Branding is one of those words that often seems misunderstood – either in the understanding of what it is, or in our understanding of whether or not we actually need a branding process for our business or organisation.
The word ‘branding’ initially referred to the process used by farmers to stamp a mark onto their animals, so as to distinguish which animal belongs to whom. The modern equivalent of that is often interpreted as branding simply being the process of sticking your logo onto your product and voila! You have a brand.
Unfortunately it’s not as straightforward as that – and while I say unfortunately, I probably actually mean fortunately. A brand when developed and executed well allows you to do more, say more and when executed well – potentially charge more for your product or service.
While a logo plays an important role in your visual brand identity, the representation of a brand is much wider, and encompasses themes beyond your visual identity. When a brand is executed well, then customers (and prospective customers) will think of key themes without you having to say a word: think of Waitrose and Lidl and you’ll hopefully see what I mean. You don’t need to have a sales representative from either company nearby to instantly think of some of the values or attributes of each business.
The logo plays a critical role in representing your company, but it’s only a small part in the overall visual representation of your brand. Selections of colours, fonts and photos and graphic styles will also play a critical role in brand representation. There will be occasions when your brand may need different variations in your logo to fit into a particular context, and being able to represent your brand without even showing a logo is a key sign of a successful brand. Think, for example, of seeing the Starbucks Coffee written as text without the ‘Starbucks Siren’ logo. We’d know it was Starbucks because it’s written, of course, but a cheap imitation written with the same fonts and colours as ‘Stardollars Coffee’ would be an obvious rip-off, because the other visual elements of the Starbucks brand are so consistently used by Starbucks throughout the world.
Likewise, think of the colours used by a brand to develop their identity. Scanning up and down a high street in an unfamiliar city, you’ll quickly be drawn to the green of a Starbucks sign if looking for an easy coffee option; or the yellow of the golden arches when looking for fast food. We don’t need to see the words or the physical logos in order to make the connection.
Consistency in brand usage doesn’t just enforce the brand, but it means we are no longer convincing customers of the need to think of which choice to make. A brand becomes something that customers begin to value when they see consistency. Questions of cost or convenience are replaced by a customer’s desire to want to be part of a brand that provides quality.
So what is involved in a brand?
If you’ve read this far, you may be worried that branding is an expensive endeavour and that it may be out of reach of your business, but that needn’t necessarily be the case.
The experience: A brand can be summarised as the collective of all of the experiences that a customer may have with your business. While they may make a connection with the visual representation of your business, you also want them to have a positive experience of interacting with your business. Consider the interaction, whether that be in person, over the phone, in store or even just in receiving a delivery. How was the process for your customers? That’s your brand.
The values: Values are also a critical part of a brand – and increasingly in how customers will or won’t choose to do business with you. You can have the world’s best logo, but if customers are looking for certain kinds of business behaviour – such as how you employ staff or what your green credentials are – that’s likely what they’ll base their decisions on.
Not all businesses will employ staff, or need to have a green certification, but the values of a small business and the experiences that your customers have with you will go a long way to shaping how customers understand who you are and what you do.
The visuals: It may sound like the visuals play a smaller part in branding than you had previously thought – but they are still critical. If you want customers to think well of your brand, then the visual collective of your brand elements has to be executed well.
While that will undoubtedly include a logo, you should also consider a deliberate and consistent use of font and colour choices, and a range of photography and graphic elements that your customers can connect with. Consistent use of these elements will help your customer to develop a clearer understanding of your brand and to make a quicker connection with your communications.
The brand process
By the time people get in touch with us, they usually know that they’re looking for a logo, or some other form of content that they’d like us to produce for them.
While we’re always glad to hear from clients and prospective clients, we believe that in order to provide the best value to clients, it’s important to work through a process that we call ‘the 4 Ds’: Delve, Develop, Design and Deploy.
Most clients arrive with us at the design stage, looking for something to be designed, and often quite quickly. In order to ensure that what we produce is as good as it can be, and that it best meets the immediate and future needs of our clients, we always encourage them to spend some time looking at the ‘delve and develop’ stages first.
By ‘delving’ into the background of what a client has or hasn’t tried before, or by taking a look at some of their competitors, we are able to better understand the product, service or organisation that we’re working with. This therefore helps us to be better able to provide finished content to fit your needs.
We develop ideas with a client off the back of the ‘delve’ process, identifying what is and isn’t likely to work. The ‘design’ stage then takes place, producing artwork and content elements to fit the needs of the project.
The ‘deploy’ stage of a project allows us to work with clients to order materials such as print collateral on their behalf or to ensure that a website is working as expected – across a range of devices.
All in all, it’s a process that is designed to help clients produce the best available results on their budget, with assets that can be developed across a range of outputs – helping you to make more of your brand.
Getting it right – consistency is key
Consistency in branding and presentation of your brand reflects on the quality of your product. The quality of your product may be of the highest level but the lack of a brand, or consistent application of a brand, can and will lead to doubt as to how the quality of that product is perceived.
We’re here to help you think through some of the issues connected to your brand, and to help you put your best foot forward. Get in touch to let us know how we can help.