29 April 2021 London, UK 6pm Today I saw a member of Virgin cabin crew on the Tube.
It may sound insignificant. And in a normal world, it’s a sight that could easily pass by without any further attention; bleeding into the noise of a typical London commute on the Piccadilly Line as it winds its way westward to Heathrow.
But it is something. Along pedestrian tunnels and enclaves otherwise dominated by adverts for Christmas events and art exhibitions long since passed or cancelled due to Covid, it signifies change - and rebirth.
As the UK starts to wind down its lockdown restrictions and other countries’ vaccination programmes gain traction, we are presented with an opportunity to move on from the pause and reflection of the last 12 months. A first-chance glance - straight down the barrel of the post-Covid landscape - as we seek to build back, redesign and reinvigorate our lives and the industry we work in.
In my last blog, I shared my intentions to start an aerial media company using drones. I researched the market and competition to validate my idea, constructing a business plan that identified the risks, costs and qualifications I would need to obtain; identifying targets for myself in the short, medium and long term.
This week I’ll be discussing branding - creating and registering a company name, generating a corporate identity and reflecting briefly on finance structures. This is a large topic which merits further exploration, therefore the next blog will follow similar themes - expanding into website design.
Never underestimate the power of a name.
Consider the picture below and you’ll see the power branding and advertising has on our subconscious.
Without a full picture, it’s likely you can still identify the brands. A name and its associated branding are powerful conceptually because of their ability to influence choice. Companies pay millions every year to have their brand positioned on the walls where escalators shuttle passengers up and down on the London Underground.
Like an evolving art gallery to consumption, we’re only exposed to these portraits for a few seconds. It’s important they make an impact.
Branding is intelligence made visible - channel your creative intellect with this in mind.
Start by brainstorming key words associated with your business idea. For aerial media - think ‘sky’, ‘drone’, ‘photography’, ‘flight’ - and then play with words/themes associated with this. Lacking inspiration? Use an online name generator - godaddy.com, namelix.com or businessnamegenerator.com to assist you. Most sites will go further, checking any results against their domain name availability if you require a website. It’s worth taking this opportunity to also check Instagram etc for brand uniqueness to avoid pains later on.
When thinking about branding, consider the following:
Customers need to be able to identify your name in seconds and have a vague concept of what your product offering is ✓
Harness a positive image - use socially acceptable words ✓
Think long term. A name must last the test of time. Words in vogue now may date quickly ✓
Like a spurious advisory that won’t go away, uniqueness must be kept at the forefront of your mind - similarities with pre-existing brands can result in legal action. Search online or visit the Intellectual Property Office in the UK to confirm your idea is not trademarked. Check Companies House to discount similarities to any preexisting business.
In the words of Supt. Ted Hastings from Line of Duty - ‘now we’re suckin’ on Diesel’. With the name ‘up.aerial’ chosen (after extensive consultation with my focus group) - I registered my company name online via Companies House for a princely £12. Processes outside the UK may vary but guides can be easily found across the web.
If you’re starting a company by yourself you’ll need to list yourself as a director (every company requires one). A secretary must also be nominated. In the absence of partners, the same person may be listed twice. Decide whether you wish to be a sole trader or limited company.
At a basic level...
A self employed person, the sole trader of their business. The simplest structure out there. Little paperwork - it requires an annual self-assessment tax return. Sole traders have unlimited liability so if the business gets into debt, YOU the sole trader are personally liable and could lose all of your assets. Raising finance can also be harder.
A business structure with its own legal identity separate from its shareholders - even if operated by one person. This has the benefit of limited liability and personal assets are not exposed if not put into the company. This brings more paperwork and additional director’s responsibilities. Earning’s must be published and this transparency may not appeal to everyone.
Further discussion can be found at simplybusiness.co.uk. Business structures have accountancy implications so research before finalising your registration application. A business specific bank account can be created later.
With a company name registered, it’s time to tackle the brand. Having never worked for a creative agency, I didn’t have the luxury of a mood room or experience to fall back on. Previous discussions in this blog have however given me a clear idea of my product offering and target audience.
Designing a logo and branding scheme is a big discussion, almost inexhaustible in content. The best advice I can give is ‘go with your gut’.
What appeals to you and the consumer at large?
What strategy are competitors using?
Simplicity is key. Look around. Apple designs its products with clean lines and uses simple, stripped-down advertising with a clear message. John Lewis’ adverts follow a similar principle. It’s something I like and intend to adopt. If you need a Rosetta Stone to decipher what your company stands for, it’s likely clients will think the same.
I’m again drawn to the adverts and fonts on the Tube to tease out inspiration. Edward Johnston’s redesign of the font on the London Underground in 1916 combined simplicity with readability. It made it possible for passengers to quickly read and interpret the signs and maps as they shuttled between trains and is something I’d like to incorporate into my own design.
Colour - consider what will make your company stand out. If I were to type Pantone 021C you might be a bit confused. But consider how a particular shade of orange can define the brand and culture of one of the UK’s largest airlines. A colour scheme will be used across all company assets - website, products, invoicing etc. so it’s important to spend time on this. It will unite your brand.
Experiment - colour, font, layout.
Keep text minimal but don’t be afraid to use it if it assists in explaining the product; consider using an icon or simple picture.
Identify where the design will be used. I identified several logos that worked well with my aerial media concept, but when placed in an Instagram sized profile picture or on a phone, the meaning was lost. Make sure you acknowledge the use of your artwork on smaller devices as the majority of traffic is likely to come from handheld devices with small screens.
Several sites can assist in logo design, looka.com, fiverr.com, tailorbrands.com, wix.com or brandmark.io to name a few. These sites often give multiple options, so share your ideas and seek out the best response.
I’ve included an early idea above. ‘Berd.brain’. A portmanteau of ‘bird’ and ‘nerd’ with ‘brain’ together was designed to suggest intelligence from above. It was an early casualty - not being understood by my target audience.
up.aerial as a concept took a few evenings to develop, evolving from my earlier design failures. One of which I’ve included below...
Importantly, don’t be disheartened if you hit low tide with your creativity.
Step away, start observing the branding around you and come back with your mojo refreshed.
Remember to record any money spent on your design as these form business expenses. Consider trademarking a name to protect your brand integrity and others from using it.
Running a business is a lot like flying - you’re rarely focused on one task. Stepping away from exercising my creative flair, I’ve been researching the qualifications required to operate commercially. Alluded to in my previous blog, I’ve used webinars, online articles and material hosted by Resilient Pilot to drive my research. I’ve since completed my A2CoC course theory and assessment and am now embarking on my GVC.
Additionally, based on previous research, I’ve purchased and insured two drones in line with my business plan; experimenting and reacquainting myself with a different type of hand flying.
Having two drones offers me a flexible platform to operate:
From a logistical perspective, as drones are classified based on mass and potential risk.
From a business perspective - increasing my product offering in the early stages to understand where consumer demand exists.
With a blueprint for my brand and my company registered, I’ve now started channeling energy into my website - the shop window for my proposition. Having never built a website before, this has been a sharp learning curve for me. But forget HTML, I’ll be discussing some of the tools available to make a smart and sophisticated site in my next blog.
For the time being, ‘Mind The Gap’... as we embark on the next stage of the journey and brand concept finally meets reality...
Oliver is a First Officer on the A320 family aircraft and one of our pilot mentors at Resilient Pilot. Working in the industry for 8 years, he has great operational and life experience. Learn more about Ollie on our 'Supported' page, and the support he can offer.