Branding 101: Building A Smart, Effective Brand for Your Tour or Activity Business
Your brand is one of the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal as it represents your identity as a business and the quality of the services you provide, at-a-glance. Taking the time to create clear, memorable branding will enable your company’s personality to shine through your website, social media accounts, and all channels of communication to attract qualified customers to engage with your business.
Branding encompasses everything from logos, colors, and fonts to photography, writing style, and beyond. Developing impactful, consistent components of your brand will build trust and recognition with customers and showcase your business as a valuable option for those looking to book tours and activities.
This guide covers important elements to consider when thinking about how to build your brand. Once you have an understanding of the basics, head over to our brand building and web branding checklists to evaluate your progress and grow your skills.
Why Does Branding Matter?
Ensuring that your company is well-branded may require you to dedicate valuable time, energy, and even money to create a recognizable look and feel. However, having a brand that truly resonates with customers will be well worth the effort in the end.
It Builds Trust
Branding is key to establishing trust with potential customers and partners. When new customers come into contact with your company, no matter how good you are at what you do, they will make snap judgments based on what they see. The reality is that you have mere moments to make a good impression. Good branding effectively conveys that you are a legitimate company, worthy of their business.
When someone first visits your website, for example, having an informative or unique company name, a logo that looks clean and professional, and clear, easily-digestible information about your service offerings can be the difference between getting bookings and not.
It Builds Recognition
Beyond appearing as a reputable and trustworthy operation, consistent branding will help customers recognize various pieces of communication in association with your company. On a daily basis, the average consumer is bombarded with emails, ads, social media posts, and more from hundreds of companies. How will your company cut through the noise?
Consistent use of your logo, colors, fonts, and even the tone in which you write emails and social media captions will reinforce your brand’s identity so that no matter where or when the communication hits customers, it’s clear that it’s coming from YOU.
It Builds Value
In a sea of competitors, why should someone pick you over the operator down the street? Branding helps communicate who you are, what you do, and why people should choose you in a clear, concise manner. Simply put, setting standards for your branding will allow you to stand out from your competition for all the right reasons, resulting in more bookings.
Getting Started: Setting the Groundwork
When you think of branding, you might first think of a company’s name or logo. While those are important brand elements, you should think of your brand as the overall experience someone associates with your company.
Pro-tip: Ask yourself: What do you want people to feel when they engage with your brand? Inspired? Excited? Adventurous? Relaxed?
Before you start to design a logo or even select brand colors, it’s helpful to take the time to set a basis for who you are as a company, your goals, and what you stand for. Rooting all brand elements in this foundation will create a thoughtful, consistent, purpose-driven brand experience for your customers.
Craft Your Story
What do you do? This may seem like a simple question, but sometimes it can be a challenge to distill a wide range of service offerings into a quick, easily-digestible statement. Try to keep things as straightforward as possible without being too vague. Whether it’s in the format of a tagline or intro text on your website, someone who is completely unfamiliar with your business should be able to understand what your company does almost immediately.
Why do you do it? Slightly different than your core service offerings, the background of how you got started or what your company hopes to achieve by existing will add to the narrative of your brand. This “why” can further differentiate you from your competition and give customers a sense for the passion or commitment you have for your business, your community, and your customers.
Determine Your Audience
Who are you trying to attract? Knowing your target audience is a key element of effective branding. Think about who is most likely to be interested in your service offerings and then try to include messaging, images, colors, and other relevant information to attract that group. Once you’ve identified your audiences, you can tailor various brand elements to further appeal to their specific demographics.
Identify Points of Differentiation
Why should someone pick YOU? Beyond the basics of what you do and who might be interested, it’s important to build points of differentiation into your brand. It could be your scenic location, the fact that you’ve been doing it for generations, that your tours and activities are great for families, or anything under the sun that makes you unique. Every company has something different to offer, so taking a moment to think about the qualities that set you apart from the rest will help you craft visuals and messaging to take potential customers from looking to booking.
Implementation: Developing Brand Components
Once you have a better idea of your story, your audience, and what makes you unique, you can start to build an arsenal of brand elements that will support the foundation you set. Use this groundwork to determine how your brand should “feel” to an external audience and then create the following components with the goal of eliciting that same experience.
Build Your Visual Identity
Any branding elements that support how your brand looks are components of your visual identity. These elements build brand recognition and help customers identify your company quickly and easily.
As the “face” of your company, your logo should communicate the name of your company and communicate a sense of what your business is all about.
- Less can be more. When designing or selecting your logo, especially when you’re first crafting your brand, simplicity will be your friend. Go for something that’s easy to read and understand. In general, logos that are clean and simple work best across a wide range of applications.
- Function is key. You may have a beautiful design, but does it work in all the places you need it to? Does it look good on light backgrounds as well as dark backgrounds? Test your logo to make sure it reads well in different circumstances and at sizes large and small.
- Build in flexibility. If there are particular instances where your logo is not working, try to develop multiple configurations to ensure it works well for you across the board. Having two to three logo versions that all work together cohesively will help you avoid instances where your logo can’t be deciphered. This will also prevent making design adjustments on a case-by-case basis which can result in a disjointed brand experience.
