Why Your Game Audio Business Needs Branding
Branding is only interesting for huge multinational companies like Coca-Cola and Nike, right?
It's nothing your game audio freelance business needs to worry itself with.... right?
Brand recognition is important for many reasons but the biggest one is this:
It creates familiarity for you and your game audio services and people are more comfortable paying money for things they are familiar with.
Let's dive into what brand-related decisions are relevant to you as a game audio freelancer and how to go about making them correctly.
Put the concept of branding to work for your business
The Power of Brand
Whether audio professionals like it or not, human beings are visual creatures.
Something like half the brain is directly or indirectly involved with visual processing.
The statistics around just how important visual cues are to good communication are often staggering.
And it gets crazier; what we see can even influence what we hear.
If you haven't seen a demonstration of the "McGurk Effect", hold on to your headphones:
This messes me up every time
Long story short, the visual information our brain is so dedicated to receiving and processing isn't simply there for shits and giggles.
What Does This Have to Do with Branding?
The visual cues you use to represent your business play an enormous role in how people will perceive and therefore evaluate you and your services.
And here's the kicker:
"You can not NOT communicate."
From your profile picture on Twitter to the font you use on your website, every visual aspect of your business is communicating something, whether you want it to or not.
Just as we can't stop our own hearts from pumping, we simply have no control over the subconscious processes involved with assigning or assuming certain things based on visual cues.
This is your customer making assumptions about your business.
Are they correct?
Even businesses that have never considered the topic of branding have a brand identity.
The question we have to ask ourselves is, "Does our identity represent who we are and what we want our customers to associate us with?"
Brand Basics for Game Audio Freelancers
I know what you're thinking:
"But Ben, don't I have enough on my plate as a game audio freelancer without having to be a brand identity expert as well?"
While the concept of branding can encompass entire departments at large organizations, there are a couple of easy steps you and I can take to arm our businesses with quality branding basics without losing any sleep.
Step 1 | Identity
First, you need to decide the identity of your business at its core.
Are you corporate or creative?
Are you hyper-focused on one niche or do you offer broad services?
What kind of personality does your business have?
What is the unique identity that makes you stand out?
And even more importantly:
Is that an identity that your ideal customers will relate to?
I don't know about you, but if I showed up in a suit and tie carrying a leather briefcase to a meeting with indie game devs, I can almost guarantee they won't be hiring me to compose music for their game.
That identity doesn't match theirs.
If your brand identity doesn't vibe with your customer's identity, you will be perpetually fighting an uphill battle trying to sell your services to them.
Step 2 | Colors
As far back as the ancient Egyptians, human beings have recognized that color plays an integral role in the human experience.
Ancient Egyptians when they discovered color
The famous psychologist Carl Jung said, “colors are the mother tongue of the subconscious.” Colors convey emotions, feelings, and experiences and some studies have found that up to 90% of customers’ product judgments are based on color alone.
Please reread that sentence because it is absolutely wild!
Once you've brainstormed your brand identity, the following chart should help you understand what color choices might be wise:
I'm not sure who made this chart but it's excellent.
A general rule of thumb is to have no more than two main colors for your business and some whites/blacks for neutral backgrounds, outlines, etc...
I chose blue for The Game Audio Pro because I want my readers to trust that my content will help them build a strong business and grey because I want them to achieve balance in their life and career.
What colors would best promote the feelings you want your customers to associate with your business?
P.S. If the kind of music or genre of game you are targeting has its own associated colors (e.g. neon purples and oranges for synthwave), you better have a darn good reason for going against the curve and picking something else!
Step 3 | Logo
Your logo is your business' calling card.
It should be omnipresent in everything you do and, similar to your color scheme, it should encapsulate your brand values and identity in some simple, but meaningful way.
Just in case you need some inspiration, here are a few freelancers/businesses who I think did a great job on their logos:
Excellent logo work by Failpositive, Thunderbird Sound, Ascari, and Hexany Audio.
Whether you're a AAA game audio studio like Hexany or a popular indie game composer like Failpositive, your logo helps make any and all content you produce to be that much more recognizable.
So how should you design your logo?
If a logo can somehow visually display what services your company offers at a glance like Ascari, that's great.
Otherwise, it's ok just to have a nice image that is easily recognizable, like Thunderbird Sound (check out their website and Instagram for a masterclass in brand design).
Simplicity is the key here.
Think about the logos from enormous companies like Apple, Nike, or McDonald's.
If billion-dollar marketing departments choose simplicity, you probably should, too.
Step 4 | Font
You might not think it at first, but font also can also communicate something about your business.
And using the wrong font may be communicating the wrong things to your customers.
Two words: Comic Sans
Choose one main font for titles and perhaps your logo/company name and a secondary font for everything else.
Your main font can be big, bold, crazy, whatever, as long as it matches your identity.
Your secondary font should be more relaxed and above all, readable, because you will use it for all other text on your website, blog, etc...
Doctors can get away with this, but not you!
What's the point of writing a nice text about yourself and your services if the font is so awful that no one will stick around to read it?
Step 5 | Make a Brand Guide
Now that you've brainstormed your brand identity, chosen some good colors, made a logo (or found a friend or someone on Fiverr to make it for you), and selected two good fonts, put all that information in a document and save it somewhere you can easily find it.
Because one of the biggest wins about making these brand identity decisions now is that you never have to make them again.
You're done, baby!
You now have a plan for all future visual content that pertains to your business!
No more wondering what font to use in your demo reel.
No more wondering what colors to choose for your Instagram posts.
You've just made the decisions that will mean hundreds of fewer decisions in the future for you and your business.
That's the hidden power of brand.
Besides creating a visually appealing and recognizable palette for yourself, you've saved future you dozens, if not hundreds of hours of contemplation you would have otherwise needed to decide these types of things on a day-by-day, content-by-content basis.
Time to celebrate!
Jeff Goldblum is celebrating with you! Hooray!
The brain is a pattern-recognition machine. This is why consistent usage of colors, logos, fonts, etc. is so powerful for your business.
And even the smallest company can build brand recognition if they follow these simple steps.
Even if they don't know you or have never met you, customers will feel more comfortable doing business with you if they recognize your brand because it creates a feeling of trust.
It's like "Hey, I know that composer! I've seen their stuff before."
That might seem like a small step, but it just might be the difference between getting that project or missing out.
I created The Game Audio Pro with the goal of helping others understand the fundamental business skills that are often the difference between success and failure for freelancers.
If you're ready to take your game audio career to the next level, download my guide to The Most Important Mindset for Game Audio Success.