What Is Branding?
You just got home from a long day at work, drop your bags, kick off your shoes, untuck your shirt and head straight to your kitchen. Your eyes scan the pantry shelves for an effortless pre-dinner snack. The unopened bright yellow bag of generic Publix potato chips catches your attention, and your stomach gurgles in concurrence to munch out. You sit down on your couch with the bag, turn the TV on and coincidentally you catch the middle of a Publix commercial; a pregnant mother making lunch with her daughter with the generic Publix brand ingredients artistically shot in the background. Mom tells daughter to whisper a secret to baby-on-the-way, and tells her she used to whisper secrets to her when she was pregnant with her. A cute and warm exchange between daughter and baby-on-the-way then touches the mother’s heart in the next scene, with the video cutting to a message that says “Happy Mother’s Day” appearing from a white background, and ending with the Publix logo.
When you take a look at this logo, what emotions do you feel? Happiness? Warmth? Love? On a business perspective, let’s assume that logo is Publix’s brand, right? Wrong.
Brand vs. Brand Identity vs. Logo
Brand is defined as the overall impression of your company as a whole, a concept, and basically the framework of your whole marketing plan. It is a promise of expectation from your products and services, which differentiates you from your competitors.In the digital marketing industry, there are many misconceptions, arguments even, that a company logo is your brand. Though this is only partially true, your logo is not your brand. Your logo is the foundation of your brand. Let’s go back to our commercial, for example. The heartwarming commercial displays Publix’s overall image of their company, focusing less on competitive prices and more on families, traditional values and holidays. It evokes an emotional response with storytelling and a message that relates to their target market. Rather than advertising their products, they show families enjoying each other’s company over food. Right away, you can see that the customer is the focal point of their marketing strategy.
Brand includes the following:
- Marketing strategy
- Customer service
- Customer feedback
- Emotional response
- Message content
When you’re thinking about the graphic design to brand your company, think about the type of emotions you want to induce and keep your marketing strategy in consideration. In the creation of your brand, you need to keep in mind that branding is a fusion of art and science to create the intangibles, the message you want to perceive, the emotional content you want to exude for your consumers to connect with your brand. Consumers are more loyal to brands that they can associate with, especially if it characterizes their personality.
Brand identity, then, comprises of all the visual components of your company. Going back to our Publix example, the uniformity of Publix’s sage green color, their slogan “Where Shopping is a Pleasure,” the marketing collateral, visual signs, shopping carts, etc. For your small business, this will include business card designs, letterheads, packaging, advertising, typeface, fonts, style, etc. When your brand identity becomes successful over time, your consumers will be able to recognize your brand without looking at the logo. Here is a humorous example, a satirical poster from the TV show Family Guy. You can clearly recognize this image is about the Apple iPod.
When thinking about your brand identity, be cautious of copycats. Have you ever gone to the dollar store, purchased a box of Sharpies? Only to find out when you get home, you just purchased a box of “Sharples”? Walk up and down the cereal aisle of Publix and you’ll find a variety of non-brands that look like Froot Loops like Tootie Fruitie, Fruit Rings, Fruit Hoops, and Fruitie Circles. When creating your brand identity, it is best to lay out a brand identity guideline. Check out Skype’s brand guidelines. It captures everything from brand standards, color palette, typography, imagery, design system, etc.
Finally, your logo is then the central identifiable visual element of your brand identity. Upon designing your logo, keep these principles in mind:
- Simple–is it distinctive?
- Memorable-is it recognizable?
- Timeless—can you still use it in 10 years?
- Versatile—is it still effective if you blow it up to poster size? Is it still effective on a business card? Will it still work if you change it to a different color?
- Appropriate—is it suitable for your target audience?
The Fun Part—Designing
Upon planning out how you want to brand your business, the most effective way is to plan it in the order above. Start with the concept of your brand, then ideas on your brand identity, and then the type of logo you want to represent your company. The second part after planning is the actual designing. You will need extensive research and a large variety of design examples to figure out what will work. You might find that it is easiest to work in the reverse order.
- Start with your logo, now that you have a good idea of what your concept is. Sketch out different looks of the logo, different shapes of the logo, and different colors of the logo and the placement of the elements in your logo. You may go from a couple of drafts to a couple of hundred drafts. Find out what will work using standards and guidelines.
- Next you’ll want to develop complement visuals for advertising, business cards, posters, signage, marketing collateral, social media etc. Add in your company’s motto or tagline and play with the font, placement, styles, etc. Keep it simple and memorable! Come up with a tagline that is less than 7 words and will make people think twice. Conjure up a list of adjectives that describes your products and services. Puns and humor usually work if your brand strategy is playful.
- Lastly, you’ll want to make sure everything you have created tie in with your brand concept. Is the design telling your story? Can it be smoothly integrated with the message you want your customers to display? Is it the right theme to represent the company?
No longer is branding only important for the Nikes and Starbucks in the game. Strong branding is necessary for startups, small businesses and everything in between! As a small business owner, you should know how important an impressionable brand identity is to the success of your company. Your branding will separate you from the sea of competition that you are entering.
What does branding mean to your small business? Click here to read 4 Goals of a Successful Brand For Your Small Business