Each time I log into Pinterest, I find myself falling down a rabbit hole of styles and looks I just ‘have to try’ for my branding.
Every day there’s a new design trend and tonnes of enviable designs that are just so hard not to use.
Branding is hard.
But it doesn’t have to be – so let’s talk about my favourite way you can make branding easier for your online course business and help you stick to a cohesive look and feel.
Think of it like branding ear plugs so the siren song of Pinterest doesn’t get you changing everything every few days.
Using Emotions – How Branding Brings Out All the Feels
I’m sure you know how important a good brand is – it’s what will set you apart from the hundreds of other courses in your niche and helps determine how your audience feels when they think of you.
A brand is all about emotions, so we want to make sure your audience is feeling all the good emotions when they think about you and take action to enrol in your online course.
Take a quick moment and ask yourself this question right now:
How does your brand make your students feel?
Does it evoke longing? Confidence? Hope? Does it make them feel happy or positive?
If you were to come across your own course online, how do you think it would make you feel?
The emotions your brand stirs up play a big part in the way your students interact with your marketing and promotions. And evoking emotions is super easy right? Yeah, right.
How to Make People Feel a Certain Way – Without Voodoo
Most people think the only thing that matters with a brand is the way it looks – but there’s so much more to it than that.
The best brands touch our hearts and our emotions.
They do this because they have their big idea figured out before they start choosing colours or fonts or any of the visual components of their brand.
So what’s your big idea?
What problem does your course solve? Who does your course help? What sort of transformation do you want to create in your students?
Your course brand will do its best when it has a big idea – bigger than itself. And a big idea is something that often can’t be communicated in just words.
Enter a mood board.
A moodboard is a perfect tool to help convert – at a glance – the emotions our big idea can help evoke in our audiences.
What a Mood Board is
It’s easy to get caught up in how a brand looks and it’s even easier to constantly switch this up every time we come across a new design fad.
A mood board is a great tool to keep your big idea and the emotions you want to evoke top of mind at all times.
Because we’re such visual creatures, a mood board acts as a reminder to anchor our flights of fancy and keep us grounded. Think of it as a foundation on which we build the rest of the brand – the colours, the messages, the assets and the points of contact.
What a Mood Board isn’t
A brand mood board is not a one size fits all prescription for everything you do. It should be flexible and allow you the freedom to experiment and have fun with your course materials and promotions.
We’re trying to evoke a certain set of emotions and communicate a big idea – but there’s no one way to do that. Your audience is going to be varied enough that you can hit on many different aspects of their attention.
Create and use your brand mood board with a grain of salt. Find a balance of structure and fluidity and you’ll have more success with your messaging (and more fun too!)
Keep this in mind when you put together your course brand mood board and you’ll enjoy the process much more.
Planning Your Course Brand Mood Board
Ok, so now we have some pretty good guidelines to follow and we know what a mood board should and shouldn’t be, let’s get started on creating one for your course!
At the end of this blog post, you’ll find a free worksheet you can use to create your course brand mood board – check it out and use it to get a head start on putting one together for your course!
If you’re old school
Grab some old magazines, scissors and some glue and go to town cutting out as many images, messages, words or colours that resonate with your course’s big idea and the emotions you want to create.
Don’t even really think about it right now – just grab anything that catches your eye. You’ll go through and sort them later.
If you’re new school
Create a new board on Pinterest or a new folder on your computer and start collecting the pins, images, messages and websites that jump out at you (or make you super jealous!)
Again, don’t think too much about it at this point. If it catches your eye, save it!
We’ll go back through everything in a bit and hone it to a lean, mean branded machine.
Examples of items you could save or cut out
- advertisements or promotional images
- stock photos or illustrations
- wording or headline snippets
- individual words or phrases
- graphic elements, shapes or designs
- colour palettes
- font pairings
Sharpening Your Brand
Now comes the fun part – honing your mood board into a solid concept and foundation will give you a leg up when creating your brand for your online course.
The first step is to go into your saved images or pile of clippings and start organising them.
Sort the words and headline and phrases into one pile or board on Pinterest. Then put the images into another. Still another for the graphic elements or layouts. Keep going until you have several piles or boards of like with like.
Now go through each of these piles and using your gut reaction, sort the ones you really resonate with into a ‘keep’ pile and the rest into a discard pile.
This is going to be the hard part because as you go through the resources and clippings you’ve already collected, you’re going to do one of two things – feel frustrated or not take your gut instincts seriously.
If you’re feeling frustrated I want you to take a deep breath and remind yourself that a brand is not a static thing – it grows and evolves over time. If you don’t think you’re getting it right or if it feels ‘off’ right now, just keep working at it and coming back to it.
If You Feel Really Stuck
If you’re second guessing your gut instinct you have a bit of a bigger problem.
Are you worried about what others may think? Do you feel as though your personal style conflicts with the brand of your course? Do you not trust your own decisions or the ideas you’re having right now?
Identify what seems to be blocking you and just sit with it for a bit. Get more comfortable with how it feels and the emotions you’re experiencing.
Now ask yourself – if I don’t get this branding thing right, am I going to quit doing this? Is it going to stop me from teaching what I know?
I’m guessing not.
So just let it go – pick something that feels kinda ok and run with it until you get clearer at a later date. There’s plenty of time to refine and rebrand. It doesn’t have to be all hit and miss, doom and gloom if you don’t do it right.
Creating Your Brand Mood Board
Once you feel comfortable with your brand and are getting excited, it’s time to create your visual mood board to keep you inspired throughout the process of creating and promoting your online course.
If you’re old school, you should have a pile of images, text, and ideas you can start to glue to a piece of paper or cardboard. The idea is to have a constant visual reminder you can hang in your line of sight to keep you inspired and on track as you create.
If you’re new school you can use one of these tools to create an online mood board that you can then print off to hang in your line of vision. Because even though you’re creating it digitally initially, the end product does need to be something you see each day as you go about creating and promoting your course.
Try using one of these online mood board generators:
Canva – has a great mood board option you can use to drag and drop your ideas into a grid layout and then print.
Niice – Dubbed the “ultimate canvas for creative discussion” this online tool has a great interface for organising clippings and ideas into an online mood board.
Moodboard – An easy to use tool for quickly creating online mood boards, the only drawback is that it can be difficult to print hard copy versions for you to keep in sight at all times
Style Tiles – A great tool for those of us who aren’t as organically minded as others. A good cross between a mood board and a mockup
Using Your Mood Board to Steer Your Brand and Online Course
Once you have a mood board created, it’s easy to use it to steer your design and help create decisions throughout the process of making your online course.
When faced with a thousand decisions, referencing your mood board can often get you through the toughest of them.
One last piece of advice: don’t be afraid to let your brand grow organically with your course and your audience. If at any time you feel as though your brand ‘doesn’t fit right’ or isn’t serving your students (or yourself) feel free to readjust.
Want an easy way to create your course brand mood board? Check out this easy to use, free mood board template I created and use it to get a head start on putting one together for your course!