Branding – Beyond the Logo

Most small and even some medium sized businesses use the term ‘brand’ interchangeably with ‘logo’. In reality, a logo is just the graphic device that represents the company or product.

SO WHAT IS A BRAND?

A brand is more than a simple graphic device. It tells the entire ‘story’ of your marketing strategy.

A true brand brings meaning and relevance to your product and occupies a particular position within the mind of your customer or prospect. It speaks to your market in ways that are less obvious, using non-verbal cues, metaphors and other subtle, albeit powerful tools.

Take a moment to think about these well-known and easily recognized brands; Mini Cooper, iPod, Hell’s Pizza, 42 Below, Tui, Volvo.

You may not be able to immediately recall the logo devices of all these brands, but you will most likely have an innate feeling and opinion about their brand personality and what they mean to you, positive or negative.

The reason for this is that over time we look beyond the logo device and base our brand opinion on the experience we have with a product or company, from the way they speak to us in the written and spoken marketing word, down to the way they interact with us in personal contact situations.

Nothing kills a brand faster than failing to deliver on the brand promise. Unless you are confident you can deliver, don’t over promise.

The use of carefully selected colour palettes and fonts, style of copywriting, general format of printed material and templates, all communicate a specific message. In fact, a strong brand can create recognition even when the logo device is not visible.

Branding is all about personality. Compare a brand to our own personality – in assessing ourselves we would include our appearance, voice, style of speech, mannerisms, sense of humour, temperament and a host of other traits. All of these aspects would add up to brand ‘ME’.

Although some of these elements may not be unique to us, when combined in a particular way (according to our DNA) they create our own unique personality. In the same way, numerous brands may use similar fonts, others may use the same colours, but your brand brings these elements together in its own unique way (brand DNA), setting you apart.

TELLING A COMPELLING & MEMORABLE STORY

You can’t build a credible brand without a unique value proposition. It serves the same purpose as the underlying plot of a great novel or movie.

The elevator speech is THE STORY of the brand and captures the essence of your unique value proposition in a concise and easily understood statement.

When an elevator speech is correctly written, anyone in your company can use it to explain to a prospect what makes your company or product different from all the others out there. This piece also becomes a core component of your marketing messaging.

The brand story reflects your marketing strategy and can’t be divorced from it or seen in isolation. Therefore, logic tells us that you cannot develop an effective brand without a clear marketing strategy.

BE FLEXIBLE, BUT CONSISTENT

When you’re developing your brand identity with your marketing agency, don’t be too close-minded. We have seen clients reject a colour or font because it had been used in a logo for a completely different product in a totally unrelated industry. Just because someone else has used it doesn’t mean it’s not well suited to your brand.

There are literally millions of logo designs out in the market and it’s quite possible that your logo may use a similar colour palette or font style to a brand somewhere else in the world. Your brand becomes unique in the way the elements are combined and consistently applied to represent your strategy and personality. This is where a BRAND GUIDE can be a valuable tool.

A typical brand guide details:

- Acceptable versions of the logo (standard colour, reversed, black and white, grayscale)
- Colour palette usage and official colours in the main colour systems (CMYK, RGB, hexadecimal, PMS)
- Font styles and sizes to be used
- How the logo should be applied
- Graphic templates for common applications

FALSE ECONOMY & MAXIMISING YOUR BRAND VALUE

Consistent delivery of your core marketing message and graphic identity elements are critical to building and maintaining a strong brand.

These companies may have their business cards, stationary and even their marketing brochures designed by their local printer. (Local printers often do design work as a loss-leader, making their margin on the printing).

Others may use a nephew or niece who is studying graphic design at university or polytechnic, or even worse, they may try to do it themselves using Publisher. They may also get the Yellow Pages in-house design team to develop their directory ads, usually free of charge.

Some companies have their advertising material designed, either free of charge or at low cost, by the media that it is due to run in. It’s just hard to imagine how a graphic designer at a magazine or newspaper would have the depth of understanding of a company’s marketing and brand strategy to be able to produce anything more than a ‘pretty’ ad.

In most cases, these companies use a range of unrelated suppliers or designers to craft their marketing and promotional material. Whilst this can save on costs, the inherent downfall of this approach is that strategic branding (or marketing strategy) is not being applied. This ‘economical’ approach weakens a brand’s potential to develop a firm position in the mind of the customer or prospect over time.

When you consider the total cost of executing a full suite of marketing material, the additional cost to have the brand professionally designed and executed by a capable marketing or design agency is minimal. It’s really false economy to do it any other way.

