YOUR BRAND IS NOT JUST A LOGO.
Your brand is so much more than a logo. In order to be successful, your brand needs to tell a story. Create a banner to rally behind, and create authentic connections. Let’s explore the definitions, differences and key factors you need to understand in order to build your most successful brand in 2022.
- What is a brand?
- Brand Identity
- Visual Branding
What is a brand?
When we talk about the branding of a business, it can be easy to think we just mean a logo. But while a logo that captures and keeps the attention of your audience is a powerful tool for communicating a brand it barely scratches the surface.
To simplify, we can divide our definition of a brand into two main categories. Visual Branding and Brand Identity. Both are equally important and should reflect and complement each other to create the perfect balance of visual and verbal storytelling. This will engage your audience and create a lasting culture around your brand. The processes involved in each side of building your brand can be vastly different. But the two go hand in hand. One cannot exist (successfully) without the other. An analogy you can use to define the difference between your Brand Identity and Visual Brand; Brand Identity = Voice. Visual Branding = Face.
Your brand identity is generally developed with a team of marketing experts, including your CMO, if you have one, or your internal Marketing/Content Manager. On the other hand, your visual brand is better off in the hands of a Branding Specialist and a Graphic Designer.
Why does your business need branding? What is its purpose?
Distinct branding identifies and differentiates your business from your competitors. Nevertheless, it is an abstract translation of the experience you seek to provide through your brand ethos. Your brand should communicate to the consumer what they can expect from your product or service, and how you go about solving their problem.
The purpose of visual identity is to create positive, lasting and memorable impressions on viewers. A good visual brand identity unifies and visualises the overarching ethos of the business. It also creates symbols to represent the brand, which consumers can rally around. The purpose of a brand is, put simply, to create a connection with your audience.
Consistency is Key for Branding
Having a clear brand means representing yourself and your ethos consistently across all platforms, mediums and applications. Repetition is a powerful tool for student learning. And it works exactly the same for generating recognition of your brand. Besides, the repetition of consistent branding helps your audience learn about you. And the value you can bring to them. Without branding (or without doing it well) you run the risk of people forgetting your business, or never even noticing it in the first place. On the other hand, having clear, memorable branding for your business or organisation is crucial. It will lead to generating brand recognition, trust, and overall loyalty to your business.
Organisations who do not put the time into developing their brand to be memorable and trustworthy will find themselves to be less successful in gaining and maintaining consumer loyalty. The story we create with our branding is infused into every part of the business to ensure consistency. And clear messaging that is easy to understand and unlikely to be forgotten.
What makes a good brand?
A good brand focuses on one thing; understanding and being what the audience needs to achieve their aspirational identity.
An aspirational identity refers to the people your audience wants to become. It is the story gap that your business is there to close. (see StoryBrand for a definition of story gaps). Doing this allows the brand to build a relationship around providing the answer to the consumers’ needs. Whole communities of loyal brand ambassadors can form around this branding ethos.
Nike is an example of a business that caters to its audience’s aspirational identity. So well that they can sell what could appear to be identical products to its loyal following for much higher prices than other sports brands. And their products are often simply referred to as ‘Nikes’, as opposed to ‘running shoes’. Nike positions itself as a brand that represents peak athletic performance. Which is exactly what their athletic audience desires. Nike taps into the audience’s aspirational identity of ‘top performing athletes’. Doing so, assigns itself as an authoritative guide. In other words, a stepping stone to achieving that identity. Their ‘Find Your Greatness’ campaign is an excellent example of this methodology.
A good brand will have solid guidelines for consistent use. It will also have the flexibility to keep up to date with the changing needs and opinions of audiences. Brands can go on for days about how they identify themselves. But at the end of the day it’s your consumers’ need for and perception of your brand that really matters. These needs and perceptions can change over time. (there are a lot more people aspiring to be social media influencers than there were 10 years ago, for example). So it pays to stay in the loop and be able to innovate and fine-tune your brand for changes in the market.
What is a brand ambassador?
Brand ambassadors can be powerful allies for your business. They generate social proof and brand trust. Consequently defending and influencing others to join your community. Apple has built an empire of brand ambassadors by positioning themselves as a tech company for the everyday user, with their user-centric brand. This appeals greatly to a community of everyday users who don’t possess the technical skills required to understand and use other technical brands. And these people will defend the brand tooth and nail.
