How to build a DAO brand identity

A brand identity is how your organization presents itself to the world. From the colors and fonts you use to the tone of voice you write in to the way you interact with clients, every small detail adds up to your overall brand.  Even though DAOs are new organization types, they each still need a unique brand to achieve their goals, just like a traditional organization.

If you’re familiar with web2 branding best practices, many elements of this guide will look familiar to you. However, some more web3-native aspects, such as community branding and headless brands, are unique to building a DAO brand.

The importance of a DAO brand identity

Just like a traditional company, your DAO needs a brand identity. The DAO brand you choose defines your:

  • Community. The branding elements you choose will attract different types of contributors. Think about the ideal contributors in your DAO—are they driven, entrepreneurial, welcoming, professional, quirky, creative, or maybe tech-savvy? Or something else entirely? Think about what would appeal to them. For example, if you’re trying to attract contributors with demonstrated professional experience, a clean and crisp brand identity might be a good fit. If you’re looking for creatives and artists, something more expressive and unique could draw in the right crowd.
  • Users. If your DAO provides products or services, the brand style you choose will attract users who resonate with it. For example, if you provide legal services, you’ll want your DAO to appear trustworthy and knowledgeable to users. So, clean lines and cool colors with neutrals could be a good combination for you. But if you’re building an NFT platform geared toward artists, something with a unique illustration design scheme might attract those users.
  • Media coverage. When it comes to getting publicity for your DAO, the brand and “vibes” you exude help position you to be covered by different writers, podcasters, and influencers. While it's difficult to fully influence the way your DAO is covered in the media, it's still possible to make nudges in the direction you want with the brand you're building.
  • Reputation: The type of brand you build around your DAO will also determine how others in the web3 ecosystem view you, and how your organization is perceived as a whole. While there are many other aspects to building reputation in the industry, such as product/service success, community opinion, and social media presence, your brand identity is the common thread throughout all of it.

An effective DAO brand fully aligns on your organization’s mission, vision, and values. It incorporates elements that attract contributors to your doorstep who will be there for the long-haul. It also endures—you don’t want your brand to be changing it constantly!

When should you define your DAO’s brand?

Your DAO’s brand will ideally start shaping up as soon as your core team has an idea of the type of organization you want to build. If you’re a DAO founder, you likely have the beginnings of a brand in mind. Collaborate with your founding team to help these ideas take shape early in the process of building your DAO, rather than delaying it too long. The brand is the soul of your organization, so it’s very important to work on it sooner rather than later.

When you’re ready to begin recruiting contributors, launching products or services, reaching out to media, and building a reputation, your brand should be mostly intact. But, small tweaks and iterations should be made along the way.

How a decentralized DAO brand identity differs from a centralized one

You may have heard of the concept of headless brands, which are brands that are cultivated by many different people in a network rather than a single entity. Headless brands are a good mental model for DAO brands, since DAOs are bottom-up organizations and lack a single “head” of the organization or brand strategy.

Here are a few ways to think of centralized vs. decentralized brands on a sliding scale:

  • Centralized brand: Apple. The branding of Apple comes from the Apple corporate team, and users don’t change the branding at all. They use the products, which retain the Apple branding, and don’t alter it.
  • Semi-centralized brand: Star Wars and Harry Potter fandoms. The branding of a segment of fan fiction, say Harry Potter or Star Wars fan fiction, mostly maps back to the main brand, but users get more leeway in changing the brand as they adapt it to fit everything from ComicCon events to Halloween costumes to stories they write online.
  • Headless brand/decentralized brand: A political activist movement. Many political movements were born out of an entirely grassroots organization, rather than a single entity. So, their brand identity is the sum of many people creating it, rather than a small core team.

The bones of a DAO’s brand

Here are a few critical elements to think of when designing your DAO’s brand:

Visual branding

This includes:

  • Color and design scheme
  • Logo
  • Fonts
  • Images and graphics
  • Videos

When contributors, users, the media, and the web3 ecosystem as a whole look at your DAO’s Twitter account, website, or Substack page, they should see elements of your branding that invoke a certain emotion. Is your DAO trying to exude mystery and intrigue? Or warmth and accessibility? Maybe you’re trying to look intellectual, academic, and thoughtful. Or, maybe you want to be powerful and intimidating.

Your brand assets are a key piece in invoking these emotions. The smallest details, such as the font you use in the body text of your website, contribute to the look and feel of your DAO and the emotions that go along with it.

Need help designing the visual aspects of your brand? IndieDAO, one of our DAO Experts, offers professional design and development services. Start talking to IndieDAO here.

Written branding

This includes:

  • Tone and style of writing
  • Word choice, diction, and syntax
  • Storytelling
  • Any written content: articles, social media, and web copy

Written branding can be harder to pin down than the visual side. You know that yellow is a color associated with warmth, happiness, and openness, but what kind of sentences are associated with that? The written branding of your DAO can start to feel slippery very quickly.

Instead of trying to pin down exact writing rules, work on articulating the way you want readers to feel after they read something your DAO has produced, whether it be a blog title, a whitepaper, or a Twitter bio. Use that feeling as a barometer to check whether your content is in line with your brand.

You can also try building a list of words that fit your brand best. Do an exercise with your team where you build a vocabulary list that you reference back to when writing content.

Community branding

This includes:

  • How your DAO members represent you in the ecosystem
  • Your presence at events and conferences
  • Media reach

This segment of branding is much harder to control, because you rely on your community to grow it for you. Think of community branding as the tree that grows from the seed you planted. It can’t grow without your initial action of planting it, but you can’t change exactly where the branches reach or how big the tree gets.

Your community branding is the way DAO members represent you in the ecosystem. If a member of your DAO goes on a podcast, how do they represent your brand? How do they talk about their experience contributing? If a DAO member tweets about you, what is the general sentiment of that tweet? What if a journalist uses that tweet to support an article?

Not every DAO member should feel like they need to represent the DAO in the same way. But, if there is a common thread, that will become part of your DAO's identity in the ecosystem.

You can’t change how the community represents your DAO outside of it, but you can plant seeds for them to help grow. If your DAO has a culture of respect and good communication, you can expect that DAO contributors will treat your organization in a similar way.

Changing your DAO’s brand

Maybe you already have an existing DAO that needs a brand refresh. Consider working with some core team members to talk about how a new brand can better serve the DAO. When building a brand that serves your existing DAO, you may find that it’s harder to align all your contributors on a new direction, and getting substantial changes made via consensus could be hard. Vesting the power of brand direction with a branding team who’s accountable to the community, or works with community feedback, could be a solution to a DAO rebrand.

This guide was last updated in August 2022. Since the DAO space is continuously evolving, we're regularly updating the guides and adding new ones.
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