Branding, is a marketing practice in which a company creates a name, logo or symbol that is easily identifiable as belonging to a company. This helps identify a product and distinguish it from its competitors. Branding is essential because it’s not only just creating a memorable impression on the audience, but allows your customers and clients to know what to expect from your company. It is a way to distinguish your company from many others and convince your customers that the products or services you offer are the better choice. Your brand is built to be a representation of who you are as a business, and how you want to be perceived by your target audience.
The most important reason branding is important for a business is because it is how it gets recognised and known to the target audience. The logo or symbol is one of the most ‘in front’ elements of branding and is essentially the mark or face of the company. But at the same time, the logo is not the only the defining element of an effective brand.
One of the key shifts in recent brand identity conceptualisation has been the realisation that as brands become more complex and multi-faceted, all of the characteristics of a brand’s purpose, positioning, messaging and activity cannot be defined to just a logo or symbol alone. As branding’s repeal has expanded away from ‘just’ logos and symbols to one that occupies a key visual and verbal role at the centre of a brand, the spokes that drive off the core are numerous and varied.
Branding is increasingly important, increasingly central and no longer just ‘painted on’ by the marketing department, and yet how do we infuse all of these things into a core brand identity?
The truth is that it is hard to do so. All the logos and symbols can do is supply something to put a flag on top of a building, or a ‘mark’ on an email or website. It’s the responsibility of the rest of the brand identity scheme to deliver on all of the aspects of the brand. This is where the ‘guidelines’ are important, allowing a brand to be recognised as much for its personality to imagery, choice of photography, tone of voice, approach and writing style as for its logo. The best branding ideas have a clear approach to their entire communication, not just the logo that goes in the corner of a website.
So what are the elements of a brand identity scheme or guideline?
It varies from company to company but identifying key applications (such as, web page, packaging, signage and so on) early in the process will make everyone involved see that the extent of an idea is just as significant as the button at the top of the website. Multiple applications help client teams ‘see’ how ideas that might be obvious just to designers extend out and develop over multiple and varying channels. Common guideline elements once the key applications are identified would include internal elements such as brand values, tone of voice, personality, strategy and narrative. While physical elements would include things (but not limited to) photography style, typography, logo design, stationery and business cards.
In today’s time, the power of branding is now so great that decisions on its definition have moved ‘up’ from the mere marketing department level into the boardroom. Once, in the days of ‘corporate identity’, logos were designed to last for decades – merely there as visual identifiers, not the tips of huge branding icebergs that they have now become. But by looking at the whole ‘iceberg’, branding has become one of the most powerful strategic, competitive and tactical tools that a company can draw on.
Understanding your branding
It’s important to not only have a strong brand that represents you, but also that you are saying what you think you are saying. It’s sometimes difficult to step back and try to observe your brand objectively. You could think that you are communicating strength and trust that draws customers in, when really you are conveying that you are elite and expensive and pushing them away.
Wherever your branding is at, it’s important to consult with branding specialists at every step of the way to ensure your company is always putting its best foot forward.