’s start from the very beginning… 

Brand Guidelines

What are branding guidelines? Pretty much exactly what it says on the tin – a guide for which each element of your brand in its entirety is detailed and outlined so any Tom, Dick or Harry can understand. 

This guideline will be imperative when you start to work with more photographers, videographers, stylists and the sorts. It’s essentially a cheat code for how to nail the long term vision you are aspiring to achieve, without the inevitable “well, it’s sort of like.. umm kind of like… so it’s basically a mixture between… oh and I like orange” long-winded and quite frankly redundant conversations. 

No business plan is complete without a branded guideline… so your creative business plan should be no different.

What’s Included? 

Your brand guidelines are made up of three core sections: 

    1. Brand story / artist narrative: your mission, vision, core values and voice
    2. Brand signature: artist name & visual identity
    3. Imagery – the tone and aesthetic of all outward imagery

Take your time to fill out each element with as much detail as you can – remember, you can always trim your guidelines back but it’s important to ensure you think about each and every factor which makes your brand… well… you.

Once you have each element packed out, refined and standing as a direct reflection of your artistic branding – then it’s time to implement this into one handy, concise and informative PDF document which can be given to any entity you work alongside throughout your career.

Finally, before we delve further into each section highlighted above, it is important to remember that it is not a crime to switch up your branding every now and again but consistency is key. Your audience will find it very hard to relate to someone whose identity keeps changing. Keep changes to a minimum and the frequency in which you change spread few and far between – and ideally, not mid release. 

Think of each of your releases as individual products and services – set your branding, be bold in your decisions and go with what feels authentic to you.

Finally, before we delve further into each section highlighted above, it is important to remember that it is not a crime to switch up your branding every now and again but consistency is key. Your audience will find it very hard to relate to someone whose identity keeps changing. Keep changes to a minimum and the frequency in which you change spread few and far between – and ideally, not mid release. 

Think of each of your releases as individual products and services – set your branding, be bold in your decisions and go with what feels authentic to you.

Brand Story

For a business, a brand story tends to highlight the process, values and situations which took place to create the origins of that business. It might’ve been a specific problem the founder created a solution for, or a specific belief they felt strongly enough about resulting in them defining a space within society for other like-minded individuals. 

For an artist, this is no different. Your story is so uniquely specific to you and the outside factors which lead you to create the music you make today. Furthermore, the story extends past the present too – it highlights what changes you want to see in the world around you. Does this come from an experience you’ve had first hand? Or is it an injustice in the world you want to shed a light on? No matter how big or small – what you care about will be the backbone to your brand story and the answer to the question “why do you do what you do?”.

In essence, this element to your brand guidelines is your vision, mission, values and voice all wrapped up in one neat little package. 

Now, there are no right or wrong answers to this section but your audience will be the first to detect any hint of inauthenticity to the brand image you portray. For example – do not try to portray a wild-card, hard-edge, unphased member of the streets if really, you care more about sorting your recycling from your food waste than the type of car in your garage. 

Do you want your music to depict fun, freedom, light heartedness and a fun time? Or do you want to offer depth, concern, sleek professionalism and an air of mystery? Perhaps your brand perfectly blends the two? Your story is entirely up to you but you must be able to explain this to others in a clear way.

Task

Keywords, keywords, keywords – a marketing professional’s favourite pastime! Make a list of 10 keywords which perfectly describe your brand values and 5 keywords which are the complete opposite to your brand values. 

Example:

Keywords Anti-Keywords
Energetic Frivolous 
Party Rude
Team Wasteful
Fashion
Environmental

Remember: Mission | Vision | Values | Voice

Mission Statement

Cast your mind back to Module One of this course where we spoke about your mission – you should’ve already created your mission statement there. Read on to find out more about mission statements from a branded perspective! Should you feel the need, you can edit your earlier version from module one but should you still feel as though your original version hits the nail in the head… then go ahead and keep this one as it is and use it in your brand guidelines! 

Work smarter, not harder and all that…

Many people would argue that a mission statement is far more relevant for a business as opposed to an artist – but here at TULU, we disagree with this. If you are going through all the effort of delving deep within who you are, what your backstory is, who you make music for and where you will be seen and heard to place this neatly in one place – you might as well add in the reason behind why you are making this music. 

Using the keywords you have identified in the task above, now think about how they materialise in your every day. How you speak to the media, what brands or charities you interact with, the messaging throughout your visuals.

