Branding: it’s the difference between a product and an experience. It separates The Foot Locker from Payless Shoes and McDonald’s from Wendy’s. It’s what makes the Nike swoosh and Twitter’s blue bird so iconic. It’s the reason you expect your to-go cup from Starbucks to be white and green. In a lot of ways, branding is what makes a company or product successful, because regardless of how great a product may be, proper branding is what makes it stand out.
Why is it so important?
Small or new companies may question spending money on visuals rather than focusing all of their energy on the product itself. It’s the product that’s making all the money, right?
Wrong. Even though a great product is essential to good business, the way that product is presented can make a huge difference.
Perhaps the most obvious reason why branding is so necessary is because it makes a business easy to recognize. It helps customers remember their experience and come back again. One of the best examples of this is the Apple logo. It’s so iconic that they can use their logo for storefront signage rather than “The Apple Store.” Their products are great, but it’s the logo on the back of the product that communicates the quality. Without that simple apple and leaf on the back of an iPhone, what distinguishes it from other smartphones?
This can also be very helpful when it comes to referrals. A customer will have a much easier time telling their friend to check out a storefront or product if they can remember what it is called. Creating a memorable experience can help make the brand stick with them.
Consistent branding makes a customer feel like they can trust the company because it puts a face to the name. To the customer, a consistent brand means they know what to expect when they interact with the business over time. It also implies that the business has a reputation to uphold, and would therefore avoid tainting that reputation with poor practices, quality or treatment of their customers.
Branding also helps businesses advertise themselves. Being able to put their logo on the back of a sports uniform or on the decal of a race car promotes their business very simply and concisely. Along with that, commercial or printed ads that give off the same mood as the rest of the business add to that recognizability factor and keeps the audience more interested.
Establishing a Mood
A key ingredient to a successful brand is setting the mood. How do you want customers to feel when they interact with your business? How do you want them to feel about your business? This mood will help you connect with your audience, and it should influence all of your branding and marketing decisions. As stated earlier, branding provides an experience alongside your business. It’s up to you to decide what kind of experience that will be.
How to Start
Any particular starting point in building a brand is different from business to business, but all brands should have similar assets by the end of the process: a logo and style guide, business materials and a website.
A logo and style guide are the most essential to a brand because it tells customers what to think about the brand before they even make business with it. A logo should encompass the mood the brand aims to set in a simple and concise way. The simpler the logo, the more iconic and articulate it is. In the Nike swoosh, a simple shape, the diagonal lines imply motion and accuracy, which is perfect for a sports apparel business. By itself, the logo is usually either black or white, to imply dignity and class, but is used in different colors on apparel to better reflect the personality of different customers. Because of its simplicity and versatility, Nike can use their logo to say what they want and how they want.
Alongside the logo comes a style guide, which tells business owners how to use their logo or other design assets in a consistent way. This can include color schemes and how to use them, fonts and other guidelines that would contribute to the brand.
After establishing a style guide, overarching mood, theme and logo, they need to be implemented in a website. Because of the easy access to the Internet we have in our society, a polished brand is expected to also have a polished website, and should include the same design elements, fonts and overall style that is used in business locations, advertisements and products.
A simple but easily overlooked element in branding is the business materials that are used to provide a customer experience. A posh, Italian restaurant shouldn’t be using menus that were printed on a black and white printer from home. The materials a business uses should be thought out very carefully—from decorations, to packaging, to seating and tables, to stationary and so on—because they have a very strong influence on the mood a business wants to set. While it won’t influence ads, commercials or signage as much, it will deeply influence the experience a customer has while interacting directly with the business, which is perhaps the most important.
When planning essential parts of your business, keep these key factors in mind, and you’re on your way to a successful, recognizable and impactful brand. Come in to our store or contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our branding experts. We know what it takes to develop a strong brand.