Branding Adelaide …It seems to be the ‘trend’ every one wants when they start a business when they see us, but a logo and website is only a small component of branding, so what is branding?
Branding is a disciplined process uses to build awareness and extend customer loyalty. It requires a mandate from the top and readiness to invest in the future.
Branding is about seizing every opportunity to express why people should choose one brand over another. A desire to lead, outpace the competition, and give employees the best tools to reach customers are the reasons why companies leverage branding.
Brand Identity is tangible and appeals to the senses. You can see it, touch it, hold it, hear it, watch it move. Brand Identity fuels recognition, amplifies differentiation, and makes big ideas and meaning accessible. A brand takes disparate elements and unifies them into whole systems.
Design plays an essential role in creating and building brands. Design differentiates and embodies the intangibles – emotion, context and essence – that matter the most to consumers.
Brand strategy is a goal so a business can set itself for how it wants their customers or stakeholders to feel about them.
A great executed brand strategy affects all the areas of a business, and is directly connected to a businesses consumer needs, their emotions, and lastly and most importantly competitive environments.
The more consistent your brand message is, the more likely your business is to attract and maintain loyal customers.
One of our favourite quotes is from Martin Daley (Virgin) which reads the following…
“PEOPLE CAN COPY WHAT YOU DO BUT NOT WHO YOU ARE.”
What is a brand strategy?
A brand strategy can be hard to explain but it involves the following:
- The promise your brand makes to your customers.
- What your brand stands for.
- What personality your brand conveys through its marketing.
Why brand strategy is important?
What is a good branding strategy?
It’s all about deep knowledge about your target audience.
To be more precise, a great brand understands who their potential customers are going to be, what they need, how they think and most importantly where they spend their time. In order to market your service / product well, your brand strategy should be directly aimed towards your target audience.
"Brand is not what you say it is.
It's what they say it is."
What is brand?
A competition creates infinite choices, companies look for ways to connect emotionally with customers, become irreplaceable, and create lifelong relationships. A string brand stands out in a densely crowded marketplace. People fall in love with brands, trust them, and believe in their superiority.
How a brand is perceived affects its success, regardless of whether it’s a start-up, a nonprofit, or a product.
Brands have three primary functions:-
Navigation – Brands help consumers choose from a bewildering array of choices.
Reassurance – Brands communicate the intrinsic quality of the product or service and reassurance customers that they have made the right choice.
Engagement – Brands use distinctive imagery, language and associations to encourage customers to identify with the brand.
Types of brand architecture
Monolithic brand architecture
Characterised by a strong, single master brand. Customers make choices based on brand loyalty. Features and benefits matter less to the consumer than the brand promise and persona. Brand extensions use the parent’s identity, and generic descriptions.
Examples are Google + Google Maps, FedEx + FedEx Express, GE + GE Healthcare, Virgin + Virgin Mobile.
Endorsed brand architecture
Characterised by a marketing synergy between the product or division, and the parent. The product or division, and the parent. The product or division has a clearly defined market presence, and benefits from the association, endorsement and visibility of the brand.
Examples are iPod + Apple, Polo + Ralph Lauren, Orea +Nabisco.
Pluralistic brand architecture
Characterised by a series of well known consumer brands. The name of the parent may be either invisible or inconsequential to the consumer, and known only to the investment community. Many parent companies develop a system for corporate endorsement that is tertiary.
Reasons to invest in brand identity
Compelling branding presents any company, any size, anywhere with an immediately recognisable, distinctive professional image that positions it for success.
An brand identity helps manage the perception of a company and differentiates it from its competitors. A smart system conveys respect for the customer and makes it easy to understand features and benefits.
A new product design or a better environment can delight a customer and create loyalty. An effective identity encompasses such elements as a name that is easy to remember or a distinctive package design for a product.
Whether is is the CEO of a global conglomerate communicating a new vision to the board, a first time entrepreneur pitching to venture capital firms, or a financial advisor creating a need for investment products, everyone is selling.
Nonprofits, whether fundraising or soliciting new volunteers, are continually selling. Strategic brand identity works across diverse audiences and cultures to build an awareness and understanding of a company and its strengths.
By making intelligence visible, effective identity seeks to clearly communicate a company’s unique value proposition. The coherence of communications across various media sends a strong signal to the customer about the laser-like focus of a company.
The goal of all public companies is to increase shareholder value. A brand, or a company is considered to be one of the most valuable company assets.
Small companies and nonprofits also need to build brand identity. Their future success is dependant on building public awareness, preserving their reputations, and upholding their value.
A strong brand identity will help build brand equity through increased recognition, awareness and customer loyalty, which in turn helps make a company more successful.
Managers who seize every opportunity to communicate their company’s brand value and what the brand stands for sleep better at night. They are building a precious asset.
Branding Adelaide architecture refers to the hierarchy of brands within a single company. It is the interrelationship of the parent company, subsidiary companies, products, and services, and should mirror the marketing strategy. It is important to bring consistency, visual and verbal order, thought, and intention to disparate elements to help a company grow and market more effectively.
Effective brand strategy provides a central unifying idea around all behaviour, actions, and communications are aligned. It works across products and services, and is effective over time.
The best brand strategies are so differentiated ad powerful that they deflect the competition. They are easy to talk about, whether you are the CEO or employee.
Brand strategy builds on vision, is aligned with business strategy, emerges from a company’s values and culture, and reflects an in-depth understanding the customer’s needs and perceptions.
Brand strategy defines positioning, differentiation, the competitive advantage, and a unique value proposition.
Brand strategy needs to resonate with all stakeholders, external customers, the media, and internal customers (e.g. employees, the board, core suppliers).
Strategy is a road map that guides marketing, makes it easier for the sales force to sell more, and provides clarity, context, and inspiration to employees.
Who develops brand strategy?
It is usually a team of people, no one doubts it alone. It is a result of an extended dialogue among the CEO, marketing, sales, advertising, public relations, operations and distribution.
Global companies frequently bring in brand strategists: independent thinkers and authorities, strategic marketing firms, and brand consultants.
It often takes someone from the outside who is an experienced strategic and creative thinker to help a company articulate what is already there.
Sometimes a brand strategy is born at the inception of a company by a visionary, such as Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos or Anita Roddick.
Sometimes it takes a visionary leader, such as Lou Gertsner, former CEO of IBM to redefine brand strategy.
- Acknowledge that we live in a branded world.
- Seize every opportunity to position your company in your customers minds.
- Communicate a strong brand idea over and over again.
- Go beyond declaring a competitive advantage.
- Understand the customers. Build on their perceptions, preferences, dreams, values and lifestyles.
- Identify touch points – places in which customers interfere with the product or service.
- Use brand identity to create sensory magnets to attract and retain customers.
Creating a branding Adelaide value is the indisputable goal of most organisations. The quest for sustainability has expanded the value conversation with consumers. Being socially responsible, environmentally conscious, and profitable is the new business model for all brands. A brand is an intangible asset-brand identity, which includes all tangible expression from packaging to websites, upholds that value.
Brand identity is an asset
The brand identity is viewed as a strategic business tool and an asset that seizes every opportunity to build awareness, increase recognition, communicate uniqueness and quality, and express a competitive difference.
Value is preserved through legal protection
Trademarks and trade dress are protected in the range of markets that are served, both locals and global. Employees and vendors are educated about compliance issue.
Supporting every effective brand is a positioning strategy that drives planning, marketing and sales. Brand positioning evolves to create openings in a market that is continually changing, a market in which consumers are saturated with products and messages.Brand positioning takes advantage of changes in demographics, technology, marketing cycles, consumer trends, and gaps in the market to find new ways of appealing to the public.
Positioning is a revolutionary branding concept developed by AI Ries and Jack Trout in 1981. They defined positioning as the scaffolding on which companies build their brands, strategise their planning, and extend their relationships with customers.
Positioning takes account the mix of price, product, promotion and place the four dimensions that affect sales. Ries and Trout were convinced that each company must determine its position in the customer’s mind, considering the needs of the customer, the strengths and weaknesses of that company, and the competitive landscape.
This concept continues to be a fundamental precept in all marketing communications, branding and advertising.
Sneakers – In the 1950s, everyone had one pair of white tennis sneakers. The sneakers were redesigned and repositioned in consumers minds.