By selecting a few core brand colors and using them consistently, color can prove to be a powerful reinforcement of your brand.
- Have intention. Take a look at the brand colors of similar companies or your direct competition and try to be different in your color choices. Why get lost in the mix when you can stand out? It’s also helpful to think about what you want to say with color. Do your activities involve the outdoors? Shades found in nature may complement what you do, although, it doesn’t have to be so literal. Do you offer walking tours that venture off the beaten path? Maybe a bright pop of hot pink conveys a sense of adventure. No matter what colors you pick, always have reasoning behind your choices so that they echo your brand’s purpose.
- Show restraint. Picking too many colors might fragment your efforts to tie color to your visual identity. To begin, select one or two core brand colors to anchor your communications. Once you’re comfortable, try adding a few additional accent colors to use sparingly. Having trouble forming a pleasing color palette? Many free resources exist that can help you create beautiful, unique schemes:
- Color Hunt is a free platform for color inspiration with thousands of trendy, hand-picked color palettes that are voted on by the Color Hunt community.
- Adobe Colors allows you to create palettes with the color wheel, hex values, or from an image. You can also browse thousands of user-generated color combinations.
- Coolers prides itself on being a super fast color scheme generator: create, save, and share perfect palettes in seconds.
Whether it’s on your website, in an email, or within an ad, selecting one or two dedicated typefaces for your brand will help you achieve a consistent look.
- Legibility matters. As fun and interesting as certain fonts can be, it is in your best interest to select a highly-readable primary font for your brand. Selecting a font family with a variety of weights (light, regular, bold, extra bold, etc.) is a good way to allow you to mix up the look of your communications without sacrificing cohesion or clarity.
- Be aware of limitations. Before you get too far along, make sure you pick at least one font that’s commonly available on a wide variety of web browsers and email servers, otherwise, your unique font may not show up as you intend for other viewers.
Beyond logos and colors, customers seek imagery to learn about what your company does. Setting guidelines for the type of imagery you use will take your brand experience to the next level.
- Authenticity counts. Whenever possible, using actual photographic images of your services is the best representation of your company and provides customers with an idea of what their experience with your tour or activity will actually be like. If you need to supplement with stock imagery, try to do so sparingly and only choose images that accurately represent your company. Stock photography should still follow the imagery guidelines you set for yourself.
- Make it move. Video tends to be more eye-catching and can provide even more information to potential customers. If you have video footage at your disposal, consider adding it to your website and social channels as further insight to what your experience is all about.
When you visit a company’s website or social media channels, you may notice their logo or get a certain feeling from their color usage, but your overall experience is filled in by the way in which the text is written. By developing your company’s brand character and tone of voice, you will ensure you’re communicating in a consistent manner with your customers.
- Determine your brand character. Your company’s brand character is derived from a set of human attributes and characteristics that you select to define your unique personality. As a brand, are you playful? Fear-inducing? Serious? Clever? Adventurous? Depending on your type of business, leverage traits that will help intrigue your target audience and inform them about the type of experiences you provide.
- Craft your tone of voice. While your brand character should remain consistent, your tone of voice can slightly differ per the channel in which the communication occurs. For example, your communications might be very clear and direct in an email regarding a change in itinerary, but your tone may take on a more playful, clever quality when it appears as a caption on an Instagram post. Regardless, identifying some guidelines around your brand’s tone of voice can help create consistency across all channels, especially when you have multiple people writing on behalf of your brand.
Evolution: It’s Always a Work in Progress
Every company is different, and therefore, there is not a set formula for success when it comes to branding. Because branding is subjective, it may take some experimentation to discover what works for you and your business, so don’t be afraid to get your brand out there and make modifications as you go.
Listen to Your Instincts
There’s no denying that you know your business best. Especially when you’re first developing your brand, stay true to what feels right for you and your customers. Put yourself in the shoes of your potential customers and try on how things feel from that perspective. If it feels good to you, it probably will for other like-minded customers.
Regardless of the branding elements you develop, consistency is the key to crafting a cohesive brand experience. If you have eight different logos and use a different font every time you send an email, it is unlikely that customers will remember you. The more consistency you can bring to your visual identity and brand personality, the quicker your customers will come to know and love you (and help spread the word to others).
Even if you feel your brand elements are working, there is always room for improvement. Have a great logo and recognizable colors? Work on honing your tone of voice. Have a clever way of writing that easily results in engagement via social media? See if you can bring that same flair to your website or email communications.
Brands are meant to evolve, so building in regular check-points to evaluate how well your brand is working for you will help your brand grow with trends in technology, shifts in the industry, and the ever-changing needs of your customers.
With so many benefits to building a smart and effective brand, we’re sure you’re eager to jump right in and get started! Use the brand-building essentials checklist to track your progress as you work through the steps to crafting your brand. For more ways to optimize your business for audience engagement, check out our marketing and business growth strategy guides.