You can have the most impressive products in the world, and run the most efficient service known to man – but you’re unlikely to make a real splash in your industry without a strong, unique corporate brand.

It can be easy to overlook the importance of branding when you’re just starting out. I know from experience that when you’re in the process of setting up a new business, you have a thousand things to organise and a million decisions to make; the last thing you want to do is spend your evenings and weekends coming up with a unique branding proposition.

Like many entrepreneurs, you may even be of the belief that your firm will develop its own identity over time. You might think that your brand will just fall into place as you begin to grow.

But this is very rarely the case.

To stand the best chance of success, you need to start thinking about your brand presence straightaway. Regardless of the industry you’re in, or the kind of business you’re trying to build, you need to bear the below five branding principles in mind if you want to make maximum impact on your market whilst also future-proofing your image.

1. Timeless branding is key

Don’t be tempted to try to pack all the latest design fads into your logo, your website and your marketing materials. Intricate illustrations, cartoon-like mascots and faddy-sounding taglines will only get you so far.

Trends come and go, but a timeless look will see you through the years and decades ahead. My advice? Choose neat, clean finishes, incorporate plenty of white space into your designs, and don’t be tempted to change (or, erm, ‘freshen up’) your identity every few months; strong branding should be able to stand the test of time.

2. Create a classic logo

Your logo is the cornerstone of your brand. It’s going to be stamped across every asset you ever own, so you need to make sure its design perfectly encompasses your brand mission in a visually appealing way.

Some start-ups call for complicated or disruptive logo designs, but 99% of the time, I’ve found that it’s best to keep things simple. Choose elegant, easy-to-read typography, create a symbol that’s fully scalable (ie, it doesn’t lose its quality when it’s enlarged or downsized), and work towards developing a logo that’s instantly recognisable (read: not too close to one of your competitors’ designs).

You can learn more about the mistakes you need to avoid when designing a business logo here.

3. Steer clear from too much colour

There’s a fine line between eye-catching and amateur! Most designers agree that brands should stick to two colours within their designs (aside from black and white) to avoid creating graphics that are too over-the-top. Use any more than two shades within your design and you may find that you’re relying on colour too much to get your message across.

Coming up with amazing colour combinations is no mean feat, but an experienced graphic designer will be able to suggest easy-on-the-eye colour pairings that fit in nicely with the kind of image you want to portray.

4. Align your brand with your personality

You’re at the very heart of your own empire – so you need to make sure your branding reflects your own sense of self. You can add your own personal touch to your branding in a number of ways, but a good place to start is by looking at the shades you’re using within your designs.

If you’re confident, lead your brand with ‘power’ colours, such as bright reds and yellows. If you’re overtly feminine (and want to attract customers that are primarily female), go for pinks and softer pastel shades. And if you’re known for your honesty and wholesome approach towards business, browns, greys and greens might be more your scene.

5. Work with what makes you different

So far we’ve discussed the importance of sticking to a classic look, opting for a refined colour palette as opposed to a mish-mash of tones, and injecting a little personality into your designs.

Sticking to these guidelines will ensure that you’re left with a brand that looks professional – but the most effective branding will build a visual perception of your company that’s based on the things that make it unique; the things that make it different.

This is where a lot of startups become unstuck. If you’re drawing blanks when it comes to getting creative with your brand, remember that I offer a competitively priced business startup package for entrepreneurs who want to make sure they’re on the right track from day one.