How to create a timeless brand

Feb 2, 2022 | Branding

One of the recurring themes of the design work I do for my clients is the pursuit of timeless branding. Most business owners desire to build a lasting, sustainable brand that will stay relevant for years to come–that goes without saying. This puts a lot of pressure on the branding process; but fortunately, with the help of few key principles, creating a timeless brand is absolutely doable for any kind of business. And it’s not as difficult as you may think.

5 principles for timeless branding

1. Start with “why”

The very first step of the branding process is to get clear on why your brand exists. For some business owners, the answer is intuitive; it’s what drove them to start a business in the first place. For others, it might take a bit of digging to uncover the real purpose behind their brand.

This may go without saying, but the “why” behind your brand needs to be deeper than your own personal goals and desires. For instance, you may have started your consulting business because you craved the freedom and autonomy of working for yourself. That’s common for entrepreneurs and not a bad reason to start a business. However, it’s not going to resonate with your ideal clients because it’s about you, not them.

In order to create a timeless brand, you need a strong mission and purpose to lay the groundwork for how your brand looks, feels, and acts. This doesn’t need to be anything groundbreaking or extreme, like solving world hunger; in fact, the most compelling brand mission is often relatable and aspirational. For instance, empowering women or underserved communities, sharing knowledge, or spreading joy.

If you need help clarifying your brand’s mission and purpose, I have just the thing for you! Click here to grab a copy of my most popular free resource, the brand clarity workbook.

2. Develop a brand story

A key component of timeless branding is powerful storytelling. Every potential customer who comes into contact with your brand can be thought of as a character in your brand story. And every character has a problem. Your brand is the guide or mentor that can help them solve their problem.

One of the best things you can do for your business is to get crystal clear on the problems your audience is facing in relation to your industry. With that knowledge in hand, you can then position your offers as the optimal tools for solving their problem. To help illustrate this, let’s look at a couple examples:

  • You’re a wedding planner. The character in your story is a bride. The problem the bride is facing is that she has a beautiful wedding to plan on top of all her other responsibilities. By taking the monumental task of wedding planning off her back, you help the bride achieve success in experiencing her dream wedding without the stress and hassle of coordinating it all herself.
  • You’re a coffee shop owner. The character in your story is a digital entrepreneur. The problem the entrepreneur is facing is that he feels isolated and uninspired working from home every day. By offering high-quality caffeinated beverages and a soothing, hip atmosphere with plenty of tables and outlets, you offer the entrepreneur an ideal setting to commune with others and get creative work done.

To learn more about the power of storytelling in branding, I highly recommend reading Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller.

3. Keep it simple

When you picture the most timeless brands you can think of, what do they all have in common? Regardless of industry, location, and pricing, the most timeless brand identities are relatively simple. Some examples that come to mind are Nike, Chanel, Apple, McDonald’s, Target, and Disney. Each of these brands has managed to stay relevant through the changing times, not least of all because of their approach to branding.

Nike’s logomark is about as simple as simple gets – and instantly recognizable.

Many people mistake simple branding for boring. The Apple logo on its own, for instance, is extremely minimalist and nothing special. But a brand is so much more than a logo. A logo should certainly be unique and recognizable, but in order to remain timeless, it requires a degree of simplicity so that it won’t go out of style in a year or two.

The same goes for other aspects of your brand, such as your mission and unique selling point. If your mission statement is a paragraph long, you’re probably making it a lot more complicated than it needs to be. And your unique value proposition is something any layperson should be able to understand, unless your niche and target audience are hyper-specific.

Although we just touched on the importance of simplicity in branding, that doesn’t mean we should completely ignore trends. By definition, trends are fleeting, and therefore, seemingly the opposite of timeless. But let’s think back to some of those timeless brands mentioned above, like Nike, Apple, and McDonald’s. If you were to Google the history of their logos, you’d see that they evolved slightly over the years in keeping with the trends of the time.

Image source

Apple’s logo is one of the best examples of the right way to incorporate trends in timeless branding. Apple was founded in 1976 with a surprisingly intricate logo. The following year, they adopted the simple, minimalist apple vector shape that we all know and recognize today. Over the following 40+ years, they kept the same shape but changed the coloring. Remember when gradients were all the rage in the early 2000s? Apple made good use of this trend (and may have even spearheaded it). Today, Apple’s back to the flat, solid-color logo in keeping with today’s minimalist aesthetic.

Branding your business is never a one-and-done deal. Your business may not have as long of a history as Apple’s, but if you want to create a lasting, timeless brand, you should be prepared for it to evolve over time. That could mean playing with trends as they come and go. As Apple has shown us, you don’t need to undergo a full rebrand and start from scratch in order to do so.

To learn more about rebranding and how to tell if the time is right, check out this post: Rebranding checklist: How to rebrand your business in 7 steps.

5. Build trust and loyalty

Last but not least, in order to create timeless branding, it’s essential to create a brand that builds trust and loyalty among your audience. Without these two things, it’s going to feel like an uphill battle to generate sustainable revenue. Trust is one of the most important factors that determine whether someone will purchase from your brand. And loyalty is critical for garnering repeat business from your customers. As you may know, it’s much more expensive to obtain new customers than it is to retain current customers.

Here are a few ways to build trust in your brand:

  • Social proof: Share reviews and testimonials from previous customers.
  • Credibility: Get featured in publications or by other businesses that your audience already trusts.
  • Transparency and authenticity: These days, people can smell BS from a mile away. Just be real.

And here’s what you can do to keep your customers coming back for more:

  • Client experience: Employ systems and processes that create a seamless experience for your customers.
  • Personal touches: Show your customers that you value them by sending gifts or hand-written thank you cards.
  • Exceed expectations: Underpromise and overdeliver where possible.

Related post: Why branding is important for your small business

Next steps: creating timeless branding

In this post, I shared 5 principles for creating a timeless brand. These principles will help you develop a brand that’ll stay relevant through changing times, never go out of style, and grow sustainably. For additional support, here are some recommended next steps:

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