Branding. What's that all about?
Your Brand Identity: the foundation for your marketing material
WHAT IS A BRAND IDENTITY? Before marketing your organisation, first and foremost you must get your Brand Identity right. But what is a ‘brand’? A brand is NOT a logo… It is NOT… …a symbol, a monogram, a trademark, a brandmark, a colour, a typeface, or a corporate identity system. A ‘brand’ IS… …the collective perception that the masses have about a particular product, a service, an organisation, or even a public figure. The public can arrive at this collective conclusion in many ways – from the way staff answer the phones through to articles they read in the papers. A brand is very much an emotional thing, a ‘gut feeling’, an almost tribal desire to ‘relate to’ and belong. It is that differentiating element that people can relate to and invest in… and above all else something that creates a feeling of trust.
SO WHERE DOES ‘THE LOGO’ FIT INTO ALL THIS? One of the most effective ways for a company to communicate its message in order to instil these emotions is via visual means. It is by far the fastest route to brain – a picture, an image, usually integrated with a word or two (usually the company name and perhaps a ‘strapline’). Correct selection of image, colour and typography all play a vital part in making people say ‘yes’ to your organisation or product. The extensive part that visual material plays within the branding process is perhaps why so many confuse a logo with a brand. Remember a logo or brandmark is only a symbol of the brand and not the brand itself… BUT that symbol is crucial to the success of most companies in a modern competitive market. DATA PROCESSING Vs THE GENIUS FACTOR For a successful outcome, the logical, analytical, strategic, data-driven aspect of the process needs to marry with the unique, intuitive, innovative, creative aspect that only a good creative professional can provide. Think ‘artistry’. An imaginative solution that carefully balances colour, typography, contrast and aesthetics to maximise impact wins out every time. And don’t forget, logical rationales keep a project focussed, but it’s the ‘creative genius’ aspect of your brand identity that will really ignite the passion within your audience. Remember, it’s that instantaneous subconscious emotional response we’re after.
THE BRANDMARK: TICKING THE BRAND IDENTITY BOXES For the purpose of this checklist we are using the term ‘brandmark’. A brandmark as we define it, is a unique graphic device that represents your company. It could be a logo (a typographical representation of your company name), or an illustrative symbol, emblem, avatar, monogram or a combination of these. • Is your brandmark DISTINCTIVE? Does it have the creativity, boldness, clarity, uniqueness and attention-grabbing presence to stand out from your competitors?
• Is your brandmark RELEVANT? Does it fit with the personality of your company, product or service?
• Is your brandmark MEMORABLE? Does it stick in people’s subconscious for them to recall in a heartbeat?
• Is your brandmark VERSATILE? Can it be used in a number of ways across various media? Can it be developed or adapted to form sister organisations if the time came?
• Is your brandmark MULTI-LEVEL? Can it operate on a number of levels? Not everyone sees the same thing in the same way. Will it appeal or ‘speak’ to people in different ways? • Is your brandmark CONSISTENT? Every time your branded material appears, is it consistent? Is it being ‘policed’ or managed to give a consistent memorable message?
Having taken a TRULY HONEST look (otherwise it is a waste of time) at where you are now… where do you go from here? If your brandmark needs a bit of help then refer to the Finding the perfect creative partner for your organisation guidelines on the next section. If it is in good shape and ready to go then skip to 10 tips to consider when marketing your organisation further down the page.
Finding the perfect creative partner for your organisation Having a professional brand identity created for your company SHOULD be a thrilling and rewarding process for all, after all this is the foundation of the future – BUT it can also have its share of pitfalls. Don’t worry, help is at hand. We have created a simple guide to help you choose the RIGHT creative service for YOU. SO… DO have a budget in mind. Whether it’s a freelance designer or a staffed studio, there will be an hourly / daily / weekly running cost with overheads and salaries to pay out for. Producing a brand identity TAKES TIME – there is simply just no getting round it. How, when, and if you wish to disclose this figure is your call – but at least consider in advance what the success of your business is worth and have a figure prepared, Is it… the price of a pair of shoes? the price of an iPad? the price of a small car? The answer to this may well depend on how long it would take for you to recover this cost – but DO also remember this is a long term investment in your future success. Be prepared for the fact that a reputable agency may not be prepared to spend time on meeting you without first establishing that the project and proposed budget is at least realistic – they don’t want to waste your time or theirs.
DO try and have a phone conversation with two or three designers or design teams to get a general feel before hiring anyone. If they are happy to do so, arrange to meet them in person. Again, if it is a speculative enquiry on your part, then they may want to establish a bracket for budget before meeting – which is only reasonable.
DO spend time having a good look at their work on an online folio / website. Have a look for variety and relevance of their work. They may well have a distinctive ‘house style’, but their work shouldn’t be just a variation on a theme.
DO try to do some homework on the experience of the company and the personnel who would be working on your graphics. Resources such as LinkedIn can be a great help for this. Many individuals now offer graphic design services without having the necessary training or any natural born ability to be able to create a quality brand identity for your business, product or service. Many may have come through the I.T. route, making the transition from coding websites, but now there are also those infiltrating the creative industry who are ‘career change’ designers. Buying a computer and design software doesn’t make a person a designer anymore than buying a pair of pliers makes a one qualified dentist. Avoid both these types. You wouldn’t trust an unqualified person to build your office, so why trust one to help you build your business? Ideally the individual (be they a one-man-band or a salaried individual within a large organisation) that becomes your creative partner should have the relevant academic experience and plenty of BIG brand experience under their belts.
DO choose a creative service who will do their homework about your company, and about your competition/ potential competition as part of the service.