They became endowed wit celebrity status and were transformed into symbols of empowerment in the mid 1970s, when Nike and Reebok picked up on the increased interest in health, changed the perception, and raised the price.
Today, sneakers have brand status, and everyone needs more than one pair.
Water – Until the 1980s, tap water tasted good. If consumers thought about water at all, it was only that they should have eight glasses a day. Health trends coincided with the water supply becoming less than the dependable utility it had always been.
The three-martini lunch was no longer hip, yet people still wanted something to cachet to drink. Presto: bottled water reassured people that they were drinking something healthy and ordering something trendy.
And now, tap water has regained its sustainable cache. Plastic begone.
Big-box stores – Target created a new position for itself as a big-box store with products that were designed by some of the best designers in the world.
Target’s positioning is dramatically different from that of Walmart, the biggest store on Earth. While Walmart, is about low price, Target’s positioning is created around appeal (design), as well as necessity and price.
Target has built recognition of its brand to the degree that some ad campaigns feature the Target logo in audacious applications, including fabric patterns and spots on a dog, without mentioning the company name.
The difference between sales and marketing
Sales and marketing use similar approaches. In a sales campaign, the focus is the product. A company that is market – driven focuses on consumers.
The product is defined and finite, but in the minds of clients there are infinite possibilities.
Marketing penetrates into the psyches of customers. The company that markets has its fingers on the pulse of consumers.
The onliness statement
What: The only (category)
How: that (differentiation characteristic)
Who: for (customer)
Where: in (market geography)
Why: who (need state)
When: during (underlying trend)
Example: Harley Davidson is…
What: The only motorcycle manufacturer
How: that makes big, loud motorcycles
Who: for macho guys (and “macho wannabees”)
Where: mostly in the United States
Why: who want to join a gang of cowboys
When: in an era of decreasing personal freedom.
Brand Positioning breaks through barriers of oversaturated markets to create new opportunities.
A big idea functions as an organisational totem pole around which strategy, behaviour, actions and communications are aligned. These simply worded statements are used internally as a beacon of a distinctive culture and externally as a competitive advantage that helps consumers make choices.
Big ideas are a springboard for responsible creative work (thinking, designing, naming) and litmus test for measuring success.
The simplicity of the language is deceptive because the process of getting there is difficult.
It requires extensive dialogue, patience and the courage to say less. A skilled facilitator, experienced in building consensus, is usually needed to ask the right questions and to achieve closure. The result of this work is a critical component in the realisation of a compelling brand strategy and a differentiated brand identity.
A brand becomes stronger when you narrow the focus.
Less is more
Apple – Think different.
Target – Expect more. Pay less.
eBay – The world’s online marketplace.
Coco-Cola – Happiness in a bottle.
Harley Davidson – Rider passion.
To get to the BIG IDEA, you must first understand the brand’s current perception in the market place as follows…
Understanding: Marketing strategy / Competition / Trends / Pricing / Distribution / Research / Environment / Strengths / Weaknesses / Opportunities / Threats
Clarifying: Competitive advantage / Brand strategy
Positioning: Business category
Brand Essence: Key messages / Voice and tone
= BIG IDEA!
It is essential for the branding team to look up from the desktop and see the world through the eyes of the customer. Shopping has become a subset to being engaged and entertained.
The next disciplinary seismic shift in branding is customer experience: building loyalty and lifelong relationships at each point of contact.
The vast amount of purchasing choices is inspiring companies to enhance the brand experience to lure and keep customers.
Every customer contact provides an opportunity to enhance an emotional connection.
A good experience generates positive buzz; a bad experience becomes a lost opportunity sabotaging the brand.
The customer goes to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store for education, the American Girl Place for afternoon tea, and the sushi bar at Whole Foods for a free taste of something new.
“The art of being a great retailer is to preserve the core while enhancing the experience. It is very hard to do and many people have lost their way. We need to push for reinvention and renewal and to extend things without diluting ourselves.” Howard Schultz, Founder and CEO, Starbucks.
The right name is timeless, tireless, easy to say and remember; it stands for something, and facilitates brand extensions. It sound has rhythm. It looks great in the text of an email and in the logo. A well-chosen name is an essential brand asset, as well as a 24/7 workhouse.
A name is transmitted day in and day out, in conversations, emails, voicemails, websites and on the product, business cards and in presentations.
The wrong name for a company, product or service can hinder marketing efforts, through miscommunication or because people cannot pronounce it or remember it. It can subject a company to unnecessary legal risks or alienate a market segment.
Finding the right name that is legally available is a gargantuan challenge. Naming requires a creative, disciplined, strategic approach.
The right name captures the imagination and connects with the people you want to reach.
Naming a company is easy, like naming a baby.
Naming is a rigorous and exhaustive process. Frequently hundreds of names are reviewed prior to finding one that is legally available and works.
I will I know it when I hear it.
People often indicate that they will be able to make a decision after hearing a name once. In fact, good names are strategies and need to be examined, tested, sold and proven.
We will just do the research ourselves.
Various thoughtful techniques must be utilised to analyse the effectiveness of a name to ensure that its connotations are positive in the markets served.
We cannot afford to test the myths.
Intellectual property lawyers need to conduct extensive searches to ensure that there are no conflicting names to make record of similar names. It is too large a risk – names need to last over time.
Qualities of an effective name
It communicates something about the essence of the brand. It supports the image that the company wants to convey.
It is unique, as well as easy to remember, pronounce and spell. It is differentiated from the competition.
Future – orientated
It positions the company for growth, change, and success. It has sustainability and preserves possibilities. It has long legs.
It enables a company to build brand extensions with ease.
It can be owned and trademarked. A domain is available.
It has positive connotations in the markets served. It has no strong negative connotations.
It lends itself well to graphic presentation in a logo, in text, and in brand architecture.
Types of name
Many companies are named after founders: Ben & Jerry’s, Martha Stewart, Ralph Lauren, Mrs. Fields. It might be easier to protect it. It satisfies an ego. The downside is that it is inextricably tied to a real human being.
Things, places, people, animals, processes, mythological names, or foreign words are used in this type of name to allude to a quality of a company. Names like Nike and Patagonia are interesting yo visualise and often can tell a good story.
These names convey the nature of the business, such as Toys “R” Us, Find Great People, or E*TRADE. The benefit of a descriptive name is that it clearly communicates the intent of the company. The potential disadvantage is that a company grows and diversifies, the name may become limiting. Some descriptive names are difficult to protect they are so generic.
These names are difficult to remember and difficult to copyright. IBM and GE became well known after the companies established themselves with the full spelling of their names. There are so many acronyms that new ones are increasingly more difficult to learn and require a substantial investment in advertising. Other examples: USAA, AARP, DKNY and CNN.
Brand architecture refers to the hierarchy of brands within a single company. It is the true interrelationship of the parent company, subsidiary companies, products or services, and should mirror the marketing strategy.
It is important to bring consistency, visual and verbal order, thought and intention to disparate elements to help a company grow and market more effectively.
As companies merge with others and acquire new companies and products, the branding, nomenclature and marketing decisions become exceedingly complex. Decision makers examine marketing, cost, time and legal implications.
The need for brand architecture is not limited to Fortune 100 companies or for-profit companies.
Any company or institution that is growing needs to evaluate which brand architecture strategy will support future growth. Most large companies that sell products and services have a mixture of strategies.
- What are the benefits of leveraging the name of the parent company?
- Does the positioning of our new entity require that we distance it from the parent?
- Will co-branding confuse consumers?
- Do we change the name or build on existing equity even though it was owned by a competitor?
- Should we ensure that the parent company is always visible in a secondary position?
- How do we brand this new acquisition?
Types of brand architecture
Monolithic brand architecture
Characterised by strong, single master brand. Customers make choices based loyalty. Features and benefits matter less to the consumer than the brand promise and persona. Brand extensions use the parent’s identity, and generic descriptors.
For example Google + Google Maps / FedEx + FedEx Express / GE + GE Healthcare / Virgin + Virgin Mobile.
Endorsed brand architecture
Characterised by marketing synergy between the product or division, and the parent. The product or division has a clearly defined market presence, and benefits from the association, endorsement, and visibility of the parent.
For example iPod + Apple / Polo + Ralph Lauren / Oreo + Nabisco / Navy Seals + the US Navy.
