When I started Little Grey Box I gave no thought to it ever being or brand and I had no idea how to turn it into one. For the first few years, I floundered. The website was a mess, disorganised and haphazard. Since going full-time with it, Matt and I have put hours and hours of work into building Little Grey Box into a strong, successful brand. We’ve learned a lot along the way, through trial and error, research and talking to other creatives and entrepreneurs. Building a strong brand creates trust in your readers and is key to helping your blog grow. To help aspiring bloggers out there, I wanted to share everything we’ve learned about how to build your travel blog into a successful brand.
1. Understand what you offer
Before you can start building your brand, it’s essential you have a clear understanding of what your blog offers. This is going to form the heart of your brand, it’s going to influence every other branding decision you need to make and ensure you have detailed knowledge of what your blog is. You need to sit down with pen and paper or a laptop and answer some questions to gain a deep understanding of the true essence of your blog.
Why did you create the blog? What does it mean to you? Why do you continue to do it? What do you offer readers? Why would they come to your blog over the millions of others in the world? What is your blog about – i.e. travel, lifestyle, fashion, food? Is it luxury, budget or something else? Are you aspirational, relatable? Is it serious, funny or weird? Do you share personal things or keep it strictly business?
Once you properly know and understand what your blog offers, you can start choosing things that represent this. You want the heart of your brand to shine through in every single aspect, so the reader knows what your brand is about in every moment. This is going to reinforce your brand, making it strong, reliable and trustworthy. It’s important to be detailed, so be sure to take the proper time needed to map out every detail of what your blog offers and what it represents. Remember, your blog is an extension of yourself. Read: Why I started the travel blog that would change my life…
2. Decide what you stand for
At this point, I’d also recommend setting some boundaries. Take the time to work out what you stand for. Do you want to place advertising on your site? How do you want to work with brands? What kind of brands do you want to work with? Which brands would you never work with and why? You should even take the time to think about personal preferences and how these will form part of your brand. For example, you may have an issue with single-use plastics, which means you won’t align with brands who produce or use them. Like I said, it’s important to be really detailed and only choose to work with other brands who align with your core values. This will, undoubtedly, strengthen your own brand to your readers and reinforce your morals.
Determining the ethics behind your brand will ensure your readers get a good sense of what you’re all about. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe and say no to opportunities that don’t align with your beliefs. Your core values will form a huge part of your brand and, in turn, attract your ideal reader. Read: 18 Things I wish I knew before I started my travel blog
3. Know your ideal reader
Speaking of which, it’s important to know who your ideal reader is. If your ideal reader is a pirate, for example, there’s no point crafting your brand around the desert. You want every aspect of your brand to appeal to your ideal reader. In turn, brands who have the same target market will want to work with you, to gain access to them too. So, sit down and figure out who your ideal reader is. Where do they live? What are their interests? Why do they come to your blog? What do they get from your blog? Do they identify as a specific gender? How much money do they earn? What do they do for a living? Read: How to set your blogging rates (what to charge for stuff)
4. Start with the visuals
Now you’ve got a keen sense of what your blog offers, the ethics that underpin it and who your target market is, you can curate the visual aspects of your blog to form part of your brand. Let’s break it down into a few sub-categories:
Select a theme for your blog that meets the needs of the reader, organises your content in a way that appeals to them and allows your posts to shine. Keep the user in mind at all times and think about how they will come to your site (i.e. social media, newsletter or google search) and how they will likely look for information (i.e. search function, menus, homepage).
Develop a logo that captures the essence of your brand and immediately lets the viewer know what your brand offers. A logo should be strong and uncomplicated. It may be worthwhile engaging with a graphic designer to develop a good-quality logo!
Figure the colour palette for your brand but keep it simple. Choose one or two hero colours that are always associated with your brand then, possibly, an additional one or two for use as an accent or call-to-action colours. The colours you choose need to be easy to see and they must work together!
Decide on two fonts – one for your header/titles and one for the body of your posts. Both fonts should be easy to read, so make sure you do your research by testing out how each will look on different devices – laptop, tablet and phone. Remember, most of your readers will be on mobile!
Develop a consistent editing style for all your images, that represents your brand, and stick with it! For example, if the rest of your branding is simple, minimalist and clean, you want your photographs to have the same vibe. You don’t want to be using a filter that’s vintage, with a dirty/earthy feel – you want a clean, crisp, on-brand edit.
Think about all the other decorative elements you’ll need for your blog – what kind of bullet point will you use? What kind of social media logos will you use? It’s even important to think about little details like whether you write your blog titles with a capital letter at the start of each word, how long your blog posts are and how many images you put in them.
Develop a template for how you will lay out each blog post, for example, start with the title followed by an introduction paragraph then the body of the post, finished with an author biography (like this post).
5. Tone of voice
With your brand’s core values and beliefs and your ideal reader in mind, determine the tone of voice of your brand. Are you a fun, relatable brand that cracks jokes with readers and has a laugh? Are you a luxury, high-end brand that oozes opulence? Whatever you choose, the tone of voice needs to be consistent in every aspect of your brand, from the content you publish on the site through to the Insta-stories you film, photos you post and comments you reply to. Your brand’s tone of voice needs to be present in every interaction with a reader. Read: 8 Helpful tips to improve your blog writing, pronto!
6. Create on-brand content
Your content should be a clear representation of your brand. If your brand represents beautiful, organic cakes and you start randomly posting lawnmowing tips, your audience is going to be very confused, even if your lawnmowing post is visually on-brand. So, be sure everything you post aligns with your brand. Keep it simple and don’t try to do and be everything. Read: How to create consistently great blog content
7. Be consistent
When it comes to building a brand, consistency really is key. Take the time to break down your brand and understand it from the inside out, once you’ve established all the elements, apply them consistently. This is going to ensure your readers know exactly what your brand is and can rely on it wholeheartedly. They know what it stands for and what they get when they visit. Not only that, but other brands who may want access to your audience will know what you represent and can make an informed decision about working with you.
8. Do your research
It’s always a good idea to learn from others, so spend a little time finding other bloggers within the same field as you and check out what they’re doing. Find brands you love and dissect them to work out why you love them so much then emulate the qualities you admire. What are they doing right? What could they do better? Take the best parts of your favourite brands and apply them to your own. Read: 10 Must-know tips for newbie travel bloggers