What is a brand?

What is a brand, anyway? You may think the answer is simple: a logo! That’s not entirely wrong, but actually a logo is only one piece of an organization’s brand. Branding encompasses an organization’s overall character, personality, values, tone, and style. All of these factors inform how an organization is visually expressed through a logo, color palette, typography, imagery, textures, and more.

Developing a strong brand requires time and research into your own organization and its stakeholders. Much of the information you need to develop your brand already exists—you just have to uncover it. If you are present in your market, then your brand is alive and active. But if you are not shaping or controlling how your brand is perceived, then your customers will develop their own feelings about you. That’s why it’s so important to have a complete brand identity with values, mission and vision statements, character traits, and tone—so you can begin to develop a visual identity that accurately reflects your brand out in the world.

In the aftermath of COVID-19, it is more critical than ever for an organization to have a strong, thriving brand. How the world communicates and conducts business is going to be a moving target as we embrace the “new normal.” This likely means that only the strongest, most successful brands will remain standing. You want to be sure yours is one of them!

Over nearly 30 years, Articulate Solutions has developed many successful brands for our clients. Here are 3 important things we’ve learned about creating an exemplary brand:    

Feelings come first.
Having a strong brand identity establishes you as a credible source that customers can trust when they make purchasing decisions. Even if those purchasing decisions don’t happen immediately, your consistency in all areas of your brand’s expression will create a feeling of trust (and more importantly, influence) in your customers’ minds whenever they are eventually ready to make a purchase. Think about how you want your customers to feel when they interact with your brand. That “feeling” should be clear and consistent, so that you stand out among the competition with a brand that is unified, distinctive, and authentic to your organization.

EXAMPLE: There are too many shoe companies to choose from these days, but there are a handful that stand out simply because they know exactly how they want to make people feel. What is it that makes us choose Nike over Adidas or New Balance? Wearing Nike shoes makes us feel athletic and stylish—and, even more importantly, empowered. Check out this article from Rival IQ to learn more about how Nike’s brand stands out.

What’s your why?
When we work with clients to develop values and core character traits of their organizations, they are able to focus their business decisions and goals with a unified mission. Author and speaker Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” Knowing your why—which includes your mission, your vision, and your values—allows you to measure each business decision you make against the same pillars. That in turn focuses your business goals. Your customers will begin to associate your brand with those values as well, further strengthening your position in the market.

EXAMPLE: Even though Apple isn’t the only company to develop powerful computers, something about them stands out to the world, doesn’t it? That is because Apple has a clear mission against which all decisions are measured. Apple believes in challenging the status quo, and every product they make is measured against that value. As Sinek says in his TED Talk, “The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.”

Consistency builds credibility.
No matter where your customers come into contact with your brand, it should be consistent. That way, they’ll recognize you anywhere—whether they encounter your brand in a print ad, TV or radio commercial, social media post, billboard, digital ad, or the sign on your front door. It will be clear to your customers that you are who you say you are, and they will trust you to influence their purchasing decisions. On the other hand, if you are inconsistent—using a different typeface or graphic style in your print ads, for example, that doesn’t match your website—then you can potentially create doubt in the consumer’s mind. A consistent, reliable brand builds credibility and is essential for all businesses, and even more so if you are based in government, medical or financial fields.

EXAMPLE: Starbucks is a great example of consistency. It doesn’t matter which Starbucks store you visit— the signage, logos, interior design, uniforms, menus, pastry cases and drink recipes are identical. And that is on purpose. This purposeful consistency not only creates trust in customers, but it makes them feel at home. Ordering their drink at Starbucks is completely natural and familiar, even if they are on the other side of the world. That kind of brand recognition is key in standing out among competitors. To see how Starbucks designed its branding, visit their creative expression webpage.

See the Articulate Solutions Featured News page for more education and inspiration in marketing and branding.

Articulate Solutions is an experienced turn-key marketing and creative service agency located in the Bay Area, California, with clients all around the world. We are a team that includes brand developers and logo designers to help build brands from the ground up. Our brand development strategy is extremely thorough, producing full branding studies and visual identities for our clients like South Bay Vascular and Solis Winery. From strategic campaign development to graphic design to messaging, Articulate Solutions has helped companies big and small develop their brands. Ready for us to develop your brand? Contact us today to get started.

Posted on May 19, 2020