Pluralistic brand architecture
Characterised by a series of well-known consumer brands. The name of the parent may be either invisible or inconsequential to the consumer, and known only to the investment community.
Many parent companies develop a system for corporate endorsement that is tertiary.
For example Wharton (University of Pennsylvania), Tang (Kraft Foods) and The Ritz – Carlton (Marriott).
Taglines influence consumers’ buying behaviour by evoking an emotional response. A tagline is a short phase that captures a brand essence, personality and positioning, and distinguishes the company from it’s competitors.
A tagline’s frequent and consistent exposure in the media and in popular culture reinforces its message.
Traditionally used in advertising, taglines are also applied on marketing collateral as the centrepiece of a positioning strategy.
Taglines have a shorter life span than logos. Like advertising campaigns, they are susceptible to marketplace and lifestyle changes.
Deceptively simple, taglines are not arbitrary. They grow out of an intensive strategic and creative process.
A tagline is a slogan, clarifier, mantra, company statement, or guiding principle that describes, synopsizes or helps create an interest.
Differentiated from its competitors
Captures the brand essence and positioning
Easy to say and remember
No negative connotations
Displayed in a small font
Can be protected and trademarked
Evokes an emotional response
Difficult to create
A cross section of taglines
Imperative: Commands action and usually starts with a verb.
YouTube – Broadcast yourself
Nike – Just do it
MINI Cooper – Let’s Motor
Hewlett Packard – Invent
Apple – Think different
Toshiba – Don’t copy. Lead.
Virgin Mobile – Live without a plan
Descriptive: Describes the service, product or brand promise.
Philips – Sense and sensibility
Target – Expect more. Pay less
GE – Imagination at Work
Superative: Positions the company as best in class.
DeBeers – A diamond is forever
BMW – The ultimate driving machine
Luthansa – There’s no better way to fly
National Guard – Americans at their best
Hoechst – Future in life sciences
Provoactive: Thought-provoking frequently a questions
Sears – Where else?
Microsoft – Where are you going today?
Mercedez Benz – What makes a symbol endure?
Dairy Council – Got milk?
Specific: Reveals the business category
HSBC – The world’s local bank
The New York Times – All the news that’s fit to print
eBay – Happy hunting
Minolta – The essentials of imaging
Olay – Love the skin you’re in
Staying on Message
Stay on message is the brand mantra. The best brands speak with one distinctive voice. On the web, in a tweet, in conversations with a salesperson, in a speech given by the president, the company needs to be project the same unified message. It must be memorable, identifiable, and centered on the customer.
Voice and tone work harmoniously with clarity and personality to engage customers, whether they are listening, scanning or reading.
Each word offers an opportunity to inform, inspire, and fuel word of mouth.
Whether it is a call to action or a product description, language must be vital, straight-forward, eloquent and substantive.
Be sure the meaning is accessible to all customers. When developing key messages and company descriptions, preserve the impact cutting through hype and clutter.
Brand messages work well if they distill the essence of the product or service. A memorable message grows with repetition, taking on a life of its own.
Language and communications are intrinsic to all brand expressions. Unified, consistent high-level messages demand buy in all at levels; the commitment must be long term.
Integrated communications require that content and design work together to differentiate the brand.
Fundamental principles of staying on message
Use language that resonates with meaning. Readers will complete the message with layers of their own experience.
Aim for clarity, brevity and precision. A busy executive with only minutes to spare can glean what she needs to know.
Polish and cut as if you were a jeweller. Every sentence will reveal new, intriguing facets to the customer.
Cut through the clutter to produce soundbites that acquire a vibrant identity when they are heard again and again. Consistency is built on repetition.
Powers of three
In brand communications, the unified big idea is ideally supported by three key messages.
Originally developed by Dr. Vincent Covello as a risk communications strategy, message mapping was developed because people at risk can only comprehend three messages.
This thinking is helpful in brand communications and press relations.
Brand Identity Ideals
Ideals are essential to a responsible creative process regardless of the size of a company or the nature of a business. These ideals hold true whether the brand identity engagement is launching an entrepreneurial venture, creating a new product service, repositioning a brand, working on a merger, or creating a retail presence.
Functional criteria do not get to the heart of brand identity. There are over one million trademarks registered with the U.S Patent Trademark Office.
The basic question is what makes one better than another and why?
What are the essential characteristics of the best identities? How do we define the best identities? These ideals are not about a certain aesthetic. Design excellence is a given.
- Bold, memorable and appropriate
- Immediately recognisable
- Provides a consistent image of the company
- Clearly communicates the company’s persona
- Legally protectable
- Has enduring value
- Works well across media and scale
- Works both in black and white and in colour
A compelling vision by an effective, articulate and passionate leader is the foundation and the inspiration for the best brands.
The best brands stand for something – a big idea, a strategic position, a defined set of values, a voice that stands apart.
Brands always compete with each other within category, and at some level, compete with all brands that want our attention, our loyalty, and our money.
Durability is the ability to have longevity in a world in constant flux, characterised by future permutations that no one can be predict.
Authenticity is not possible without an organisation having clarity about its market, positioning, value proposition, and competitive difference.
Whenever a customer experiences a brand, it must feel familiar and have the desired effect. Consistency does not need to be rigid or limiting in order to feel like one company.
An effective brand identity positions a company for change and growth in the future. It supports an evolving marketing strategy.
Organisations need to actively manage their assets, including the brand name, the trademarks, the integrated sales and marketing systems, and the standards.
Building awareness, increasing recognition, communicating uniqueness and quality, and expressing a competitive difference create measurable results.
Bumper to bumper brands clamor for our attention. The world is a noisy place filled with a panoply of choice. Why should consumers choose one brand over others? It is not enough to be different. Brands need to demonstrate their difference and make it easy for customers to understand that difference.
Brand vision requires courage. Big ideas, enterprises, products and services are sustained by individuals who have the ability to imagine what others cannot see and the tenacity to deliver what they believe is possible. Behind every successful brand is a passionate individual who inspires others to see the future in a new way.
Brand identity begins with a conversation about the future. Hearing the vision face to face is critical to the brand identity process. Leaders who take the time to share most audacious dreams and challenges frequently understand the power of symbols and storytelling to build their culture and brands.
At DesignLab we have the ability to listen deeply and synthesize vast amounts of business critical information with an overarching vision. The role of design is to anticipate the future before it happens. Brand identity systems often prototype the possibilities and spark meaningful dialogue.
“Our business practice is focused on offering people avenues to express their idealism, passion, and commitment to causes larger than themselves at every point along our supply chain – from suppliers and partners to shareholders, customers and our own staff.” Jeffrey Hollender, Chief, Seventh Generation.
“Great leaders see the future, set a course and pursue it relentlessly. They conquer the present despite criticism, ambiguity, adversity. They reflect on, learn from, and weave the past. Great leaders possess the humility, optimism, passion, and wisdom to inspire others and evoke their full commitment.” Dr Karol Waslylshyn, President, Leadership Development Forum.
“The desire to connect with others is the most basic human desire. Living a bit more publicly, and with more transparency, can have powerful, positive effects. You meet people, you’re provided with new opportunities, you have the ability to express yourself, and have an authentic open way to live your life.” Evan Williams, co-founder, Twitter Founder.
Being a sustainable business is intrinsic to Herman Miller’s spirit, values-based leadership in design innovation.
The company that designed the Aeron chair is also the company that helped from the US Green Building Council. ‘
Herman Miller believes in design as a way to solve significant problems. Over its history, collaborations with designers like George Nelson, Charles and Ray Eames, Bob Probst, Bill Stump, Studio 7.5, Ayse Birsel and Yves Behar have changed the course of residential furniture and the interior landscape of workplaces worldwide.
As creative director, Steve Frykholm, ensures that design innovation extends to all brand touch points across media.
The best brands stand for something: a big idea, a strategic position, a defined set of values, a voice that stands apart. Symbols are vessels for meaning. They become more powerful with frequent use and when people understand what they stand for. They are the fastest form of communication known to man. Meaning is rarely immediate and evolves over time.
Symbols engage intelligence, imagination, emotion, in a way that no other learning does.
