What’s meant by word brand?
The words brand and branding are thrown around liberally by all sorts of people in different contexts and with different meanings in mind, so it may help to start by asking: what exactly is a brand?
The simplest answer is that a brand is a set of associations that a person (or group of people) makes with a company, product, service, individual or organisation.
These associations may be intentional – that is, they may be actively promoted via marketing and corporate identity, for example – or they may be outside the company’s control. For example, a poor press review for a new product might harm the product manufacturer’s overall brand by placing negative associations in people’s minds.
To illustrate the idea, let’s take what is arguably the best-known product – or brand – in the world: Coca-Cola.
Although essentially just a soft drinks product, Coca-Cola the drink is eclipsed by the sheer might of Coca-Cola the brand. This phenomenon is best summed up by the following quote from a Coca-Cola executive:
If Coca-Cola were to lose all of its production-related assets in a disaster, the company would survive. By contrast, if all consumers were to have a sudden lapse of memory and forget everything related to Coca-Cola, the company would go out of business.
What is branding?
If a brand results from a set of associations and perceptions in people’s minds, then branding is an attempt to harness, generate, influence and control these associations to help the business perform better. Any organisation can benefit enormously by creating a brand that presents the company as distinctive, trusted, exciting, reliable or whichever attributes are appropriate to that business.
While absolute control over a brand is not possible due to outside influences, intelligent use of design, advertising, marketing, service proposition, corporate culture and so on can all really help to generate associations in people’s minds that will benefit the organisation. In different industry sectors the audiences, competitors, delivery and service aspects of branding may differ, but the basic principle of being clear about what you stand for always applies.
Why do you need a brand?
Branding can help you stand out from your competitors, add value to your offer and engage with your customers.
1. Creating difference
Branding is a way of clearly highlighting what makes your offer different to, and more desirable than, anyone else’s. Effective branding elevates a product or organisation from being just one commodity amongst many identical commodities, to become something with a unique character and promise. It can create an emotional resonance in the minds of consumers who choose products and services using both emotional and pragmatic judgements.
2. Adding value
People are generally willing to pay more for a branded product than they are for something which is largely unbranded. And a brand can be extended through a whole range of offers too.
Tesco, for example, began life as an economy supermarket and now sells a wide range of products, from furniture to insurance. But a consistent application of the Tesco brand attributes, such as ease of access and low price, has allowed the business to move into new market sectors without changing its core brand identity.
This obviously adds value to the business, but consumers also see added value in the new services thanks to their existing associations with the Tesco brand. Of course, this can work in reverse too: if consumers don’t like the Tesco brand in one product area, they’re less likely to choose the company’s offer in another product area.
3. Connecting with people
Creating a connection with people is important for all organisations and a brand can embody attributes which consumers will feel drawn to.
Apple’s original launch of the iPod, for example, catapulted the company from computer business to mass-market entertainment brand, with iPod marketing drawing heavily on people’s emotional relationship with their music.
By moving into music and film, Apple redefined what the company did and shifted its brand association to something that connects with larger numbers of people outside computing or creative community. They continued this shift with introduction of the iPhone, iPad and App Store bringing portable computing and its software into mainstream consumer culture. In doing so the brand has become more and more entwined on the lives of consumers making it incredibly powerful.
Design and branding
An organisation’s brand is a whole set of associations which people make when they think about or encounter that business.
A common misconception is that a brand is simply a logo or identity. The logo is just one manifestation of a brand, although it’s often a top-level communication, seen most frequently by the greatest number of people. It should therefore embody the key ingredients of the brand in a distinctive, recognisable marque.
Take the Nike ‘swoosh’ for example. Designed in 1971 by Carolyn Davidson, then a graphic design student at Portland State University, the swoosh is a simple yet effective logo that conveys energy and movement, appropriate to a company that makes performance sportswear.
So, while brand building and branding are complex, strategic activities, there is almost always a vital creative design component too.
Design is what translates the ideas into communication. And many designers will work through both the strategy and the implementation to ensure that the results are consistent, adaptable and in-keeping with your original brand attributes.
Key design aspects
There is a range of design elements that can be used to convey a brand proposition. Here are a few of them, with an example in each case:
After working through a branding project with designers you should be left with something called brand guidelines. This is a document which details exactly how the different design elements (typically visual) should be applied in different situations. It will give information on things like typography, graphics, colours, materials, templates and photography used in the visual manifestation of the brand, providing instructions on how to apply them in different contexts, at different scales and so on.
The organisation can use these brand guidelines to manage the brand after the designer’s work on the project is completed without losing the original consistency and clarity of the designs and, most importantly, with losing sight of your original big idea.
If you want to transform your brand today, just get in touch with me for an initial consultation – on me! [email protected]