To attract this level of loyalty, the brand needs a consistent culture that is easy to understand, relevant and relatable to the target audience. Your brand should definitively answer the call for a solution to a specific problem. As Donald Miller puts it, “if you confuse you’ll lose”. This is because as humans, we have a set of innate senses of survival. One of the survival drives that dictates our monkey brains is the need to conserve energy. Unclear brand messaging means that your audience has to put more mental calories into interpreting and processing what it is you do, and why they should do business with you.
What is brand identity?
A brand identity is very similar to a personal identity. A brand is the identity you build around your business or organisation, and how people perceive it. It is the promise you make to your users about what experience you provide for them. Plus, your reputation in keeping those promises, the mental associations that come to mind when customers think about your product or service, and what distinguishes you from your competitors.
The elements of a brand identity
Just like a person’s identity can be broken down into their name, values, beliefs, associations, habits, etc, the same can be done for your business’ brand. A Brand Persona can be created just like a user persona. So it creas a clearly laid out identity that your audience, and even your employees, can relate themselves to and rally behind. A brief breakdown of the elements of a Brand Identity:
- Name + Tagline/one liner
- Tone of voice
- Ethos / Values
- Mission / Vision
- User experience and brand promise
How to develop a Brand identity
Developing a Brand Identity is a process very similar to developing a business marketing strategy. When Four Drunk Parrots develops a Brand Identity, we run our clients through a briefing checklist of specialised questions designed to squeeze out every drop of pure, organic brand juice from your brain. A great tool for developing a clear, consistent and highly effective Brand Identity that we use at 4DP is the StoryBrand framework by Donald Miller.
The StoryBrand framework (SB7) is a powerful tool to help clarify your brand’s message, create deeper connections with your audience, and promote brand recognition, trust and loyalty. The SB7 curates the fundamental elements of your business that make up your brand drivers and motivate people to do business with you, and distils this information into a clear, linear storyline that puts your audience at the centre of it all.
But, you may ask, shouldn’t this story all be about your brand? No! As StoryBrand explains, the psychological association we have as individuals is that we are the hero of our own story, and brands can utilise these behaviour patterns to build truly effective brands. In summary, StoryBrand shows us that as individuals are the heroes, brands are simply the guides to success.
A Summary of The 7 Part StoryBrand framework (SB7)
1. A character
The main character in any story is the protagonist, or as StoryBrand puts it, the hero. This is where we define the audience’s aspirational identity and honing it down to a singular desire. Once you define what your customer wants, you invite them to step into their own story.
2. Has a problem
The story really kicks off when a story gap forms between the protagonist and what they want to achieve. The protagonist is faced with a problem which they must overcome in order to achieve what they want. In the SB7, this is called the ‘villain’.
This problem can be broken down into 3 key elements which create a drive or motivation to overcome. These 3 problems are external, internal and philosophical. As Miller puts it, “Companies tend to sell solutions to EXTERNAL problems, but people buy solutions to INTERNAL problems.”
External problems are the surface level problems, the base issue that starts the cycle of the problem. This should be a singular issue which gives way to internal and philosophical problems.
Internal problems refer to the personal affects or emotional response to the external problem, and are generally summed up by negative emotions and tension in areas of the individual’s life. This can be as simple as an everyday inconvenience or frustration to much deeper internal struggles with adequacy and ability. By empathising with the internal problems of the user, we can create a truly authentic sense of understanding between brand and user. Having your audience feeling heard and understood is incredibly powerful for community building, which can forge long lasting, loyal relationships and brand ambassadors.
Finally, the philosophical problem is the right and wrong of it all. These are often should/shouldn’t statements which reflect the average user’s feelings on matters. For example, Tesla markets their vehicles to an audience of eco-conscious consumers who believe that their transport shouldn’t have a negative effect on the environment. This is a powerful channel for connecting with the users moral judgements and sense of justice.
Here’s a fun little example of how to put all 3 pieces together: I stubbed my toe on a desk (external). It makes me feel pain, which makes me feel upset (internal). It shouldn’t hurt to walk around my office! (philosophical). Now I just need a guide to show me how to stop stubbing my toes.