Nike was named after the Greek goddess of victory. Nike’s logo, an abstraction of a wing, designed by Carolyn Davidson in 1971, was meaningful to a company that marketed running shoes. In 1988 Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign became a battle cry for an entire generation of athletes. When consumers see the “swoosh”, as it’s called, they are inspired by the bigger idea to live the slogan.
Apple customers quickly become brand zealots. When they see the Apple logo, they think innovation and delight. The logo was designed by Rob Janoff in 1976, is an apple with a bite out of it a friendly symbol of knowledge, and a lore has it, a symbol of anarchy from the PC world. The original logo was filled with rainbow stripes, but now it is a simple one-colour icon.
When the Mercedes Benz logo was originally created by Gottlieb Daimer in 1909, it consisted of a three pointed star that represented the company’s “domination of the land, sea and air”. Now this brand mark stands first and foremost for luxury and for the fastest cars on the road. The symbol has been dramatically simplified over the last century and remains highly recognisable.
Mitsubishi stands for quality and reliability and embodies a 130 year old commitment to earning the trust and confidence of people worldwide. Protecting the trademark, designed by Yataro Iwasaki, is a top corporate priority. Each diamond represents a core principle, corporate responsibility to society, integrity and fairness, and international understanding through trade.
The CBS eye has been the television network’s symbol for over a half century. It has remained unchanged and has retained its original powerful, all-seeing iconic quality. Originally inspired by the human eye paintings on the side of Shaker barns to ward off evil, it is highly recognised symbol around the world.
“The logo is the gateway to the brand”.
Meaning drives creativity
Designers distill meaning into unique visual form and expression. It is critical that is meaning is explained so that it can be understood, communicated and approved. All elements of the brand identity system should have framework of meaning and logic.
Meaning evolves over time
As companies grow, their businesses may change significantly. Similarly, the meaning assigned to a brand mark will probably evolve from its original intention. The logo is the most visible and frequent reminder of what the brand stands for.
Meaning builds consensus
Meaning is like a campfire. It’s a rallying point to build consensus with a group of decision makers. Agreement on brand essence and attributes builds critical synergy and precedes any presentation of visual solutions, naming conventions or key messages.
A nation’s flag begins as a design. Distinctive colours and shapes are chosen for their symbolic meaning. The flag is unique and dramatically different from other nations. Seeing the flag arouses feelings of pride, passion, or disdain. Logos are the same.
In psychology, authenticity refers to a self-knowledge and making decisions that are congruent with that self-knowledge. Organisations who know who they are, and what they stand for, start the identity process from a position of strength. They create brands that are sustainable and genuine. Brand expression must be appropriate to the organisation’s unique mission, history, culture, values and personality.
Each day 1.2 billion people around the world have a Coco-Cola product. Turner Duckworth revitalised the iconic brand presence and created a visual celebration of the simple pleasure of having a Coke across everything from cups to trucks.
Whether a customer is using a product, talking to a service representative, or making a purchase on their iPhone, the brand should feel familiar and the experiences should have the desired effect.
Coherence is the quality that ensures that all pieces hold together in a way that feels seamless to the customer.
It doesn’t need to be rigid and limiting – rather, it is a baseline that is designed to build trust, foster loyalty, and delight the customer.
How coherence is achieved?
Unified voice, a dynamic central idea.
The company is clear about its positioning and how it want to be perceived . Every communication uses a consistent voice and evolves from a central dynamic idea.
Look and feel
A brand identity system is unified visually and structurally. It builds on cohesive brand architecture and utilises specially designed colours, typeface families, and formats.
One company strategy
As companies diversify into new areas of business, consistency jumpstarts awareness and acceptance of new initiatives.
A high and uniform level of quality imparts a degree of are that is given to each of the company’s products and services.
Clarity and simplicity
Using clear language consistently to communicate about products and services helps the customer navigate choices. Naming that is logical and consistent within the brand architecture also makes it easier for the customer.
Coherence emerges from understanding the needs and preferences of the target customer and designing a brand experience that produces a desired perception. Every touchpoint is considered a brand experience.
Brand innovation requires brands to be flexible. No one can say with certainty which new products or services a company might offer in five years. Or for that matter, what devices we will be using to communicate with one another and how we will be purchasing our worldly goods. Brands that are open to change need to have flexible brand identity systems in place to quickly seize new opportunities in the marketplace.
An effective identity positions a company for change and growth in the future. It needs to be a workhorse in a wide range of customer touch points from the website to an invoice to vehicle or retail environment. A good system embraces the evolution of marketing strategies and methods.
Brand identity systems should have long legs, which means that the marketing of any new product or service is facilitated by a durable and flexible brand architecture and an overarching logic to anticipate the future.
Fresh, relevant and recognisable
The brand identity toolbox encourages creativity within parameters that always keep the brand immediately recognisable. A carefully designed balance between control and creativity makes it possible to adhere to the identity standards while achieving specific marketing objectives.
Great outcomes require vision, commitment and collaboration. Collaboration is not consensus or compromise. It evolves from a thoughtful and genuine focus on problem solving, generating an interdependent, connected approach. It also acknowledges the tension between different viewpoints and different disciplines.
Most brand identity projects involve individuals from various departments with different agendas. Even small organisations have silos that stand in the way of achievement. Brand collaboration requires the ability to suspend judgement, listen carefully and transcend politics.
You may have all the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.
A brand is an asset that needs to be protected, preserved and nurtured. Actively managing the asset requires a top down mandate and a bottom up understanding of why it’s important. The best companies provide their employees with tools that make it easy to be a brand champion. Building, protecting and enhancing the brand requires desire and a disciplined approach to insure its integrity and relevance.
Manage the asset
Perhaps the most important characteristic of a sustainable identity is taking responsibility for actively managing the asset, which includes the brand name, trademarks, system and standards.
A common mistake is assuming that once a company has a new brand identity, the hardest work has been accomplished. In reality the whole process is just the beginning, and the hard work is ahead.
Build The Brand
Managing a brand identity system is not exclusive to large global corporations. Small companies and non profits also need an individual who has the responsibility of overseeing the brand assets and who reports directly to the president.
Conducting Brand Research
Brand identity requires business acumen and design thinking. The first priority is to understand the organisation: its mission, vision, target markets, corporate culture, competitive advantages, strengths and weaknesses, marketing strategies and challenges for the future.
Learning must be focused and accelerated. Clients hire firms wit the intellectual capacity to understand the business as a of ensuring that the solutions are linked to business goals and strategies.
Understanding comes from various sources – from reading strategic documents and business plans to interviewing key stakeholders. Requesting the appropriate information from a client is the first step; it should precede interviewing of any key management or stakeholders.
Interviewing key people face to face provides invaluable insight into the voice, cadence, and personality of an organisation. Frequently, ideas and strategies that may never have been recorded before emerge during an interview.
Understanding may also be achieved by experiencing the organisation from a customer’s perspective, gaining insight from navigating the website, and seeing how easy it is to understand the product offerings, receive a sales pitch, or use the products. The goals are to uncover the brand essence of the company and to understand how the organisation fits into the larger competitive environment.
What should a brand strategy do?
A branding strategy’s aim is to document the crucial thinking that defines the essence of the brand. It also points important business management issues like your brand architecture, and marketing consideration such as market analysis and messaging.
A Brand strategy includes:
• Foundation of your company
• Positioning of your company
• Market segmentation
• Messaging and orientation
How we build a brand strategy?
When DesignLab creates a brand strategy with you, we details and discuss all of the above components with you within the context of your specific business synopsis and requirements.
We run a series of workshops with our key decision makers within your company, we will guide you through the process of creating a marketing map that clearly defines your intended brand and encourages a united brand front across all business functions.
To maximise branding consistency and strengthen your brand, your brand strategy document should become the key reference point for every brand initiative. Your strategy will be used to inform the development of your brand identity and all the expressions of your brand – from logos, website, signage, stationary brochures, advertising – we create for you.
Usability testing is a research tool used by designers, engineers and marketing teams to develop and refine new existing products. This method can be extended to any part of the customer service. Unlike other research methods, usability testing relies on ‘live’ customer experience with a product. Through the careful observation of a handful of typical users, product development teams can acquire immediate feedback on the product’s strengths and weaknesses. By documenting the actual experiences of people using the product, the development team can isolate and remedy any design flaws before releasing it to the market.
The benefits of this approach is that it makes the end user’s needs central to the product development process, rather than an afterthought.
