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  • Writer's pictureRachel Lee

Is it Bad to Use Templates for Your Branding?

Updated: Mar 13

In the age of Canva and DIY design, we've been seeing a rise in the number of templates on the market for anything ranging from social media to fully built-out "brand kits".

While these templates might seem like the most logical solution for you if you're working on a tight budget and you don't want your brand looking like it was designed by your 5-year old...

It's important for you to understand the pros and cons of using templates for your branding before you commit to using that "generic cursive font on pastel blobs" or "plain bold text on corporate blue" to represent your brand.

So before we dive in... let's get clear on one thing 👇

Templates are meant to help you save time, NOT stand out

Because if you're using that sparkly template on Canva for your next social post... chances are, so are hundreds other people who have access to the same template on their software.

Anything that is pre-designed is meant to help you present your information in a neat and visually appealing manner... and isn't a good substitute for figuring out what "style" fits you best.

It's totally ok to use a template when you're in a pinch with your design and you don't have any branding set up for yourself, but if you're getting to that point where using generic templates isn't working for you anymore (and your social media feed looks like it could belong to anyone), you might want to start looking into other options.

Every business starts off with templates, and graduates with a full custom setup

If you're not sure where you're at on that timeline, here's what it looks like:

  • Stage 1: Pre-Brand — You're just starting out and you're figuring out things with your business. You're in the testing phase where you're throwing spaghetti against the wall and trying to establish demand for the thing you're offering. Presentation might be on the lower end of your priorities and you're probably just posting up personal / stock photos with text captions on social media — bare-bones, but functional!

  • Stage 2: Generic Templates — You're still in the process of testing with your business, but you've established enough demand for you to start seriously marketing your products / services. You're not quite sure what your "style" is, so you try on a bunch of different templates and find that something is "off" because you're either using a bunch of different templates for each post (which looks disorganized), or you're using the same template for each post (and even you're getting bored with the same look).

  • Stage 3: Custom Templates & DIY Branding — You've gotten fed up with using other peoples' templates and have started to try creating your own. You feel confident enough in Canva to rearrange a few elements and stick with a specific set of fonts and colours to create your own templates. At this point, you would've probably created your own logo in Canva, and you might even be in the process of building your own website.

  • Stage 4: Custom Branding — You've been using your DIY Branding for a while now, and while it was great in the beginning, you're starting to realize that it feels kinda like a patchwork quilt — it works, but it's a bit patchy in some areas. Your social media still feels kinda scattered, and it looks nothing like your website (which you got tired of updating after the first few weeks). At this point, most people start looking for a branding professional to help them with a proper custom setup that includes a logo design, fonts, colours, brand guidelines, brand guidelines and MAYBE some custom templates!

The weird thing is, your content can still look generic even if you have custom templates.

If you're not sure what I mean, take a look at this screenshot I took of my own IG feed in the early stages of my rebrand when I was using my own custom templates:

At the time, I was really proud of it. I had carefully planned out my templates in such a way that I had specific templates for specific types of posts.

But over time, I noticed 2 things:

  • My audience engagement was tanking after I used the same templates a few times in a row — even if I alternated between the different types of templates

  • I was starting to get bored with my OWN content — I didn't feel excited sharing my posts, and posting became a chore rather than something that I looked forward to doing

So I changed things up and decided to try something that I had never done before... I decided to go template-less and create every post from scratch. Now I know what you're thinking, this is SUPER time-consuming and completely illogical from a productivity standpoint 🤷‍♀️

But take a look at what my IG feed looks like now:

It's much more dynamic, and 9/10 people who visit my page make a comment about how they love every single piece of content that I put out.

I also noticed that:

  • My post engagement doubled, not just with likes but also with comments and DM reach-outs

  • I actually LOVE creating content now — it's the part of the week that I really look forward to because each piece is a new conversation that I'm starting with my audience that actually results in conversions. I never would've guessed it, but these posts drive sales!! 😳

Now I'm not saying that every business owner needs to create content this way, but I wanted to break down how I did this to give you an inside look on how the template-less approach might actually work better for your brand (and boost your engagement with your audience)!

So here's how you can go template-less with your brand

  1. You need to have a custom brand setup with (see Stage 4 above) with your custom logo, colours, fonts, guidelines and set of brand elements — these will be the "puzzle pieces" that you use to create your posts

  2. Plan out the overall "look" of your feed — in my case I have a loose checkerboard pattern where I alternate light and dark posts

  3. Every time you create a post, ask yourself what visual best supports the content that you're trying to put out, and then mix & match your brand assets to create your desired feel

And that's it! It's all about having an understanding of your brand styling and having the individual brand elements available to mix & match for your posts — similar to the way you have a set number of clothes in your wardrobe, but every day you wear them in a different combination to keep things "fresh".

This approach might not be for everyone, but it's certainly worth a shot if you're bored with your templates!

The key is to have the right pieces for your brand wardrobe in place, and a playful attitude when you're creating your posts.

If you don't yet have the pieces for your brand wardrobe set up (meaning that you're moving from Stage 3 to Stage 4), I'd be happy to help with that! Click the button below to book a quick call with me to learn more about how I can be supporting you with your branding and see if we're the right fit! 👇

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