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The Four Essential Elements of Branding

First of all, let’s clear up a common misunderstanding...your logo is NOT your brand. Your logo is not your brand. Your logo is not your brand.

Your logo is a piece of a larger pie that makes up your brand, and we’re going to get into that in a moment.

What is a logo?

I learned something interesting recently, and it’s more of a technicality, but I learned that the word “logo” isn’t even used correctly. It stems from the Greek word “logos” which translates to “word” in the English language. The term designers were using back in the day was “logotype” which means "a custom lettered word," and over time it got shortened to "logo." It was a cool and catchy sounding word, so it stuck with people and became what we now think of when we say "logo" today.

Technically, what we refer to as a logo is actually a "trademark." According to the US Patent and Trademark Office, "a trademark can be any word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these things that identifies your goods or services."

A trademark can be created many different ways, here are a few examples:

  1. as a wordmark

  2. as a symbol

  3. as a monogram

An example of a wordmark trademark would be Google. An example of a trademark that was created with a symbol would be Nike with their iconic swoosh. And lastly, a good example of a monogram trademark would be IBM.

Again, that’s a technicality, and I applaud you if you made it through that jumbled explanation! For the record, I’m still going to call it a "logo" because I want to be able to communicate with my clients and use terms everyone will understand. And let's be honest, it is a catchy word.

So if your logo isn’t your brand, then what is a brand?

Your brand is a very intangible thing. It’s a perception that is held in the minds of others, in the minds of your customers and those who see or interact with your company.

“A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or company.” - Marty Neumeier, The Brand Gap

However, there are some very tangible things that form the whole of your brand and help to form those perceptions that people have of your company. Those perceptions are formed whenever they see or interact with anything that represents your company: your logo, colors, fonts, icons, signage, website, physical location, personality, story, staff and how they interact with customers, photography style, social media presence, and more.

Your brand lives in the thoughts and perceptions of other people and your brand is what others say about you when you’re not in the room...and that’s a scary thought! Luckily, we can help to steer the conversation and influence our brand through Brand Strategy.

What is Brand Strategy?

Brand Strategy can sometimes feel like sort of a buzz word. It’s this seemingly intangible thing, but when you boil it down, Brand Strategy is simply making a plan for your brand. It’s investing your time and resources into intentionally building out all those things we listed out above.

When you’re strategic about your brand, you have the opportunity to shift the conversation and influence how people perceive your company.

Does Branding Matter?

In short, yes. 100 percent yes. And here's a story to prove it:

A few years ago Payless launched a fake, luxury shoe brand they called "Paylessi" and invited fashion influencers to come buy their exact same shoes for $200, $400 and even $600+ price points! The logo was polished, the store front was luxurious, and these influencers were recorded on camera raving about the high quality materials and shoe designs.

Does branding matter? Yes. Not sure where to start with your brand? I've got you covered. Keep on reading.


The FOUR Essential Brand Components

So there’s obviously a lot that goes into branding and brand strategy, but I’ve broken it down into four essential things that you’re going to want to spend some time on for your business or organization. If you do nothing else, or aren’t sure where to start, I would spend some time unpacking these four brand components:

  1. Brand Story

  2. Values

  3. Personality

  4. Visual Identity

1. Brand Story

Your brand story plays a huge role in how you are going to differentiate yourself from others. It takes you from being just another commodity in a sea of products and services, to a brand that people can connect with and relate to.

A good brand story is made up of facts and feelings. You’re going to want to share about how you started your company, and then talk about why you do what you do. What’s your purpose for showing up every day and serving your customers?

This is not the place to talk about the detailed features and benefits of the services or products you offer.

Here is an example (from Disney of course!) that will pull at the 'ol heartstrings.

2. Values

Your brand story is going to hook in those ideal customers that you’re looking for, and then your values are what is going to keep them with you. These people are going to be your raving fans. They connect with you on a very personal level because your company’s values aligns with what they value in their own life.

It’s important to go deeper than just your typical corporate-style values (ex: customer service, excellence, or teamwork....blah, blah, boring). Let’s go beyond that. They can be single words or short phrases.

I love it when I’m working with brand clients and we really hash this out and spend some time really getting to the core of who they are. We come up with words like grit, authenticity, holistic, abundance, adventure…these are words that can draw out emotion and connections with others.

Patagonia is a great example of a company with solid values. And they've built a die hard following because of it.

  1. Build the best products.

  2. Cause no unnecessary harm.

  3. Use business to protect nature.

  4. Not bound by convention.

The best part is that all of their values lead up to and support their mission statement: We're in business to save our home planet.

3. Personality

Just like people, businesses also have personalities. A lot of times, as a small business owner and if you’re the one wearing all the hats, your personality is going to be your business’s personality - but not always. The biggest thing is to take some time to reflect on who you are and infuse that same personality and voice consistently throughout your business.

Here are a few brands oozing with personality:

  • Dollar Shave Club: Uncomplicated, Humorous, Entertaining

  • NIKE: motivated, greatness, provocative, athleticism/competitive

  • Coca-Cola: enjoyment, optimism, fun-loving

  • Harley Davidson: rugged, gritty, rebellious

The companies that are the most memorable and unique are going to have very clear personalities and brand voices.

4. Visual Identity

This is the most tangible and easiest to grasp of the four branding essentials. It's the only one that’s physically visible and exists outside of your words and actions.

This is how people will visually identify your company.

Your visual identity includes:

  • logos

  • fonts

  • brand colors

  • social media graphics

  • print graphics

  • signage

  • website

  • business card

  • letterhead

Your visual identity includes anything that is a visual cue or symbol of your business.


Lastly, There are Five Points to Consider When it Comes to Managing Your Brand

When going through and unpacking each of these four essential components of your brand, there are five things I want you to consider:

  1. Target Audience: Does your brand speak to or attract the right people?

  2. Competitors: Who is doing what you do or similar?

  3. Differentiation: How are you different from those competitors?

  4. Consistency: Is your brand voice consistent with your values? Is your brand design consistent with your brand story? You not want to create a disconnect between any of these important elements. Inconsistencies will break down trust with your audience and create confusion. Nobody has time for that, so they'll move on.

  5. Authenticity: People will eventually figure out if you aren't being true to yourself or your business. Own who you are. Not everyone will like you or resonate with you, and that is ok. In fact, that is a good thing! Authenticity is what will attract the right people to your business at the right time.


Next Steps

Branding is at the heart of soul of what we do here at Branch. I'd love to chat about your company, your goals and your vision for your brand and determine if we are a good fit to bring all of that to life through brand strategy and design!


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