Beyond the Logo: The importance of branding, what it really means and how to apply it to your business

We live in a branded world.

Think about it – every single day we are exposed to thousands of brands. It begins as soon as we wake up and check our phones for emails and messages. The barrage of brands continues as we drive to and from work, read a magazine, shop for groceries, surf the internet or flip channels on our TVs. There is rarely a moment throughout the day when a brand is not in front of us.

Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike – we all have favorite brands. Some are well established, some up and comers, and some, like Sears, possibly headed for extinction. But why are they our favorite brands? And what makes one brand better than another?

To understand how brands become our favorites, we must first understand what a brand is. According to the American Marketing Association, a brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or services as distinct from those of other sellers.

Goods and services can be replicated, and often are, but a brand will always be unique. It’s what separates Heinz from Del Monte, and distinguishes Chevrolet from Buick.

But a brand is more than a logo. It’s more than a website and it’s more than a Facebook profile. A brand is the combination of a name, logo, typography, color palette, tonality, voice, culture, physical attributes of the product/service and the emotional connection one has with a brand.

So how does a brand come to life?

Developing a brand requires a great deal of trust from the client. A good agency is going to dive deep and explore as follows: conduct detailed examination of the business, its philosophy, its mission, its personality, the goods and/or services being offered, the competition, and of course, the consumer. Keep in mind, the depth of exploration is different for every client and is always based on budget and timing.

From our experience, we would recommend primary and secondary research, including focus groups with prospective consumers. Research can provide valuable insight in regard to needs, desires, the benefits of a product/service, feelings about a product/service, and potential product/service extensions. It’s very important to know the habits of prospective consumers and how they feel about the product/service. All of this information is reviewed, analyzed and distilled down to provide a brand platform or strategy from which the brand is created. It requires an investment. It can be challenging, time-consuming and uncomfortable. But in the end, it will give the brand the best chance to succeed.

So you created a logo – now what?

Your logo simply cannot do all of the heavy lifting on its own. Not at first, anyway. Your logo needs support. It needs a team, with a collaborative spirit, working in harmony to get your brand out in front of your desired audience and strike a chord.

As an agency, this is the favorite part of our job. And you, as a client, should feel the same love and passion from your marketing firm/agency.

Your brand strategy is how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering on your brand messaging.

Brand colors, typography and graphics are carefully created based on research, trends, and professional experiences. Just because your best friend likes red does not mean that your audience likes red. Remember, we’re trying to make a connection with your consumer, not your friend. “Do not do design for design sake” is a common phrase I say.

Everything flexes from your plan.

Every touch point with your audience should stem from the approved vision platform. It’s a task of building a brand, but it’s important not to skip the development of a plan.

Brand standards also need to be created to ensure a consistent brand look and feel across all marketing platforms, including print, digital, broadcast, signage and packaging. Your brand is so much more powerful when you have a unified presence. This is not the time to have your design intern learning and implementing brand extensions in order to save a buck.

We often see companies with logos/brands that are based on zero marketing strategy or with little thought. When it comes to your company’s brand image, you should NOT TRY AND WING IT. Search out experienced, reputable, local firms who specialize in branding. It’s worth it.

Your brand needs a voice.

It begins with a positioning statement or tagline. Your tagline establishes the tone your brand. It can be friendly and inviting, fun and memorable, or hard-hitting and impactful. This is your flag in the sand. All of your future advertising and marketing needs to resonate and make a lasting impression. This is no small feat. Consumers come in contact with thousands of brands a day, which means your brand needs to cut through the clutter and stand out. A poorly thought out brand will get lost. And fail.

Your company culture, vision and beliefs.

Over time, your brand creates its own personality, emotion and/or feeling. Those who come in contact with your brand – including your staff – experience and embrace your personality. Your brand can evoke emotion and passion that will help you to retain and attract new team members who share your beliefs and values. This holds especially true in a tight labor market. It’s much easier to recruit employees who believe in your brand and mission.

So why do we like certain brands?

Our favorite brands speak to us. We like what the product/service offers – the physical attributes that enhance our existence. We like how the product/service makes us feel – the emotional impact on our life. And we like what the product/service says about us – how we our perceived by others. Brands that are created with these platforms in mind resonate with us – and often times that is what makes one brand better than another … BRANDING.

Kevin Gillespie is the president of Greenlight Marketing. He is a 30-year marketing executive who is celebrating 25 years in Traverse City. Greenlight celebrated 15 years, having worked on numerous branding campaigns for clients locally, nationally and internationally.