3. Meets a guide
This is where your brand enters the story; at the height of our hero’s despair, the guide steps in to show the hero how to succeed. The essence of a good guide is that they truly understand and empathise with the hero’s problem, and have the means to provide a solution.
A brand with empathy means communicating to your audience that you have been through the problems they face, and you understand the extent of their external issues, the resulting internal and philosophical problems.
Authority is often best presented in the form of certifications, social proof, testimonials, awards; your wins. Empathy is communicated when you show your audience that you truly understand their problems and their motivations to change.
4. Who gives them a plan
Audiences trust a guide that has a plan. The plan you design for your brand should create clarity by outlining the experience that you promise to your users every time they do business with you. And alleviate any fears they may have about committing. In SB7, 2 plans are introduced; a process plan and an agreement plan.
The process plan should be a step by step process to guide the hero to success, and can include the steps a customer needs to take to obtain the product or service, how to use it after purchase, or a combination of the two.
Agreement plans are the promises you make to your customers which address their fears about making a purchase.
Giving your plan a title further enhances the audience’s ability to process the value you provide to them. This could be as simple as ‘Our Customer Satisfaction Agreement’, or could be more specific to the business.
5. And calls them to action
Users aren’t mind readers. As much as it might make sense to a business to assume that users will take action of their own regard. More often our heroes need to be challenged to take action first. Here again we can divide this into 2 avenues for building a relationship with your audience. Direct and transitional calls to action (CTA).
Transitional CTAs are designed to ease users into a relationship with your brand. Many users will not be ready to commit to purchase while they are still in the awareness or consideration stage. But providing that relationship building period allows your audience to get to know you, and the value you bring to their life. Transitional CTA’s generally include lead magnets and other value adding freebies. Which allow you to collect contact information and nurture your relationship until they’re ready to say “I do”.
A direct CTA is the ‘Buy Now’ button of your business, or the “will you marry me?” in a relationship. This should be easy to find at any stage, for whatever the customer decides to make a purchase.
6. To avoid failure
Failure can be a bit of a taboo when it comes to communicating your brand, but it has undeniable purpose. In storytelling, there is no interest where there are no stakes. Stakes add a sense of survival to the issue your brand solves. Which can be crucial to getting users past the consideration stage. By communicating the potential negative outcomes of life without your brand, you can more effectively highlight the positive outcomes of doing business with you. It is important to be careful with stakes. Because too much fear will drive away audiences, too little stakes make a story bland.
7. And achieve success
This should summarise life after users interact with your brand. Highlighting the positive outcomes and help your audience understand the value they can experience. By clearly defining the fulfilment of an aspirational identity, users are more likely to trust that your brand is the right one for the job.
How can StoryBrand help your business?
StoryBrand is a powerful tool for clarifying your brand message. Which is essential for accurately and definitively communicating your audience and the problem you solve. Once you’ve completed your SB7, you can use elements of it to tell a consistent relatable story across all of your marketing materials.
This is an extremely brief overview of the StoryBrand Framework. To learn more about how the StoryBrand Framework can be applied to your business, check out the StoryBrand book by Donald Miller or contact Four Drunk Parrots.
What is visual branding?
Visual brand elements used are the visual cues used to represent your brand identity. These elements can include:
- Graphic style
What does visual branding do? Why do I need visual branding?
The purpose of a logo is to be a memorable symbol. It is not necessary to literally represent your business in a logo, just to give your users something visual to associate with you. Think colour schemes, shapes, fonts, etc.
Your visual branding should be an infusion of your brand identity. Hence representing the values of the business in a way that can be quickly and easily recognised by your audience. Effective branding is easily memorised, recognised, and raises the value of your product or service using audience perception, and by creating emotional connections and communities around your company’s culture and beliefs.
Visual branding gives your audience a symbol to associate with. Consider ‘Apple’ and its near universal brand mark. Also think of how much users are attached to, and willing to pay for that brand. Whilst providing a quality product or service is important, quality brands have the power to build global followings around common beliefs, goals and interests with the identity they build, as well as influence the perceived value of their products and services.
There are 2 main types of logo; conceptual and literal. A literal logo design generally includes a symbol which seeks to represent, as literally as possible, the name or the product a brand specialises in. Conceptual logos on the other hand, focus more on visual styling in order to evoke emotion and connection. The biggest difference is the simplicity of conceptual logos compared with literal logos.
Where do we use visual branding?