Branded Mission Statement Examples

TescoServing our customers, communities and planet a little better every day”

 

O2We’re here to make every day better through personal experiences that count, and our values – Bold, Open and Trusted – are at the heart of everything that we do.”

 

Spotify:to unlock the potential of human creativity—by giving a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art and billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by it.”

Brand Voice

Finally, your brand voice. Taking all mentioned above into consideration and adding in a large portion of your natural tone and opinions – you need to monitor everything you say and the way you say it. Your voice is the distinct personality your artistic brand takes on when communicating with your audience. Is it fun, flirty and a little ditsy? Is it strong, to the point and empowering? Are you elusive and coy or are you articulate and expressive?

Task

Find a list of press questions online, in our favourite magazine, from an interview you have seen and proceed to answer these questions in your brand voice. This exercise is great practice for so many areas throughout your business and creative development so starting now whilst you are formulating your brand guidelines and learning your brand voice is arguable one of the most important tasks in this module.

Brand Signature

What is it?

In the same way your personal signature is your very own, unique stamp on any document, contract or piece of merchandise to say “this is me, I was here”, your brand signature is really no different. 

Your brand signature is made up of your logo, your artist name (even if this is your birth name), colourways, style and essentially anything that plays a role in the visual representation of your brand.

Yes, this is important for you as a way on solidifying these elements and ensuring you have a firm grasp on the specifics however, the most important role of this section in your brand guidelines is so that any external party you have working alongside understands the realms of which your branding can be manipulated into different forms of media.

Brand Signiture Examples

A prime example of a strong brand signature is Simple – the beauty brand which specialise in clean, simple, low ingredient face wash and serums. We’ve all seen their lime green and white branding and we all know immediately what to expect from the product – reflecting a eco, fresh and clean mission statement. Brand signatures go a step further than this though, even when adapted and under a different name, if a brand signature is so strong then you will know where the branding originated from. Lidl and Aldi are champions for this! You can enter their stores and know immediately which brands they are emulating – from their own version of Simple face wash to their near direct copy of Anchor whipped cream.

Therefore, creating a brand signature so strong that your audience thinks of you when they see something similar is so essential to ensure you are leaving the biggest imprint on our audience. Now, we have a super simple hack for this – a way which is guaranteed to ensure pure authenticity and your unwavering ability to remain firmly on brand at all times. Are you ready for this? It’s a big one…

… be yourself. Be true to who you are as the core basis of your brand signature – of course, emphasise and enhance specific areas of it but as long as it’s deep rooted in your true and authentic personality then you will remain on brand easily and naturally. 

Now, it’s all well and good for us sitting here and telling you to “be yourself” but you could’ve picked that up on a 99p fridge magnet from your local charity shop and save yourself the monthly membership to be reading this module. I’m not sure if you will be pleased to hear this or not but… there’s a shed load more to designing your brand signature than using the colour pink simply “because you like it”. 

But – if you do choose pink because you like it, that is no crime whatsoever – there doesn’t NEED to be a huge back story behind every single element of your branding guidelines but it does help with reinforcing the authenticity. Moreover, if you do choose pink – make sure you note down the specific hex codes for that colour and ensure it remains a clear colourway.

Colour Hex Codes

If you are unfamiliar with colour hex codes, its about damn time you got well acquainted with them. They are the universally recognised codes assigned to just about every shade of colour and will ensure whenever or wherever you are  designing branded content, your colours remain consistent throughout each and every piece of media. 

There are other ways of identifying colours such as their written names, RGB and HSL but most commonly used within branding, marketing and graphic design tend to be hex codes.

Here’s an example of a small gradient of pinks displayed with their hex codes

Brand Names

When deciding elements such as your name – the freedom of creativity is entirely yours. However as with everything in branding – there are a million and one reasons why you could and should choose a name which further emulates your brand story. Of course, there’s no harm in your artistic name being your very own birth name, or a slight adaptation of this or even an entirely different name. For example – Rihanna’s real name is Robyn but she chose to write, record and release music under her middle name – Rihanna. Or alternatively, you may choose to use play on words or phrases such as The Weeknd – chosen because Abel Tesfaye, at 17, picked up his mattress from his mum’s house and left one weekend on the search for his artistic career. 

The key rule for your artistic name though – and this goes for all brand names – don’t pick one that is already out there in use. Born with the name Taylor Swift? Not anymore! All your initials spell out ABBA? No they don’t… Even if the name works so perfectly for your brand, if it’s taken, it’s taken. 