DO be sure to find out what is included in the prices that you are quoted. Ideally you will be given two or three concepts to discuss and ultimately choose from. You will then be able to work on one together so that it is refined to meet all requirements.
DO be sure to find out what file formats will be given to you upon completion of the design, and get an estimate of how long the project will take.
DO remember that you are paying for time and expertise. If you change your requirements and request lots of amends then you should expect a cost and potential delay to project completion.
DO NOT be immediately swayed by a design orientated website that features some big-hitter logos on it. Try to drill down to exactly what they’ve actually done with these companies – it might be that they have arranged print, or supplied design for suppliers of the big companies – which isn’t quite the same thing.
GENERAL TIPS A good designer will… …listen to your ideas and make suggestions or ask questions to make sure that they understand the brief. Try not to be overly prescriptive in the process. Trust the expert to know their job, and allow them to do it – listen and take advice. You may well know your business, but trust them to do theirs. Remember, it’s not about your personal taste, you’re not picking curtains for your front room, it is about creating an emotional connection between your business and your audience. A good designer will… …probably work with a contract (to protect the client’s interests as well as their own) which explains the steps involved in the design process and the expected completion dates for each step. It is also fairly standard business practice to require a deposit before starting work on a project. A good designer will… …be able to supply you with master vector files – that is, scalable linear files that will not lose quality when they are made larger. An experienced designer WILL NOT design your master logo in Photoshop. It’s useful to be given a variety of logos / elements for various purposes – social media, stationery, web, and internal office documents. It’s also good to have a stripped-down simple monochrome version.
DO NOT be pushed into spending a large percentage of a limited budget on testing and research as this can prove to be very expensive. Quantitive research may be big on numbers but it can be short on insight, and the results can prove difficult to translate into real actions. Focus groups are intended to focus on a particular factor, but rarely deliver the clarity required to deliver innovation. The dominant personalities within a group can impact greatly on the feedback and ultimately, analysing something to such a degree doesn’t give you the consumers natural response you require. Remember, you are looking for that instantaneous response that grabs the attention of your market. An emphasis on a small focussed qualitative rather than quantitative research can provide a better result in terms of insight and cost effectiveness. This can be conducted at sensible cost through internal brain-storming sessions, possibly with your direct participation and perhaps including some research on concept options with a small sample of your existing customer base. You cannot ever get a conclusive answer – just invaluable insights to help with the creative process. AND Once you engage your creative partner, don’t be afraid to use the information at the beginning of this guide to help you evaluate the brand identity work they do for you so that you can be confident that your investment has been worthwhile – and if you aren’t sure it is right then don’t be afraid to discuss it. 10 tips to consider when getting your brand out there There are so many ways to put your brand identity into action as part of your marketing mix. Each one is a whole topic in its own right, so you will need to do further research, but here is our overview of what you might like to consider 1) Network with style There a many networking groups locally and nationally, some charging membership, some pay-as-you-go, some free. These events often still rely on the exchanging of traditional business card. Don’t be tempted to skimp on this. It doesn’t have to be anything excessive, but it should be at least something professionally designed, produced and printed. It’s a reflection of your brand and its personality. Make sure any brand guidelines are adhered to at all times – consistency is the key. 2) Take fantastic photos There’s nothing worse than viewing or receiving any promotional material in whatever form that is splattered with low res ‘snaps’ that are fuzzy and not planned in their presentation. Even worse if they are then used on large format. Get a bank of images together that actually give a positive image of your organisation. 3) Direct mail or a well written letter? Larger organisations can create promotional campaigns which are distributed as printed material via the post. These can range from a simple post card to a fancy brochure. But don’t forget, a well written ‘letter’ on letter headed paper sent to the right people at the right time can be just as effective. We’ll also include ‘door-drop’ leaflets with this – geographically targeted flyers carrying information about your organisation. 4) Get smart with Social Media Use you brand identity to create avatars, headers, banners and various other content for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and various others. You will need to ensure that the content of this is still ‘on brand’, and don’t forget to use this as a way of directing people to your website. Build up your network to help you spread the word about what you do. 5) Signage and large format Be very clear and concise with your message, be it on your building, vehicle or exhibition display material . Overly detailed signage loses impact and ‘War and Peace’ on a pop-up banner makes it totally ineffective.
6) Advertising space There are so many various kinds of paid-for advertising space from outdoor – such as billboards and public transport, to display ads in magazines and newspapers. Make sure whoever is producing the advertisement is aware of your brand identity and doesn’t distort or corrupt it, or just ‘make their own stuff up’. Again keep your message clear, focussing on the main information that you need to get across and point people to your website for details. It is all about impact, you have only two seconds to get someones attention before they turn the page or drive by. 7) Customer service Ensure that at any point of contact your customer service is absolutely spot on. Something as simple as how you answer the phone can have a huge impact, and if you get it right then it will encourage word of mouth promotion. 8) Sponsorship Consider sponsoring an event rather than opting for a paid for advertisement. Often your branding will be on all the PR material rather than a solitary ad greatly improving the chance of increasing brand awareness.
9) Existing supporters Tap into the wealth of support that you already have. Encourage them to spread the word via social media, and if you decide to hold social media workshops for staff members, consider inviting some of your most active supporters along to help improve their effectiveness too.
10) Speak the right language Whatever marketing tool you use be it email, social media or a leaflet, be sure that it has been created ‘to speak to’ your target market in a language that they understand and appreciate. The benefits your organisation can offer a business may be very different to those that may interest an individual member of the public.
So that covers the basics. The VERY basics. If through reading this you know you need to make changes, then why wait? Review the section on choosing your perfect design partner or alternatively just give us a call!