Many people might think of a ‘brand’ as simply a name and a logo, but it is much more than that. A brand is the entire marketing concept of your business and its product or service. This means it definitely includes the name and logo as key elements, as you will see from the list below, but it also includes how the business is co-ordinated to present itself to the market, how it speaks to the market and how it satisfies a need of the market.
Several factors combine to build a strong brand identity, so let’s break this down and look at the individual elements.
What is your message?
A successful business has values, objectives and ambitions, and these form an important part of your brand identity. Strong brands stand for something first and foremost, and what this is usually comes even before a name or a logo. And this message or value doesn’t have to be life-changing or an environmental crusade to save the world, your product or service might have the objective of keeping people fit and healthy, or entertaining children. The values of a business are very important because they provide focus and energy and help to shape the brand and give it a clear purpose, so the brand’s message needs to reflect its target audience, it needs to reflect their aspirations, it needs to inspire creativity and offer the brand some space to evolve and earn some longevity. And perhaps most importantly, the brand message feeds into all the other elements of a brand identity.
Yes, of course this is important, because a name is your immediate impact and the first impression a customer gets of your brand. The name follows your brand everywhere and you will live or die by how successful the brand name is. Names don’t have to be literal or meaningful, or even inspirational. Look at car brands such as Jaguar, Rolls Royce or BMW. These names have all originated in different ways and have different meanings, but they are all famous specifically because of the strength of the product. Similarly, you wouldn’t know what IKEA is if you just saw the name and not what it does? The product or service is fundamentally the most important thing, and the name just needs to be simple, easy to remember and original.
A logo is perhaps more important than a brand name in some respects, because you want the logo to bring instant recall, and often, such as with the Nike tick logo for example, we only see the logo and not the name, but we instantly know what the product is by seeing the logo. Ideally, a logo design needs to convey your message as an image and doesn’t necessarily need to include the brand name. Again, it needs to be strong, memorable, original and be able to be identified by your audience. A logo often becomes recognisable because of the success of the brand overall, it is hard to make the logo a success without the product or service being successful first. But you need to give yourself the best chance possible and stick to these simple rules when designing your logo initially.
When you have your brand message you need to know who you are speaking to. Make sure you are speaking to the right audience with all your marketing channels, and that the right people are hearing your messaging. And are the colours, images and messaging you are using age or lifestyle appropriate for your target audience? A strong brand is serving a need for that audience rather than hoping that an audience is listening to what it is saying, because if you have targeted the right audience in the right way, you know they will be listening.
This is often called ‘thought leadership’, but it is essentially an effective and inexpensive mechanism you can use to gain a good market position. This is the use of your knowledge and expertise to build authority and become respected, so you can write online blog articles, publish good social media content, produce podcasts, host webinars or make television appearances. Any way in which you can promote your brand through ‘thought leadership’ helps to position your brand as an authority, gives the brand some confidence and assurance, and creates trust and positive attention.
A good employer
Nothing destroys the good work of a strong brand identity like bad publicity. It is not just as simple as being a good employer, but avoiding high profile stories about poor working conditions, employment tribunals and health, safety and environmental non-compliances will all help protect your brand, so this is also about professionalism and having strong policies and procedures. However, a good employer will present strong and incentivised remuneration packages which will attract the best employees on the market and their natural advocacy acts as organic brand messaging and is very powerful. Making employees loyal and proud is productive, attracts good people that share your values and ultimately strengthens the brand.
Does everything work together?
We have covered a lot of ground already in terms of building a brand identity, and before you get too ahead of yourself you need to stop and ask yourself if the brand is coherent. Is your messaging clear? Do your name, logo and values work together? Does your colour and font scheme translate to social media or your website design or your packaging design? Does your advertising carry the same message as your product or service is intended to? Making sure everything is clear, concise and coherent is essential if you want your target audience to buy into your brand and discover brand loyalty.
This is not necessarily top priority when building a brand identity, but you do need to keep an eye on the future and ensure there is room for growth. This should be an important element of your initial business plan, ie. how does the brand evolve? How do you see the business changing? Where do you plan to be in five or ten years’ time? Your brand has to move with the times and evolve as your business evolves, so is there space and a pathway to do that? Many successful businesses have changed their branding successfully, companies such as McDonalds, Burberry, Dunkin’ Donuts and the CO-OP have all either changed their logo or their target audience, or both, in recent years, and have taken a huge risk in doing so. But sometimes this is the only way to survive and prosper, so keeping one eye on the future is essential.
If you need any help with brand identity and how this fits with your logo design, website design or social media, then contact Rebus. We are a branding agency with experience of working with clients from many different commercial sectors and successfully supporting them with brand identity, so get in touch today.