Competitive Brand Auditing
A competitive audit is a dynamic, data-gathering process. Simply put, this audit examines the competition’s brands, key messages and identity in the market place, from brandmarks and taglines to ads and websites. More than ever, it is easy to gather information on the internet; however, a company should not stop there. Finding ways to experience the competition as a customer often provides valuable insights.
The greater the insight into the competition, the greater the competitive edge. Positioning the company in relationship to the competition is both a marketing and a design imperative. “Whys should the customer choose our products or services over those of others?” is the marketing challenge. “We need to look and feel different” is the design imperative.
The breadth and depth of this audit can vary widely depending on the nature of the company and the scope of the project. Frequently, a company has its own competitive intelligence.
Brand Marketing Audit
Repositioning an organisation, revitalising and redesigning an existing identity system, or developing a new identity for a merger requires an examination of the communications and marketing tools an organisation has used in the past. Identifying what has worked and what has been successful or even dysfunctional provides valuable learning in the creation of a new identity. Mergers present the most challenging audit scenarios because two companies that were competitors are now becoming aligned.
Marketing audits are used to methodically examine and analyse all marketing, communication, and identity systems, both existing systems and those out of circulation. The process takes a magnifying glass to the brand and its multiple expressions over time. To develop a vision for an organisation’s brand in the future, you must have a sense of it’s history.
Inevitably, something of worth has been tossed out over time – a tagline, a symbol, a phrase, a point of view – for what seemed to be a good reason at the time. There might be something from the past that should be resuscitated or repurposed.
Interviewing key stakeholders
Interviewing key management is best done face to face. Recording the interview facilitates eye contact and better interview. If necessary, interviewing can be done over the telephone. Building brand trust is another agenda. The quality of the questions and the rapport established in the interview set the tone for an important relationship. Encourage individuals to be brief and succinct.
Do not provide questions to advance, if possible, since spontaneous may be more insightful. It is absolutely critical for us to read through baseline information about the company before conducting any interview.
Listening to the organisations vision and strategies for the future forms the nucleus of the creative process for a new identity.
Brand Language Audit
A language audit has many names. Voice audit, message audit, and content audit are among the most popular. Regardless of the moniker, it is the Mount Everist of audits. Every organisation aspires to conduct one, but very few accomplish it or go beyond base camp one. Although language is an intrinsic part of the marketing audit, many companies do not have tackle ‘voice’ until they have designed a new brand identity.
The courageous look at content and design at the same time, revealing the entire spectrum of how language is used. Analysing the intersection of customer experience, design and content us an intensive and rigorous endeavour that demands the left brain and right brain to work in tandem.
Brand Audit Readout
An audit readout signals the end of the research and analysis phase. It is a formal presentation made to the key learnings from the interviews, research and audits. The biggest challenge is organising a vast amount of information into a succinct and strategic presentation. The audit readout is valuable assessment tool for senior management, and a critical tool for the creative team to do responsible, differentiated work. It is a tool used a reference throughout the entire process.
It is rare that an audit readout does not engender epiphanies. Although marketing and communications may not be top of mind for some management teams, seeing a lack of consistency across media, or seeing how much more discipline the competition uses in it’s marketing systems, is a real eye opener. The objective of the audit is to open up the possibilities that a more strategic, focused brand identity system can bring.
The web has made us all global companies. Im cyberspace, on our desktops, and on our smart phones, geography has become more irrelevant. While globalisation has blurred the distinctions among cultures, the best brands pay attention to cultural differences.
Cultural insight is critical to anyone who is building a brand. Naming, logo design, image development, colour, key messages and retail spaces require the creative team to pay attention to connotation and the complexity of subtle cultural differences. The history of marketing is filled with too many stories about companies offending the very market and they were trying to impress. Assumptions and stereotypes stand in the way of building brands that understand customers and celebrate their uniqueness.
Cultures are intensely complex. Customs, attitudes, and preferences are often too subtle for the visitor to notice.
Diversity – America is diverse. The twenty-first century is diverse. Names, symbols and brand attributes need to have no string negative connotations in ethnic and religious communities.
Colour – Each culture has its own unique heritage. In China the colour white has historically associated with mourning.
Market Niche – The process should always begin with an understanding of the target market. For example, American Latino populations include people from many countries who speak Spanish differently, have different accents and slang, and have a different physical characteristics.
Naming – Certain names in English may have unintended connotations in different languages. For example according to naming lore, Chevy named one of its models “Nova’, discovering after it was launched that it means “won’t go” in Spanish.
Change and contradictions – A negative association in one culture might mean a positive association in another. Thoughtful analysis facilitates responsible creative solutions.
Symbols – Visual iconography has the ability to transcend language barriers. However, a symbol with positive or sacred connotations in one culture may have exactly the opposite connotation in another.
Assume nothing. “Latino”, “Asian”, or “Chinese” is not “a’ market.
Research everything. Test everything. Observer everything. Test it again.
Submerge your team in the culture(s) of your customers with native experts. Explore perceptions, values, behaviours and trends.
Identify experts to trust. Subtle cultural differences and trends are often invisible to outsiders and understood by the native inhabitant.
Identify and eliminate stereotypes and assumptions.
Be sensitive to nuance.
A process for success
The brand identity process demands a combination of investigation, strategic thinking, design excellence and project management skills. It requires an extraordinary amount of patience, and obsession with getting it right, and an ability to synthesize vast amounts of information.
Regardless of the nature of the client and the complexity of the engagement, the process remains the same. What changes is the depth with which each phase is conducted, the length of time and the number of resources allocated, and the size of the team, on both the identity firm and client sides.
The process is defined by distinct phases with local beginnings and endpoints, which facilitate decision making of the appropriate intervals. Eliminating steps or reorganising the process might present an appealing way to cut coast and time, but doing so can pose substantial risks and impede long term benefits. The process, when done right, can produce remarkable results.
Narrowing the Focus
It is never enough to examine a company’s current business strategy, core values, target markets, competitors, distribution channels, technology and competitive advantage.
It is crucial to stand back and look at the big picture – what are the economic, sociopolitical, global or social trends that will affect the brand in the future? What are the drivers that have made the company successful in the past?
Interviews with senior management, employees, customers and industry experts will provide an intimate glance at the uniqueness of a company.
Often the CEO has a clear picture of an ideal future and all it’s possibilities. A good consultant will hold up a mirror and say “This is what you have told me and I heard it again from your customers and your sales force. And this is why it is powerful”. It is important to look for the gold.
Sometimes old ideas that are framed in a new way do not resonate immediately.
Documenting fundamental precepts of the brand is the most important task. What seems to most like a binding flash of the obvious is frequently not. Robust discussions are facilitated by a simple, clear one page diagram, as opposed to a twenty page treatise that no one has read or remembers. Getting key decision makers to agree begins the creative process on a solid shared understanding of the brand.
The second objective is to write the creative brief, which is a road map for the creative team. Never write it until the brand is approved.
The best briefs are succinct and strategic, and approved by the most senior levels in an organisation early in the process. If these briefs are approved, the balance of the project is more likely to be on track and successful.
The briefs are a result of a collaborative process – that is, a result of the best thinking and ability to agree on brand attributes and positioning first, and the desired endpoint and criteria of the process second.
Designed with an almost infinite variety of shapes and personalities, brandmarks can be assigned to a number of general categories.
From literal through symbolic, from word-driven to image-driven, the world of brandmarks expands each day.
The boundaries among these categories are pliant, and many marks may combine elements of more than one category.
Is there a compelling practical reason to categorise them? Although there are no hard and last fast rules to determine the best of visual identifier for a particular type of company, the designer’s process is to examine a range of solutions based on both aspirational and functional criteria.
The designer will determine a design approach that best serves the needs of the client and create a rationale for each distinct approach.
A signature is the structured relationship between a logotype, brand mark and tagline. Some programs accommodate split signatures that allow the mark and the logotype to be separated.
Other variations may include a vertical or horizontal signature that allows choices based on application need.
The designer is the medium between the client and the audience. A mark should embody and imply the client’s business goals and positioning, and address the end user’s needs and wants.
Topology of marks
A freestanding acronym, company name, or product name that has been designed to convey a brand attribute or positioning. Examples are such companies like IKEA, eBay, Google and Nokia.
