Where a lot of confusion comes from in the minds of business owners is that they mistake brand to mean having a logo. If that were true every company under the sun would be a brand. Sadly that is not the case. To belong to the exclusive club of being a ‘brand’ you have to be able to do a few things.
1) Create preference when multiple competitors are in play
Companies can be hugely successful but that might not mean they have a successful brand, or that their brand does any work for their business’s success. When you have a brand it creates preference in the minds of consumers and is a tool to create differentiation from your competitors.
Some see that this preference and differentiation is brought about by looking pretty. Making your website funky or getting some cool brochures. While that does apply brand runs much deeper than just aesthetics. It is about creating repeat impressions which make you believe a brand has a ‘personality’ attribute for example Innocent Smoothies could be quirky, or Evian is about purity. These characteristics are not intrinsic in the product but are attributed through brand communication.
2) You have to have a narrative which drives the visual
For us at Sapling, we see graphic design, web design, video production, whatever it is, as the frame in which a brand sits. The language and the visual language within these mediums is what is actually key, it is used to paint the picture, tell the story and build a connection with an audience.
The question then arises where does this choice of language and image come from? Where is it derived from? If it is arbitrary then there is no rhyme or reason and no strategy behind your brand. One minute you’ll be giving a premium message the next a quirky one as that is what might be in vogue. Good visual and language communication is typically derived from a set of brand values.
3) It is about creating values
Great brands are driven from brand values which explicitly define what a company or organisation is about. This is an explicit process where, staff, customers and core teams determine what rings true for an organisation. By codifying it into a single set of values, it brings clarity into the mind of a company and a platform from which all communications can stem from.
Once you have gone through such a process, any creative endeavour of a brand becomes easy. There is no confusion as ‘what should our message be?’ The narrative which sits within the frame of design flows from a point that has been anchored in a deep understanding of a business and hence has meaning and is not whimsical in origin.
Most importantly though you are giving the same message to your audience, so that they can connect with your brand personality and form an opinion and connection with your company. That differentiates you and ensures that they don’t treat you like a commodity.
It is very tempting to just see brand as a creative art but there is a science that underpins everything and gives it true meaning. Anyone wanting to develop their brand needs to see beyond the wrapper around the candy and take it much deeper.
Establish who your direct competitors are, what you can learn from them and how you plan to differentiate yourself from them.
Every company needs a why.
This is the most crucial step in the branding strategy and a question that many business owners struggle to answer.
This helps you define your overarching purpose or cause that isn’t simply answered by saying “I provide blank service to blank people.” The product or service you provide is your what.
Your why is “why do I get out bed in the morning” or “why does my organization exist?”
Mission, Vision, and Values
Your mission, vision, and values are at the core of any business. Here is what they stand for:
Mission: This is what you hope to accomplish. A good method for creating a mission statement is outlined in the Harvard Business Review as needing a “Verb, target, outcome.”
Vision: Your vision statement paints a picture of where you want your brand to get to and how you envision the future.
Values: The process of creating values is not as important as the process of reinforcing them. Your core values represent what your brand stands for and they’re principles that guide a brand’s actions.
Your employees help to form a brand by bringing your brand to life and encompassing your company’s core values.
From the hiring process on, your employees should resemble your values.
Employees often have a much deeper relationship with customers, so nurturing them as ambassadors of your brand is how they’ll inherit your branding strategy.
What does your company want to accomplish and how do you plan to do it?
Being specific with your objectives, whether it’s a business objective, marketing objective, or branding objective allows you to measure results and make improvements.
Establishing a brand identity is imperative to creating an effective branding strategy. This is how people are able to identify your company, whether it’s through a logo or other means.
Developing a strong brand identity involves artistic direction, brand personality, and other branding elements.
Brand image is how customers and others perceive a brand, and what they expect from it. Knowing your brand image keeps you from making decisions that aren’t in line with your branding strategy, since changing your brand image can often be difficult, if not impossible.
Brand positioning is all about where your brand fits in your industry and how you plan to differentiate yourself.
An effective brand positioning statement involves appealing to your target audience, context, brand promise, and reason to believe.
Great brands have great stories.
Think of your favorite brand; mine is Nike. Now think of their story.
Nike was created to provide runners with lighter and more durable running shoes.
Over time, they used brand extensions to capitalize on different opportunities in sports (and they still are). Their brand has continually evolved as it’s grown into the largest sports brand in the world.
Brand personality is the character that represents your brand. Being successful with brand personality means bringing your brand to life.
Your personality should reflect your objectives and values, and is represented in design and how you communicate your brand.
To learn how to create a personality for your brand, visit Code My Views’ resource on the topic.
Brand promise is the commitment to deliver made between a brand and its audience.
If you’d like to develop a strong community of followers and loyal customers, brand promise is the way to achieve that. It’s basically bridging the gap between your promise and the way you communicate your brand.
Every effective branding strategy entails a useful value proposition.
A solid value proposition articulate value to potential customers and provides persuasive reasons for learning more about your business.
Messaging and Communication
Messaging and communication are tied together.
Your communication delivers your messaging through marketing collateral, your website, your tagline, and other ways.
Both your messaging and communication should be tailored to your overall branding strategy.
A branding strategy wouldn’t be complete without discussing it’s impact on design work. Visible logic discussed the 8 essential elements to branding.
- Logo variations
- Key colors
- Additional color palette options
- Corporate typeface
- Type treatments
- Style for images
- Having a library of graphical element
Your brand extensions are just opportunities for your brand to expand into different areas. These are the game changers that can transform your business.
Every business decision that is made in your company should reflect what your brand wants to accomplish and your core values. Thinking of ways that you can represent your brand in any move your company makes will build a cohesive brand.
During this process, make sure you’re asking the right branding questions. Asking the right questions is an easy way to ensure you’re crafting an effective branding strategy.