When people think about creating a brand, the majority thinks about designing a logo. This is indeed an important part of the process, yet a logo doesn’t make a brand. Even your company is not a brand. What is then?
All the people who work in your business, their attitudes and ideas drive the brand. The way your staff interacts with your customers, customer journey and experience with your product creates your brand. The visual components of brand identity (colors + logo) and the packaging create an impression of your brand. Your brand’s tone of voice, the message in its slogan, and the way you display content on your website and social media represent your brand.
Everything together is your brand – it’s a personality of your business and its promise to your customers. You cannot split those elements – they are organically interwoven. Instead, when you create your brand from scratch, think of them as of different focal points of one process.
Who you are?
Before you start working on any of the elements below you must find out who you are as a business. I know, easier said than done. It makes sense to conduct market research. Before you start shaping your identity, you must know who your audience is, who your competition is and what value you can offer to your customers.
Knowing your audience is the first step. You cannot target pre-teens and working parents with the same message (at least, it’s not likely). Knowing your competition is essential to finding out what needs of your audience aren’t yet addressed. Your values, on the other hand, is the answer to those needs. What do you represent? What do you stand for? What is the purpose of your existence? (apart from making money that is). What only you can offer to your customers? Why should they choose you? What makes you different from your competitors?
When you answer all those questions, you are ready to tell the story of your brand. People like stories and remember them. The most successful brand stories follow the pattern: problem – solution – success. That is, a problem existed, the solution was offered thus laying the foundation for the brand and brand’s prosperity.
Create a personality
With all the data about audience and values on your hands, you can start creating a personality for your brand. Before you will dive in design particulars, such as colors, type, and logo, decide upon the qualities you will convey through them. Look at some key points. Remember, each quality can be viewed as positive. The important thing is what describes your brand best and what will best appeal to your audience.
- Are you lightning-fast or slow, careful and meticulous?
- Are you serious and reliable or fun and carefree?
- Are you traditional or cutting-edge?
- Are you old and experienced or youthful and fresh?
- Are you affordable or ritzy?
- Are you family-friendly or provocative?
- Are you everyday or special-occasion?
- Are you ubiquitous or out-of-the-ordinary?
- Are you careful or daring?
- Are you factual or opinionated?
And so on – continue until you have a very clear idea about your brand’s personality. Every detail is important because that is where you will be coming from while working on your brand’s name, visual identity, and tone of voice.
When you have decided on key characteristics, use mind-mapping to cluster them in semantic blocks of related keywords. You can jot down associations they evoke, moods, connotations, and objects you visualize whey you think of abstract qualities. Don’t be afraid to step away from dictionary synonyms and use your own experience. Many personal associations you think are unique to you may turn out to be universal. This approach is useful because it helps to elicit vivid symbols that speak volumes.
A physical object representing an abstract idea (a sprout or a leaf for growth, elephant for long memory, a paperclip for saving and ordering, a bull for power and energy, a jaguar for speed) is a shortcut into the imagination of your audience and a great way to convey ideas. For example, companies that offer help with writing papers often use word “paper” in their brand name. That’s not only because the word is used to signify any written assignment as opposed to other types of projects. Paper is a physical object one can interact with, it conjures sensory and motor experiences (rustling of pages, the smell of pen or print ink, feeling of textures, a memory of handwriting or thumbing through a book) and it creates an immediate emotional response – and therefore is more memorable.
Still, it’s just one of many possible approaches to coming up with a name for your brand. Other popular name types are eponymous (after a founder or prominent figure: Disney, Tesla, Proctor & Gamble, Dr. Martens), descriptive (telling upfront what company does: Great Western Railways, American Airlines, Booking.com), acronymic (KFC for Kentucky Fried Chicken, DHL for Dalsey, Hillblom and Lynn, LG for Lucky-Goldstar), suggestive (dictionary words, slightly altered words, or both used in combination to describe key attributes: Facebook, Snapchat, Rayban, PayPal, Slack, Lyft, Kleenex), and abstract (with no intrinsic meaning, often onomatopœic, like Rolex, Kodak, Tic Tac).
With brand personality and name ready, it’s time to choose your colors. They are a powerful tool to get your message across because they are strongly associated with different feelings. About 85 percent of consumers cite color is a primary reason to choose a product, so this is an uber-important decision to make.
To pick the color that is most suitable for your brand, you may want to do some research. Go through the psychology of color guides and look at some examples of existing companies. Pay close attention to brands within your industry – it’s important to decide whether you want to compete in one league with them or stand out from the crowd.
Another great way to come up with the color that will represent your brand best is creating a mood board, either digital or physical, to get the most generalized feeling of your brand’s identity, ideally summed up in one key motif. You are not limited to one color, but often less is more. About 95 percent of the top brand logos use one, or at most, two colors. Too many can dilute the message you intend to convey. Unless your message is diversity, versatility, and wide choice, of course (cue Instagram, Google, Microsoft, eBay).
With name and colors, you are all set to create a logotype. Unfortunately, there is no universal recipe. Simple shapes tend to be more memorable (think Apple, Nike, MasterCard), but there always be exceptions (Starbucks, Unilever, Warner Brothers, Heineken).
However, logos that are open to interpretation and have multiple meanings (Pexels, Airbnb) are more likely to be remembered because they act as brainteasers and catch the eye. Many successful logos feature a wordmark or initials in such way as to create a shape and conveys additional meaning (arrow in FedEx, headphones in Beats Electronics, A to Z in Amazon, P representing a pin in Pinterest).
Brand’s tone of voice
Now is the time to give your brand a voice. To do it, try to imagine your brand as a person with all the qualities you brainstormed above (see “Who you are?” paragraph). If something is missing, fill in the gaps, noting every detail.
Now imagine several scenarios, for example:
- A customer wrote an angry Twit/Facebook post – how would you react?
- A customer leaves a five-star review – how would you respond?
- A customer approaches you with concern – how do you want them to feel when the issue is resolved?
- A non-profit approaches you seeking sponsorship for a charity event – what would you say and which words would you choose?
And so on – come up with your own best- and worst-case scenarios. After you are done answering, revise your answers. Are you happy with them? Is this how your brand should sound like? If so, what are the key values these answers communicate? (Friendliness and approachability? Competence and reassurance?)
Are your employees aware of these values? Would they respond to the above situations the way you imagine? Remember, that the key to a memorable brand is consistency. Your voice should sound uniform across platforms, media, and all areas of your business.
Creating a memorable brand doesn’t necessarily take a lot of money. It is quite possible on a small budget (everyone knows a story of Nike’s iconic swoosh purchased for $35 from a college student). However, you must make sure that everything in your brand’s identity reflects your core values and is consistent with your mission.