A unique design using one or more letterforms that act as a mnemonic device for a company name.
A mark in which the company name is inextricably connected to a pictorial element.
A mark in which the company name is inextricably connected to a pictorial element.
A symbol that conveys a big idea, and often embodies strategic ambiguity.
Brand naming is not for the faint of heart! It is a complex, creative, and iterative process requiring experience in linguistics, marketing research, and trademark law. Even for the experts, finding a name for today’s company, product or service that can be legally protected presents a formidable challenge.
Various brainstorming techniques are used to generate hundreds, if not thousands, of options. Culling the large list takes skill and patience.
Names need to be judged against positioning goals, performance criteria, and availability within a sector. It is natural to want to fall in love with a name, but the bottom line is that meaning and associations are built over time. Agreement is not easy to achieve, especially when choices seem limited. Contextual testing is smart, and helps decision making.
Below is the process of naming:
Examine brand goals and target market needs.
Evaluate existing names.
Examine competitor names.
Identify brainstorming techniques.
Determine search mechanisms.
Develop making process.
Organise reference resources.
Create naming criteria
Create numerous names.
Organise in categories and themes.
Look at hybrids and mimetics.
Explore variations / iterations on a theme.
Designing identity: overview
Investigation and analysis are complete; the brand brief has been agreed upon, and the creative design process begins. Design is an iterative process that seeks to integrate meaning with form. The best designers work at the intersection of strategic imagination, intuition, design excellence and experience.
Smart research can be a catalyst for change; misguided research can stand in the way of innovation. Market research is the gathering, evaluation, and interpretation of data affecting customer preferences for products, services and brands. Understanding and revealing new insights about attitudes, awareness and behaviour of prospects and customers often indicate opportunities for future growth.
According to Christine Ecklund, President,Christine Ecklund & Associates, “The market research departments of more and more companies are renaming themselves ‘Consumer Insights’ departments as the value added is recognised to be the insight gained from the data, not just the execution of the research.”
Research must be appropriately designed and correctly analysed to ensure findings are accurate and misleading. Although anyone can access secondary research on the web, research itself does not provide answers. Interpreting data is a skill in itself. There are many proprietary research tools and client intelligence competencies to help global corporations develop brand strategy. Smaller branding firms may partner with market research firms and, in many cases, are provided with existing research reports about customer preferences or marketing segments.
Quantitive research reveals customers’ perceptions, beliefs, feelings and motives. Findings are often rich in context and may offer new sights and perspectives about the brand.
Quantitive research creates statistically valid market information. The aim is to provide enough data from enough different people to enable companies to predict – what might happen.
A large group of people is asked exactly the same questions in precisely the same way. The sample is a microcosm that has the same characteristics of the overall target market.
Researchers attempt to project the opinions of a relatively small number of people (the sample) to model the opinions of the entire population.
One of several ways to gather primary research data. This approach uses the internet to gather information from respondents as they sit as their own computers. Typically potential respondents receive an email inviting them to take a survey with a link to the survey itself.
Logotype + signature
A logotype is a word (or words) in a determined font, which may be standard, modified or entirely redrawn. Frequently, a logotype is juxtaposed with a symbol in a formal relationship called the signature. Logotypes need to be not only distinctive, but durable and sustainable. Legibility at various scales and in a range of media is imperative, whether a logotype is silk-screened on the side of a ballpoint pen or illuminated in an external sign twenty stories off the ground.
The best logotypes are a result of careful typographic exploration. Designers consider the attributes of each letterform, as well as the relationships between letterforms. In the best logotypes, letterforms may be redrawn, modified and manipulated in order to express the appropriate personality and positioning of the company.
The designer begins his or her process by examining hundreds of typographic variations. Beginning with the basics – for example, whether the name should be set all in caps or caps and lowercase – the designer proceeds to look at classic and modern typefaces, roman and italic variations, and various weights, scales and combinations.
The designer then proceeds to manipulate and customise the logotype. Each decision is driven by visual and performance considerations, as well as by wha the typography itself communicates.
A signature is the specific and nonnegotiable designed combination of the brand mark and the logotype. The best signatures have specific isolation zones to protect their presence. A company may have numerous signatures, for various business lines or with and without a tagline.
Colour is used to evoke and express personality. It stimulates brand association and accelerates differentiation. As consumers we depend on the familiarity of Coca-Cola red. We don’t need to read the type on a Tiffany gift box in order to know where the gift was purchased. We see colour and a set of impressions comes to us.
In the sequence of visual perception, the brain reads colour after it registers a shape and before it reads content. Choosing a colour for a new identity requires a core understanding of colour theory, a clear vision of how the brand needs to be perceived and differentiated, and an ability to master consistency and meaning over a broad range of media.
While some colours are used to unify an identity, other colours may be used functionality to clarify brand architecture, through differentiating products or business lines. Traditionally the primary brand colour is assigned to the logotype, business descriptor, or tagline.
Families of colour are developed to support a broad range of communications needs. Ensuring optimum reproduction of the brand colour is an integral element of standards, and part of the challenge of unifying colours across packaging, printing, signage and digital media.
Typography is a core building block of an effective identity program. Companies like Apple, Mercedes-Benz and Citi are immediately recognisable in great due to the distinctive and consistent typographical style that is used with intelligence and purpose throughout thousands of applications over time.
A unified and coherent company image is not possible without typography that has a unique personality and an inherent legibility. Typography must support the positioning strategy and information hierarchy. Identity program typography needs to be sustainable and not on the cure of a fad.
Thousands of fonts have been created by renowned typographers, designers, and type foundries over the centuries, and new typefaces are being created each day. Some identity firms routinely design a proprietary font for a client.
Choosing the right font requires a basic knowledge of the breadth of options and a core understanding of how effective typography functions. Issues of functionality differ dramatically on a form, a pharmaceutical package, a magazine ad, and a website.
The typeface needs to be flexible and easy to use, and it must provide a wide range of expression.
As bandwidth increases, sound is quickly becoming the next frontier for brand identity. Many of our appliances and devices talk to us, voice-activated prompts let us schedule a FedEx pickup without human interface, and the elegant voice of James Earl Jones is the gateway to Verizon Nationwide 411.
The ringtone revolution is here. Individuals program their cell phones so that distinctive rings signal a certain someone and a huge industry has been born in 30 second slices of sound. Videos populate websites and emails. The sound of silence is a has been.
Whether you are at the Buddha Bar in Paris or the shoe department at Nordstrom, sound puts you in the mood. Sound also sends a signal: ‘Hail to the Chief’ announces the president’s arrival, and Looney Tunes cartoons always ends with “Tha-a-a-t’s all folks.”
A foreign accent adds cachet to almost any brand. Being put on hold might means a little Bach cantata, a humorous sound sales pitch, or a radio station (don’t you hate that?).
Bringing brands to life is facilitated by a world in which bandwidth no longer constricts creativity and communication. Although the tools and skills to animate trademarks are available, very few creative professionals have taken full advantage of the medium to communicate a competitive difference. Ideally the animated version of an identity is part of the initial conceptualisation, rather than an afterthought. Motion must support the essence and meaning of an identity, not trivialise it.
People think in motion. There’s no better way to build a brand, tell stories, and bring a brand to life or bring new life to a brand.
The first major design presentation is the decisive moment. A design team has worked hard to get to this point, and it is the culmination of months of work. The expectations and stakes are high. Clients are usually impatient during the planning and analysis phase since they are so focused on the end goal, which is their new brand identity. There is usually a sense of urgency around scheduling this meeting. Everyone is ready to hit the ground running, even though the implementation phase of the work is not imminent.
Careful planning is essential to ensure the successful outcome of the meeting. The smartest, most appropriate, and most creative solutions can get annihilated in a mismanaged presentation. The larger the group of decision makers, the more difficult the meeting and the decision are to manage. Even presenting to one decision maker alone demands planning in advance.
Delivering a good presentation is something that a professional learns through experience and observation. The best presentations stay focused on the agenda, keep the meeting moving within the scheduled time, set out clear and reasonable expectations, and are based on a decision-making process that has been predetermined. The best presenters are well prepared and have practiced in advance. They are prepared to deal with any objections and can discuss solutions strategically, aligning them with the overall brand goals of the company. Larger projects routinely involve more than one presentation and numerous levels of building.