Brand Book: Build a Consistent Brand Around Your Company Logo

Let’s say you have decided to start your own business, or you thought of upgrading or reinventing your brand. One of the first order of things you would be doing is to design a logo for your business. Your logo would have to say it all about your brand: your color scheme, font styles, feel and so on. But sometimes, the whole thing would just seem to be quite off, and you can’t figure out what is wrong.

This kind of situation is the reason why you need to have a consistent and strong brand identity. Especially in today’s modern market trend, when tiny details make or break you. Not only does it makes your brand look firm but it would build your credibility, as well.

So here’s the big question: How? – Well, enter the brand book.

What is a Brand Book?

A brand book is a set of rules and guidelines for the use of your brand. A standard if you must. A style guide, in a designer’s context. It basically explains how to properly make use of elements to make sure that it is consistent with your brand.

Why create a brand guide for your business?

Having a brand book makes it easier to do a project. Example: if you decided to do a packaging for a brand product, presenting the brand book to the designer would make things easier to select font styles, colors, and whatnot and output would be consistent with your brand.

Makes you look professional. Being consistent with your marketing tools and outputs makes you look professional. Like everything’s planned out to be the way they are.

You will have control of your brand. Having standardized brand gives your control of any loose ends. If something is not working – a look or feel – you refer to your trusty old brand book.

Never a cheap moment. When you have a brand that’s solid in all corners, your brand would avoid looking cheap.

You enhance your brand. With your brand’s style regulated, it makes you progress into a finer and solid brand. You are put onto a perspective where you see your brand’s untapped potential and develop changes for its betterment.

What to Include in a Brand Book?

There are several components to include in a brand book. Here are the basics and must be included.

BRAND OVERVIEW

As much as possible, this should be brief. In little words as possible, make sure that the concept for the design of your brand is clear. A designer should likely read this very important part of the brand book; it should tell what the brand is aiming to be, its look and feel.

LOGOS

A logo is the brand’s key component to its strategy; therefore, it should be taken seriously. The brand will likely revolve around the logo concept BUT the logo is not your brand alone. Make sure there are many logo variations for certain styles and backgrounds, and clarify minimum sizes.

INCORRECT LOGO USAGE

Remember when I said, a detail can make or break your brand? Here’s a common mistake in the branding world: logos are used and stamped upon on almost anything. Your brand has to look professional, and you should know not to mess around with it. If you do, you’re basically messing with your reputation. You have to be careful to make sure that designers or anyone that would make use of your brand logo understands what they can and cannot do with it.

FONTS

Font is crucial. It also affects your brand’s feel. You have to define what kind of typefaces to use. More so, their size, colors, headline and body typeface. Do not forget to include web and non-web fonts.

COLORS

Since your brand revolves around your logo, and your logo revolves around a particular color set, it is imperative to make sure that the use of colors is specified. Specify primary and secondary colors – when and where to use them. Include color palettes, as well as, formats for both print and web end.

COPY AND TONE OF VOICE

Think of this as another key component to your brands personality. It’s how you would want them to “hear” or “read” you – your character. Defining the way you deal or sound like, especially in the social media, is a great way to be consistent. When there are several people writing or doing the copy in their different ways, your brand would seem to have several personalities. That is why it is key to have these laid out properly.

ICONOGRAPHY

Specify what size, spacing, and where to use icons is significant to promote consistency.

OTHER COMPONENTS THAT CAN BE INCLUDED

There are still several components that you can integrate in your brand book. It’s really up to you and up to the industry your business is in. Some components that you could consider include:

  • Photography style
  • Supporting graphic elements
  • Design layouts and grids
  • Social media profile page applications
  • Brochure/flyer layout options
  • Website layout
  • Signage specifications
  • Advertising treatments
  • Merchandising applications

Who makes a Brand Book?

Usually, brand books are developed by an experienced graphic designer. Sometimes, the agency where your logo is made could do this for you. Even if you already have a logo, you can always hire someone to make your brand book. But of course, it’s better to have the one who made your logo do the brand book for you, as well, to ensure that it flows well with your logo.

It is always better to have a PDF format brand book for you, aside from it being printed. It’ll make things convenient especially during a project where you can always send it via email.

The Bottom Line

Your logo is a significant component of your brand. Several aspects of your business revolve around it, especially in the modern branding world. But your logo alone is not your brand. It’s just a part of your strategy to be identified with. How your logo is treated and used is where your branding unfolds. By having a brand book, you can ensure that everything works consistently to have a strong and solid brand.