Branding is not a dirty word

Thursday 9 August, 2018

Owen Ralph

Arts marketer and musician

“Branding?! How dare you!

“Don’t infect my art with your corporate jargon. I’m all about authenticity and honesty, I don’t need your spin to sell my music!” exclaimed the devil’s advocate, firmly laying out an imaginary viewpoint to which this blog post hopes to be the antidote.

The key thing to note about branding is that, whether conscious or not, everyone has a brand. Everything you say, the way you dress, the choices you make, they’re all a part of it. That’s in their personal life as well as public. For performers in particular, but arguably for anyone, it’s worth at the very least being aware of what your brand is, or ideally making a conscious choice to hone it and use it to your advantage.

A full discussion on branding would take many more words than the casual blog-reader’s attention would allow (an avid dictionary reader may even struggle). For the purposes of this post then, I just want to pull out some key aspects of your digital and print branding, ignoring for the moment your brand in the “real world”.

  1. How do you speak?
  2. In the age of social media, this one is particularly important, as you are effectively speaking to your audience all the time. Both for your public persona and online voice, you need to make some key decisions. What kind of vocabulary will you use? Will you swear or keep it family-friendly? Will you talk politics? All of this will affect how you are perceived, and will impact the kinds of audiences you draw in and push away.

  3. How do you write?
  4. The fonts you pick in your print and digital presence has a huge effect on your brand, and on people’s first impressions of you. The best way to pick a font by far is simply to look at each option and ask yourself “what comes into my head when I see this?“—ie what semiotic associations does this font have? If you need some more specific guidelines, you might consider the following:

    • Serif fonts (ones that have the little lines added to each letter, as in Times New Roman or Georgia) tend to be associated with something more traditional, old or rustic.
    • Sans serif fonts (without the little lines, as in Arial or Helvetica) imply something more modern and/or minimalist.
    • Handwriting fonts are best avoided, or used very sparingly, as they are notoriously difficult to read. Most of them also look pretty naff.
    • Regardless what you think of Comic Sans, it has far too much bad press to even consider using. If a comic book style font is what you need (and do be sure before going down that route), there are plenty of less hated options out there.
    • Always pick something simple over some fancy elaborately-designed font. Above all, it simply needs to be readable.

  5. What imagery are you using?
  6. In terms of your press photographs, see point 4 in my previous post about photography. For album artwork, flyers, website imagery etc though, the discussion broadens out into illustrations, artsy photographs, dingbats and so on. Think about which colour schemes fit your brand. If you’re using illustrations, thing very carefully about the style, and whether the illustrator themselves is a good fit for your music. Think about the subject of the artwork. Does all of this chime with the way you speak, the way your write, the sounds you make, the clothes you wear?

What this all boils down is communicating coherently. You are of course a complex, multi-faceted human being who is full of surprises, but for the sake of your professional life, you need to find a way to introduce yourself to people in a way that isn’t completely baffling.