I recently did a little study and asked some of my clients one simple question: “What is a brand?”
Out of twenty clients, I got twenty different answers with only one correct answer. The most common answer that I received was: “Isn’t it my logo?”
People involved in the operations of a business and graphic designers who handle and develop brands need to know what a brand is. How can we effectively help our clients if we can’t even tell them what makes up their brand?
The first thing we need to do is establish what’s a logo and what’s an identity before we can really talk about what a brand is.
What’s a Logo?
A logo is used for the identification of a product, service or company in the simplest form. This can be done in a few ways: as a symbol, word mark or signature.
It’s a common misconception that in order for logos to be successful, they need to tell people exactly what the company does. This couldn’t be farther from the truth…logos are meant to identify, not to explain.
Logos are Like Names
Jacob Cass, a graphic designer from New York, explains logos in a brilliant way. He says that we should think of logos like people. People like to be called by our names, not by descriptions. Our names are simple, memorable and recognizable.
“To illustrate this concept, think of logos like people. We prefer to be called by our names – James, Dorothy, John – rather than by the confusing and forgettable description of ourselves such as “the guy who always wears pink and has blonde hair”. In this same way, a logo should not literally describe what the business does but rather, identify the business in a way that is recognizable and memorable.”
– Jacob Cass
It’s the same thing with logos. They should be simple, memorable and recognizable. This can be hard to do if you’re trying to cram every piece of what the company stands for in there as well.
What’s an Identity?
Your identity, or brand identity, is everything that visually makes up your product, service or company.
When I say everything, I mean everything. From the colors that you use on an everyday basis to the packaging that you put your products into. Your identity is your image.
Consistency is Key
Everything that you do should feel like it works together and feel right. The more consistent you are with the elements that make up your identity, the more trust and comfort that your consumers will have.
Take Starbucks as an example. What if they opened up a brand new store and the franchisee decided that he was going to stand out by switching the colors from green and white to blue and black. Given that the brand identity has already been established and successful, would this make sense? Probably not.
Your Brand Identity Consists Of:
- Your Logo
- Promotional Materials
- Signage (Inside and out)
- The Way You Talk
- Your Grammar
- Email Signatures
- Background Music
- In-Store Furniture
- Product Packaging
- Your Employees
- Anything Visual
What’s a brand?
Your brand is an overall feeling that your audience has about your business, product or service.
When your name is mentioned or your logo is seen, what comes to their mind? As a business, it’s obviously in your best interest to ensure that it’s good things that come to mind, but how can you do this?
The Role of the Graphic Designer
As a graphic designer, it’s our job to form the foundation of your brand through your brand identity. When everything that makes up your identity, or image, is put together in a way that is consistent and relevant, it sets the stage for how your brand will be perceived.
You’re probably wondering what’s left for you to do? You need to ensure that everything you do, everything you say, everything you own and everything you produce reflects your core values and the overall vision of your organization.
Your brand is more about your consumers than it is about you. You want people to think highly of you, leaving a good taste in their mouth every time they do business with you.
Seth Godin, known to many as “America’s Greatest Marketer”, recently wrote an article titled, “The brand is a story. But it’s a story about you, not about the brand”. After reading what he had to say, it really drove home the point that our brand is about what our audience thinks.
“Yes, every brand has a story—that’s how it goes from being a logo and a name to a brand. The story includes expectations and history and promises and social cues and emotions. The story makes us say we “love Google” or “love Harley”… but what do we really love?
We love ourselves.
We love the memory we have of how that brand made us feel once. We love that it reminds us of our mom, or growing up, or our first kiss. We support a charity or a soccer team or a perfume because it gives us a chance to love something about ourselves.”