Brand Business Cards
Each day millions of people say “May I have your card?”. This commonplace business ritual looks different around the globe. In Korea you show respect for a colleague by presenting a business card in two hands. In the Far East most corporate business cards are two sided, with one side, for example in Korean, and the other side in English.
The Western-size business card is slowly becoming the standard around the world, although many countries still use variations of a larger card.
In the nineteenth century, Victorian calling cards were elaborately decorated, oversized designs to showcase a name. Today the designer is faced with so much information to include from email to voicemail to mobile phone and 800 numbers, double addresses and domains that the small business card is a challenge even for the most experienced designers. Information by necessity, is flowing to the back side.
The business card is a small and portable marketing tool. The quality and intelligence of the information are a reflection on the card holder and her company. In the future a high tech business card may double as an identification card and include a user’s fingerprint or other biometric data.
The art of correspondence and the letterhead have lasted from the quill pen to the typewriter and the computer. Although voicemails and emails have become the most widely used form of communication, the letterhead is not yet obsolete in the twenty-first century. The letter still comes to us in the same way that has been coming to us since Ben Franklin become the first US postmaster-unless, of course, it comes via FedEx, or as an attachment.
The letterhead, offset-printed on fine paper, remains a core application in the brand identity system even with the electronic letterheads. The letterhead with an original signature is still an important conduit for doing business. It is regarded as a credible proof of being in business, and it frequently carries an important message or contractual agreement. It is still regarded as the most formal type of business communication and has an implicit dignity. For many years banks required businesses to write a letter on their letterhead in order to open an account.
You are waiting for your cafe latte and see a set of brochures in a stylish rack. You go to the doctor, and each aspect of your health care has it’s own publication. You’re in charge of making a buying decision at your office and your sales representative has a collection of information outlining their history, case studies, and advantages for selecting their product over a competitor.
The best collateral communicates the right information at the right time with a customer: discussing roasting techniques during that cafe latte: outlining surgery preparation before that big day; or sales literature that makes your company feel more confident about the big purchase.
Engaging content, sound, movement and colour create a walking, talking interactive company experience, bringing the brand personality to life. A website is the next best thing to reality, and in some cases it is more efficient, more user-friendly and faster. The customer is in charge. The internet provides the customer with a no-pressure sales environment, and at the click of mouse, a competitor is waiting.
The best websites understand their customers and respect their needs and preferences. A company’s website should quickly answer these questions: “Who is this company? Why does anyone need to know? What’s in it for me?”.
Expressing an authentic brand identity requires communication architects, information architects, designers and engineers. Websites are increasingly used as portals for media tools.
From logos to message points, downloading from a website enables employees to jumpstart marketing and communications from anywhere in the world.
From city streets and skylines, through museums and airports, signage functions as identification, information and advertising.
Effective retails signage increases revenues and intelligent way finding systems support and enhance the experience of a destination.
In the eighteenth century, laws required innkeepers to have their signs high enough to clear an armoured man on horseback. In the twenty-first century, cities and towns around the world routinely revised sign codes in order to create environments that support the image that a community wants to portray, and to regulate standards to protect public safety.
Packages are brands that you trust enough to take into your home. We are continually comforted and cajoled by packaging shapes, graphics, colours, messages and containers. The shelf is probably the most competitive marketing environment that exists.
From new brands to extending or revitalising existing product lines, considerations of brand equity, cost, time and competition are often complex.
Packaging design is a speciality and it routinely involves collaboration with industrial designers, packaging engineers, and manufacturers. In the food and pharmaceutical industry, it is regulated by the government. Package design is only one part of the puzzle involved in a product launch.
Timetables include packaging approval and production, sales force meetings, manufacturing and distribution and advertising.
Building brand awareness on the road is easier than ever. Vehicles are a new, large, moving canvas on which almost any type of communication is possible. Whether on an urban thruway at rush hour or a remote country road at sunset, the goal remains the same, make the brand identity immediately recognisable.
For trains, to planes, to large vans and small delivery trucks, vehicles are omnipresent. Vehicle graphics are experienced from ground level, from other vehicles, such as cars and buses, and from the windows of buildings. Designers need to consider scale, legibility, distance, surface colour, and the effects of movement, speed and light. Designers also need to consider the life of the vehicle, the durability of the signage medium, and safety requirements and regulations that may vary state by state.
The Goodyear blimp and hot-air balloons are brand identities taking flight. Many vehicles carry other messages, from tag lines and phone numbers to graphic elements and vehicle identification numbers. Simplicity should rule the road.
Clothing communicates. From the friendly orange apron at Hom Depot, to a UPS delivery person in brown, a visible and distinctive uniform simplifies customer transactions.
A uniform can also signal authority and identification. From the airline captain to the security guard, uniforms make customers more at ease.
Finding a waiter in a restaurant may be as simple as finding the person with the black t-shirt and the white pants. On the playing field, professional teams require uniforms that will not only distinguish them from their competitors, but also look good on television.
A lab coat is required in a laboratory, as are scrubs in an operating room, and both are subject to regulations and compliance standards.
The best uniforms engender pride and are appropriate to the workplace and environment. Designers carefully consider performance criteria, such as durability and mobility. The way an employee is dressed affects the way the individual and her organisation are perceived.
A brand identity that is distinctive and differentiated from its competitors will always help a client legally protect this valuable and critical asset.
Almost anything that serves to distinguish products or services from those of a competitor can serve as a trademark. Names, symbols, logotypes, tag lines, slogans, packaging and product design, colour and sound are all brand identity assets that can be registered with the federal government and protected from future litigation.
There are different points in the brand identity process when research is conducted to determine whether there are any conflicting marks, names or taglines.
Experienced legal council is needed to assess the risk of trademark infringement.
Managing brand identity assets requires enlightened leadership and a long-term commitment to doing everything possible the brand. The mandate to build the brand must come from the top.
Brand is a living thing. It must be nurtured, attended to, and disciplined in order to survive and grow.
If management’s commitment is tepid and the resources committed are minimal, the original investment will most likely deliver a dismal rate of return.
To the surprise of many clients, the brand identity process does not end after corporate letterhead and business cards are printed. This is when the real work really begins.
Because it takes quite a while to get to this point of visible accomplishment, many managers assume that the time, money, and energy spent thus far represent the majority of the investment. Wrong. This is just the beginning. Creating the brand identity was the easy part. Managing these assets well is harder.
Changing Brand Identity
Rare is the person in an organisation who embraces change. Introducing a new name and identity to an existing organisation or to merged entities is exponentially more difficult than creating a brand for a new company.
Changing brand identity means that whatever was on a manager’s plate now doubles. The to-do list is extremely long, even in a small company.
New brand identity implementation requires a vigilant strategic focus, advance planning, and obsession with detail.
Launching Brand Identity
Get ready. Get set. Launch. A launch represents a huge marketing opportunity. Smart organisations seize this chance to build brand awareness and synergy.
Different circumstances demand different launch strategies – from multimedia campaigns, company wide meetings, and road tours, to a T-shirt for each employee. Some organisations execute massive visible change, including external signage and vehicles, virtually overnight, while others choose a phased approach.
Small organisations may not have the budget for a multimedia campaign. Smart organisations create a sales call opportunity to present a new card, or send PDF announcement to each customer, colleague, and vendor.
Others use existing marketing channels, such as inserting brochures with monthly statements.
In nearly every launch, the most important audience is a company’s employees. Regardless of the scope and budget, a launch requires a comprehensive plan.
Building Brand Champions
Engaging employees in the meaning of the brand and the thinking behind it is one of the best investments that a company can make. Organisational development consultants have long known that long-term success in directly influenced by the way employees share in their company’s culture – its values, stories, symbols and heroes.
Traditionally the CEO and the marketing department were the most visible brand champions – individuals who understood and could articulate a company’s core values, vision and brand essence.
Companies all around the world are beginning to develop compelling ways of sharing the brand essence – from road shows, to online branding tools and guides, to special events.
What was once a standards and guidelines toolkit for creative firms has evolved into a brand-building tool for employees.
Internal Design Teams
Internal design teams are the unsung heroes who work across organisational silos to build the brand and help design the customer experience, one touchpoint at a time. Increasingly, experienced design directors are joining senior management teams to oversee and build the brand, manage the design group, and identify specialists needed. Companies that value design as a core competency tend to be more successful in their marketing and communications.