One final piece of advice for selecting your name – make it stand out but keep it memorable. Everyone knows the name John Smith – but no one will be intrigued to hear the music made by an artist called John Smith. On the flip side, people may be very intrigued to listen to the music made by UK British Pop Band 

Mal som vymyslieť lepšie meno… but they’re going to struggle remembering that name to share with others later. Find a balance with meaning – and run with that.

Recap

So, let’s recap – you have stated your mission, vision, values and voice and you have chosen your name. Congratulations! You are some of the way through…

It’s now time to iron out all the additional visual elements to your brand. Outside of a select few rule-breakers, there are brand guidelines associated with specific genres which YES – these can be broken, bent, adapted, chewed up, spat out and recreated however, they are often a good place to start. 

Prime examples of this often lay within the extremes but they’re great for showcasing this example. If you look within the world of heavy metal you will tend to find very “dark” and horror aligned imagery, fonts and colourways – one of the best bands to fall into this category is Slipknot. The font of their logo, being a blood-dripping red outline of their name, their style and clothing include intense horror-themed masks and matching jumpsuits. You don’t even have to listen to a single chord of their music to know it’s not going to be competing with the likes of Miley Cyrus for the number one spot in many combined playlists. 

Now, this is not to say you must achieve the extremes within your genre to be on brand – in fact, that is quite the opposite. Don’t push your branding too far outside of what feels natural to you. People will smell this from a mile off and nothing stinks more than inauthenticity.

Task

So, your task is to now design your logo! We would recommend the following:

– Want to give it a go yourself? Get Canva – an online / phone app with all the tools and preset templates you need to bring your vision to life

– Canva too simple? Upgrade to Photoshop! 

– Prefer to doodle? Take your design off line and have a scribble until you design your perfect logo then bring it to life digitally!

– Not feeling doing it yourself? Write up a brief, make some scribbles and pul together some reference logos then speak to a graphic designer to help bring your vision to life. This can be on Fiverr, someone you know, a recommendation from other artists or a response to an advert you put out there. 

Imagery

Now, back in the day as an artist there were relatively few times in which your imagery would be used and therefore, one singular press pack per release would’ve done the trick! A few for the CD case, a few for the HMV posters and merchandise, a few for the magazine features and a sprinkle more for the tour marketing – all completed within a few solid days of media creation and you could call it a day. 

However, in this day and age where you cannot hide away from social media and online PR – your outward imagery goes from creating a 30 image deep press package, to having upwards of 30 pieces of visual content to post out monthly. That’s not even mentioning the never ending list of individual online blogs seeking their unique angle on your latest release in hours of (albeit usually online) interviews. 

The same rules still apply with branding – arguably even more so! Gone are the days of over-edited studio pictures – posing with your guitar, a goofy picture with the rest of the band or a candid image looking off into the distance. These just don’t cut it anymore unfortunately. Your imagery should represent angles derived from within your brand story and… you guessed it… your brand guidelines! 

Your outward facing imagery pages (social media, features in online magazines, your brand partnership shoots) will be a shop window into your entire brand – your audience should immediately see what you represent. Do your brand values include fashion, glam and all things glamour? Or do they include green, eco and charity? 

By referring back to the earlier elements of your brand guidelines, you will easily be able to ensure each and every appearance you make is in line with your artist brand guidelines.

Task

For the imagery element of your brand guidelines to showcase in a concise and holistic way, its ✨ moodboard ✨ time! 

You didn’t think you could get through a marketing module of this course without having to make a moodboard did you? 

There are many online tools which can help with the creation of your moodboard or, for the old schoolers amongst you – a physical moodboard is nothing to be shied away from! 

This mood board must pull together everything you have identified throughout your branding guidelines. For those reading your snazzy little PDF booklet which highlights and outlines your brand and a whole, this final moodboard will bring all the vision keywords, mission statements, brand signatures and outward visuals to life! 

Final Task!

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to piece together what your final task might be…

Using all the information, ideas and branding you have decided upon throughout this module – make your very own branding guidelines PDF document! 

We would recommend using Canva for this – they have several pre-made branding guideline templates or of course, start completely from scratch. 

Following each and every segment discussed in this module, your guidelines should be able to give the reader a complete understanding of who you are as an artist, why you are this way, and how this looks from a visual perspective. 

Once this is all done, sit back and enjoy having just finalised your very own brand!