EVERYWHERE! To effectively communicate a brand to users, it absolutely must be consistent across all applications, from website, social media, and advertising campaigns, to packaging, merchandise and collateral. Variations in brand representation quickly causes confusion among users, and makes it harder to form solid connections and lasting associations. A style guide ensures consistent use of visual branding across all mediums, channels and applications.
Before you start with visual branding and logo design
When developing the branding for a business, we should ALWAYS begin with understanding the brand identity. This should cover the less tangible aspects of your brand. Such as a brand mission, vision, values, target audience, personality, tone of voice and more. We can also include taglines, features and benefits, brand promises and community standards in a brand identity.
The reason we start with building the brand identity is so that we have the best possible understanding of what ethos the visual brand needs to represent. Imagine rainbow heart-studded branding when your business targets stony-faced account managers… Not ideal.
How long does it take to design a logo?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to the question of “how long does it take to design a logo?”. There are simply too many variables to give cookie-cutter estimations. However we can break down our process to give you an understanding of what goes into the time we spend.
The design process
This process can be valid for any number of design projects, in this example we’ve focused on logo design.
- Brand identity definition
- Research ~ 2.5-4.5hrs
- Existing brands 30m-2hr
- Key words 30m-1hr
- Mind map 30m
- Moodboard 1hr
- Ideation (thumbnailing) ~ 1hr
- Iteration of top 3 to 6 designs ~ 1.5-6hr (30m-1hr per concept)
- Present; client selects 1 design to refine (or elements to combine) 30m-1hr
- User testing + reporting 1-2hrs
- Refinement based on feedback from client and user testing – anywhere from 0hrs to 4hrs
- Repeat steps 4-6 until satisfied
- Collateral design (Depends on application. Min 1hr for basic 1 page style guide)
- Client handover
In summary, a logo design will generally take from 5 hours (for a VERY basic, bare minimum logo; not very thoroughly researched or iterated) to 50 hours, and varies heavily depending on business size, branding applications, and revisions.
This might look like a bit of a daunting process, but if you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to redo it later? A strong, well established business who makes mistakes in their branding can be forgiven (remember ‘New Coke’?). But brands who are not already global leaders in their fields can find more challenges in rectifying bad branding decisions.
Brand guidelines & Style guides – Combining Visual Brand & Brand Identity
What is a brand style guide?
A brand style guide is your key to consistency across any size of organisation. From 1 man bands to businesses with thousands of employees. A style guide is your brand’s bible, and a manual on how to uphold it on a macro and micro level. Style guides, also known as brand guidelines, is a universal document that should tell the story of your brand to anyone who needs to use it.
Why is it important to have a brand style guide?
Like a game of Chinese whispers, a brand message can quickly get out of hand by individuals with good intentions. Having a comprehensive brand style guide ensures that everywhere your brand is seen. Audiences thrive on consistency. Consistency in your brand greatly reduces the amount of ‘mental calories’ it takes to decipher market messaging.
Style guides greatly reduce the amount of training needed to ensure correct use of the brand, and that rules are followed consistently across all departments and brand applications. This can save your business countless resources and instances of misrepresentation.
What should my brand style guide include? How long should it be?
It should begin with defining brand identity. This document outlines the brand mission, vision, values, tone of voice, ethos and intended user experience. Once the brand persona is clear then the visual representation of the brand can be infused with meaning and purpose.
Depending on the size of the business and what it provides, the amount of branding content that should be included can vary greatly. 1 pager style guides exist, as do 200+ pagers. As a general rule, your style guide should include the brand’s logo, iconography and image style, colours and typography, and how to use the branding in different applications.
A comprehensive style guide will include collateral templates such as marketing campaigns, signage, merchandise, document design, social media, and any other applications where branding elements may appear.
Your visual branding should follow a set of rules which apply to each element of the brand. For example, size requirements of a logo may include a minimum and maximum size. Plus, the minimum distance between the logo and other elements, colours it may be presented on, and more.
Your brand is so much more than a logo. In order to be successful, your brand needs to tell a story, create a banner to rally behind, and create authentic connections with your audience. Your brand must also be consistent, and fulfil your audience’s aspirational identity. There are many differences and key factors you need to understand in order to build your brand successfully.
If you’re still hungry for more information about branding, let’s talk about it!