Brand identity programs are usually developed by outside firms who have the right qualifications, experience, time and staffing. The biggest mistake that external consulting firms and companies make is not including the internal design group in the initial research phase.
Brand books, spirit books, and thought books inspire, educate and build brand awareness. Brand strategy cant influence anyone if it stays in a conference room, in someone’s head, or on page 3 of a marketing plan. The vision of a company and the meaning of a brand need a communications vehicle that is accessible, portable and personal. Online brand sites are more frequently publishing “Who we are” and “What our brands stands for”, in addition to standards, templates and guidelines.
Timing is everything. Companies in the midst of organisational change need to convey “where the ship is going”. Frequently, the brand identity process sparks a new clarity about the brand. Building awareness about how each employee can help build the brand is smart.
Designing, specifying, ordering and printing or fabricating elements of a new brand identity system are all dependant on a set of intelligent standards and guidelines.
Good solid standards save time, money and frustration. The size and nature of an organisation affect the depth and breadth of the content and how marketing materials are conceived and produced in the future.
Following is an in-depth composite that can be used as a reference for building an outline. Usually printing and fabrication specifications accompany design specifications.
Legal and nomenclature guideline considerations are essential. Some guidelines include order forms for business cards and other applications.
Standards + Guidelines
Managing the consistency and integrity of a brand identity system is facilitated by intelligent standards and guidelines that are easily accessible to all internal and external partners who have the responsibility to communicate about the brand.
Brand identity guidelines have become more accessible, dynamic and easier to produce. The range of formats includes online standards, CDs, posters, fact sheets, PDFs, brochures and binders. Now even the smallest nonprofit can provide streamlined standards reproduction files, and electronic templates.
Building a brand is progressively viewed as the shared responsibility of each and every employee. Adhering to the guidelines requires discipline and vigilance.
Most importantly it saves money, time, and frustration, and helps build the brand. The best branding tools communicate for “What does the brand stand for”, in addition to providing brand identity information.
Online branding tools
The web has transformed brand management consolidating brand assets and establishing 24/7 access to user-friendly guidelines, tools, and templates. Scalable, modular sites are always current, evolving as a company grows.
Many sites feature brand vision and attributes, helping to build a shared vocabulary. Robust sites support strategic marketing, consistent communications and quality execution.
Initially envisioned to house logos and image libraries, sites now encompass brand strategy, content development guidelines, and web resources.
Creative firms and external vendors are assigned passwords to access key messages, logos, image libraries, glossaries, intellectual property compliance and a panoply of smart resources and content.
Sites may also be used for online ordering and transactions. Access to certain may be limited to user groups. The success of online branding tools is easily monitored through usage statistics.
Maintaining the quality of reproduction in a world where tools are continually changing is an ongoing challenge. Users have urgent needs, different levels of proficiency, various software platforms, and a disparate understanding of digital files, colour and quality.
An asset management system needs to be diligent about naming, organisation, storage, retrieval and overall usability of file formats.
The designer’s responsibilities are to test all files in numerous formats and to develop a retrievable system that is logical and sustainable. The manager’s responsibility is to determine who has access to files and how best to field all requests.
It is no longer unusual to download logo files and images from a website’s media portal. Clear legal guidelines, forms and contact information help protect the assets.
Finding your way around reproduction files:-
What type of image is it?
It is a photographic image with continuous tones or is it a graphic image with solid colour, crisp edges and line art?
How is it going to be reproduced?
Professional printing office printing and screen display have different file requirements. Some documents may be viewed on screen or printed out.
What colour space is needed?
Colour information is included in a file and interpreted by the output device.
Professional printing techniques use spot colour inks (such as Pantone) and four colour process inks, which builds out of cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK). Colour inkjet or laser printers use CMYK toner.
Local and global public and private, these highly successful projects created by branding firms and design consultancies inspire and exemplify original, flexible, lasting solutions.
Amazon.com seeks to be the worlds most customer centric company, the place where people discover anything they want to buy online.
Originally an online bookstore, Amazon.com is positioned as the webs biggest retail store, selling music, software, toys, tools, electronics, fashion and housewares. Founded in 1994 the company has 30 millions customers and ships to 150 countries.
Sequence of cognition
Brand awareness and recognition are facilitated by a visual identity that is easy to remember and immediately recognisable.
Visual identity triggers perceptions and unlocks associations of the brand. Sight, more than any other sense, provides information about the world.
Through repeated exposure, symbols become so recognisable that companies such as Target, Apple and Nike have actually dropped the logotype from their corporate signatures in national advertising.
Colour becomes a mnemonic device – when you see a brown truck out of the corner of your eye, you know it is a UPS truck.
Identity designers are in the business of managing perception through the integration of meaning and distinctive visual form.
Understanding the sequence of visual perception and cognition provides valuable insight into what will work best.
The sequence of cognition
The science of perception examines how individuals recognise and interpret sensory stimuli. The brain acknowledges and remembered and recognised shapes first.
Visual images can be remembered and recognised directly, while words must be decoded into meaning.
Reading is not necessary to identify shapes, but identifying shapes necessary to read. The brain acknowledges distinctive shapes that make a faster imprint on memory.
Colour is second in the sequence. Colour can trigger an emotion and evoke a brand association. Distinctive colours need to be chosen carefully, not only to build brand awareness but to express differentiation. Companies such as Kodak and Tiffany, have trademarked their core brand colours.
The brain takes more time to process language, so content is third in the sequence behind shape and colour.
A wordmark is a freestanding word of words. It may be a company name or an acronym. The best wordmarks imbue a legible word(s) with distinctive font characteristics, and may integrate abstract elements or pictoral elements.
The distinctive titled “E” in “Dell” activates and strengthens the one-syllable name. The IBM acronym has transcended enormous technological change in its industry.
The single letter is frequently used by designers as a distinctive graphic focal point for a brandmark.
The letter is always a unique and proprietary design that is infused with significant personality and meaning.
The letterform acts as a mnemonic device, e.g. the ‘M’ for Motorola, the ‘M’ for McDonalds.
A pictorial mark uses a literal and recognisable image. The image itself may allude to the name of the company or its mission, or it may be symbolic of a brand attribute.
For example the eagle of the US Postal Service is both a symbol of America and a symbol of speed and dependability.
An abstract mark uses visual form to convey a big idea or a brand architecture. These marks, by their nature, can provide strategic ambigity, and effectively for large companies with numerous and unrelated divisions. Marks, such as Chase’s have survived a series of mergers easily. Abstract marks are especially effective for service-based and technology companies, however, they are extremely difficult to design well.
Emblems are trademarks featuring a shape inextricably connected to the name of the organisation. The elements are never isolated. Emblems look terrific on a package, as a sign, or as an embroidered patch on a uniform.
It’s alive! A character trademark embodies brand attributes or values. Characters quickly become central to advertising campaigns, and the best ones become cultural icons cherished by children and customers alike.
Along with their distinctive appearance and personality, many characters have recognisable voices and jingles, enabling them to leap off the silent shelf space onto your desktop.
While the ideas that drive the personification may be timeless and universal, characters rarely age well and usually need to be redrawn and dragged into contemporary culture.
The Michelin Man, well over 100 years old, has been modified numerous times. As moms became working women, Betty Crocker between generations. The Columbia Pictures goddess received a major facelift, but she has never looked happy and satisfied holding that torch.
Each Olympics creates a mascot that will be animated and de-animated in thousands of stuffed animals. Who knew a gecko could sell car insurance?
Elsie the Cow was created in 1939 by Stuart Peabody, Director of Advertising for Borden Dairy Products.
In 1984, on the eve of the presidential election, 88% of the American public knew Elsie was, compared to 84% for the Republican candidate, Thomas Dewey.
In 1957, in Borden’s centennial year, Elsie has twins. A name-the-calves contest drew 3 million entries via email.
Look and feel
Look and feel is the visual language that makes a system proprietary and immediately recognisable. It also expresses a point of view. This support of colour, imagery, typography, and composition is what makes an entire program cohesive and differentiated.
In the best programs, designers create an overall look that resonates in the mind of the customer and rises above the clutter of a visual environment.
All elements of a visual language should be intentionally designed to advance the brand strategy, each doing its part and working together as a whole to unify and distinguish.