Originally published at: https://community.envato.com/translating-visions-into-compelling-brands/
A brand is the first aspect that distinguishes a product, service or organisation from a commodity or something generic. They allow us to stand out and create bonds with the people through experiences, evoking things they identify with to deliver a clear message of the values we are offering, driving the audience to choose our brand instead of the competition.
In this article I want to cover the basic aspects to keep in mind to create a meaningful brand. One able to evoke those values and forge bonds with your audience, and ultimately, to generate real value.
BRAND VS LOGO
The first thing we must be aware of when creating our brand is the difference between the brand and the logo. Many founders, business owners and even people in the creative industry commonly mistake a logo for a brand. The truth is that the logo is part of the brand, and one of the most important ones, but it is just a piece of a whole experience that represent a business or product and its core values. In the other part the brand is the whole experience of how the people interacts with the product or business.
Take Apple for example, it has an apple with a bite (or byte ;) ) for a logo but is that the reason they have so many advocate customers? Think about how they design their products, how they treat their customers, their stores, the different lines of hardware and software, they are all intrinsically connected to form a cohesive brand experience. One that positions you to understand what they are focused one and the purpose the company and all its products have.
You might think, “Ok, that's cool, but I am not a Fortune 500 company” or “my client just needs a logo for his app, or his website, or his small restaurant, or his new consulting firm” thus all you need is a logo, a business card and maybe a few pieces of stationery. Indeed, those are the most common scenarios where a brand project starts and of course the applications of the brand could be limited to just logo and stationery. But I would encourage you to think beyond this. Unless you're building a commodities stock market product, your client is going to have a competitive factor, a particular vision or some unique trait or traits that give them a edge over their competitors and allows them to better serve their customer. This is the brand's essence, and it should visually manifest itself within the logo, stationary, website look and feel, app icon, storytelling and copy. Each element should works together to compose the brand experience and that is what creates real value to the business. Regardless of what stage you are at, you need to be thinking about how each new component will work to build on this overall experience.
THE ANATOMY OF A BRAND
To create a compelling brand we need to first understand the elements that comprise it. Bellow I will give you a glimpse of four of the main elements for a brand that are required to define when you are creating a new one.
- The Concept: The most fundamental part of a brand is the concept. Buzzwords aside, strong brands have unique qualities that create connections by evoking the users emotions. They give a “feeling”, a sensation to an asset that makes it more desirable for the people who identify themselves with its source: the brand. Sober, playful, childish, classic, modern, disruptive, vintage, adventurous, secure, somewhere in between… These and many more are adjectives that can define that “feeling”. Define how you would best describe your brand as a living being, Think of what inspires you, what feelings your business needs to evoke, how you envision it beyond shapes, fonts and colours. Add it up to a clear business mission and vision… Voila, you will have your brand concept.
- The Storytelling: Successful brands don’t need to convince consumers by giving complex explanations of how they solve a problem, in fact, quite the opposite. They give accurate and precise information that helps the consumers understand and remember them, quickly and easily. This is the essence of what the storytelling is about. What tone and pitch will your brand use to transmit its message accurately and memorably.
- The Identity: The identity is very self-explanatory, it is the set of outward facing elements that support the brand concept and storytelling. Anything that acts upon the senses that will interact with the consumer including the logo, colors, typography, shapes, images, sounds and even fragrances that will help you transmit your brands personality and tell your brand story through every customer-facing channel.
- The Experience: Finally, the experience is how the brand perceived by the consumer in any given channel or environment (the touchpoints) where they can interact with it and trigger a response. In simple terms, the experience is all the interactions people have with a product, service or organisation. This is a very extensive area and there are even large consulting firms who are specialised in it. Don’t sweat it too much though, you can make a start by defining your experience goals early one and continuously improve it as your business grows. Simply start by defining your initial touchpoints (website, retail, customer service, etc.) and apply your brand concept, storytelling and identity to them. Think of it as the real world application of the brand assets you developed for your product, service or organisation.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR BRAND STAND OUT
There are many ways you can up the volume to position a brand, but the following three aspects are paramount for a strong brand:
- Be Unique: Create an original concept based on your mission, your vision and your products, services and organization values. You can use references and inspiration to help you communicate how you envision your brand while developing it, but avoid copying and following other brands too much or your brand will transmit a negative message.
- Be Meaningful: Be honest and create a clear strong message for your brand. Define a good concept that support real virtues. Take your brand beyond the aesthetics. Keen strategic thinking is a key factor to create a brand that is genuinely compelling.
- Be Clean: Keep your brand concept, identity and storytelling clear and simple. Be straightforward and deliver a clear and memorable message. Avoid overcomplicating things with too many messages. It is easy to overdo things, especially when you have many ideas and possibilities, but that can turn against you by hindering your ability to develop the brand or confusing your audiences with a message that is hard to understand. Always remember the most used moto in design from Bauhaus’s architect Ludwig Mies: “less is more”.
HOW TO MAKE A COMPELLING BRAND
Once you've got a grasp of the basic concepts above, the only thing that remains is how to translate everything into a brand. For that there is a simple innovation-led method used in many design fields. There are many variations depending on the agency or firm but you will see similar methods used by all manner of companies and agencies around and you can use the same recipe to manage your brand project:
- Discover: You need to dive into three strategic factors: the business (product, service or organization), the customer and the touchpoints. For the business, focus on the values, mission and competitive edge. Really nail down what makes it stand out from the competition. For the customers, you need to generate insights. This essentially boils down to research. Try to see things from their point of view, understand their needs and behaviours. Finally know where you will be in touch with your customers and how will you make them interact with your brand to generate a positive response.
- Design: Start with a strong concept and then prototype. Brand design is often a process of trial and error but with a good concept, through iterations the brand evolves very quickly to what you recognise as the final logo and identity. The same applies for the copy styling, web design, retail and other channels where the brand is present. Make a start, fail quickly and build from there.
- Deliver: Create the right applications for the touchpoints of your brand experience. Create a cohesion, with each touchpoint working in harmony. Remember to keep your storytelling consistent and evolve your brand as you grow. If possible create a brand manual, a document that defines your brand concept, storytelling and general strategy. This document becomes enormously helpful when you need to delegate the creation of new brand applications or you need to refresh a part of your identity. It will be the key to your team keeping the brands consistency over time, enabling them to deliver the right message.
These are the foundations of a compelling brand. For more on how to translate visions into compelling brands, I invite you to check out my master class webinar where I have shared a lifetime worth of my learning and insights on how I've worked work hand by hand with creative teams to produce these experiences, and how you can apply some of those learnings to your own brand.