A brand, most simply, is your company’s identity. More poetically, a brand is defined by where you’ve been and where you’re going. It is ever evolving, constantly under threat, and formed by every interaction. It is what the public thinks you are, what you think you are, and who you aspire to be. A brand is your promise to the people.
The difference between a company and a brand is sometimes semantics, but in today’s rapid-fire economy of mergers, acquisitions, divestments, and consolidations, brand plays an ever increasing role in defining and shaping the expectations a consumer has of your company’s products and services.
A brand you know and trust makes purchasing decisions easy and worry-free. It’s like a trusted friend you know you can depend on. But now think about how many people you trust: probably not many, and it’s likely there are also quite a few instances where you lost trust in someone. Building trust with consumers requires consistency, honesty, communication, and sometimes even a bit of personality. To bring all of those elements together, branding needs to tell a story.
Think back to a positive or negative experience you had with a company. How did your experience shape your perception of that brand? It may have reinforced the trust you had in the brand or even caused you to swear off their products for the rest of your life. Stories shape what your brand is and what it stands for. Telling these stories in a way that is relevant, interesting, and engaging offers a glimpse at what a customer’s own story could look like and reinforces the stories that your customers already have. But while stories are fundamental in defining your brand, there’s a lot they can’t do on their own. That is where your visual identity comes in.
The visual appearance of your brand is usually the first impression. In a split second, opinions begin to form. Do I know this company? Does it look like a company I would buy from? Do they take pride in who they are? Do I trust them? Do I want to know more about them?
When most people think of a brand, they think of a logo. Some logos are so iconic and timeless that they stay virtually the same forever, while others are constantly evolving or even living. Good logos share a few similar traits–they’re unique, memorable, simple, and relevant. And while a logo is one of the most vital and obvious representations of a brand, it is far from the only one. A brand’s visual identity is also defined by its typography, colors, textures, patterns, and use of photography.
The first impression is important, but so is every other impression. Since someone’s perception of a brand is shaped every time they encounter it, the visual identity needs to be consistently applied across the board whether it’s a website, social media profile, advertisement, email signature, or even your office. Consistency is king, so don’t let sloppy implementation of your visual identity tarnish your brand.
While visual identity takes all the glory, the unsung hero is messaging. In essence, it’s the way a brand talks about itself, both internally and externally to the public. What’s said (and not said) is just as important to a brand identity as a consistent and beautiful visual identity. Messaging shows that your brand identity is more than skin deep.
All messaging needs to be built on a solid foundation. This foundation helps your messaging resonate and ring true in the hearts and minds of your audience. And at the core of this foundation is the positioning that defines who your brand is, what you stand for, and how you set yourself apart from the competition. Above all else, this statement and the rest of the messaging foundation should not be created in a bubble. It’s great that you think you’re the most revolutionary company of the 21st century, but will everyone else believe it? If not, you need to consider how to get everyone from point A to point B because it’s an uphill battle trying to gain trust when no one believes you. Great brands evolve over time, all you need to do is guide people along the journey.
Your brand is more than a logo and a catchphrase. It’s your strongest asset, your reputation, and your identity. Give it the love and attention that it needs.