Brand Basics 101 - What is Branding?
History of Branding
The word "brand" comes from the word "brandr" which means "to burn." In the 1500s, individual Ranch owners had their own unique mark that they would burn on their cattle to show ownership. These marks help identify the cattle if they were mixed in with other cattle, lost or stolen. These unique marks had to be simple and easy to identify. The term "Brand" has continued to evolve. In the 1800s, unique marks were branded onto wood crates that carried beer and wine. Eventually these marks didn't just identify the company who owned them but they started to be associated with the quality of the beer and wine in the crates. The brand marks that are associated with higher end brands got priority service. This means the logo marks branded onto the wood crates were more than just an identifier but also represented the reputation of a company. This basic idea still applies to brands today.
Brand vs Branding
A brand is the promise you make to your customers about quality, service, experience, etc. Your core values, your mission are what make up a brand. Think of a brand as your business's reputation - what the consumer thinks about your business. It is what distinguishes your business from other companies and the relationship with the consumer. The brand is the idea and branding refers to the visuals to that idea.
Building the foundation may not be the most exciting part of the equation, but it is the most important. The core values, your vision, your mission, your voice equal your brand. When working with clients, brand development is half of the process. We don't jump to the logo design part, we jump into a questionnaire to find out more about your business and your vision. In order to get a strong brand identity, we need to make sure we have the foundation of your business/personal brand.
Branding is about taking all the information that makes up your brand and turning that info into tangible items. These tangible items make up your brand identity. Your brand identity are the visuals that make up your brand. It is your logo, your colors, your website, your business cards etc.
Why Good Branding is Important
+ Make a Great First Impression.
You can never take back a first impression. That first impression can make or break a sale, turn a new subscriber away, or prevent someone from engaging with you. When a visitor comes in contact with your brand, you want them to have an awesome first impression and that can be done through good design and branding. Design communicates your message visually to your customer.
+ Good Design Builds Trust
Have you ever landed on a website or received an email and the design makes you question if the site is a legit site? Bad design can make you not trust a website or business. If you have a logo, website, business cards, social media, and all of your branding is consistent, you can gain customer’s trust, which is the ultimate goal. Well-designed branding gives your audience visual proof that you can be trusted.
+ Brand Recognition
Your brand should be recognizable without a logo present, which means you need more than just a logo to make this possible. Your branding needs to be cohesive with all items including logos, social media, packaging, colors, blog post graphics, etc. If you audience is viewing your social media posts, you want them to be able to recognize that it’s your style without even seeing the name. You want people to look at your Pinterest graphic and say “Oh that must be Brand Blitz’s blog post”.
One of the key ideas when building a business is knowing who your competitors are and how you do things differently from them. This also applies to their branding. What makes your business different? Does your logo and brand design reflect the differentiation?
For example, let us look at Starbucks, Coffee Bean, and Peet’s Coffee
Starbucks, Coffee Bean, and Peet’s Coffee are all Coffee chains, but what makes them different? How are they different from each company? What makes you want to go to one more than the other? If you notice, the colors, the logos, the messaging is all different between the brands.
Humans are visual people. You are more likely to remember something after visually seeing it compared to just reading about it. Therefore, if you create a brand that is different from competitors and make it visually appealing you are more likely to be remembered by a potential customer. The more somebody sees your brand the more likely they will purchase. Or if you have memorable package design for your products or provide a strong customer experience, your customer will associate it with your brand.
+ What is brand messaging?
Brand message is the position or foundation that your business takes to make your business unique and stand out from everyone else. Your brand messaging will dictate all your decisions when it comes to your brand design and your brand's voice. This is a big picture of how you want your brand to appear to your target audience.
Your messaging tells your clients your fundamental core values and how you can provide your service or products better than other competitors. This is the process in which we create our business bio. Our formula for creating your business bio and understanding your messaging is available in the brand starter pack.
+ what is a brand identity?
As we stated earlier, your brand identity are the visuals that make up your brand. It is your logo, your colors, your website, your business cards etc. All the information that you have gathered to make your business unique translates into visuals.
Branding can include anything that effects the senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell.
+ Smell: Smells are linked to memories. The smell when you walk into Starbucks. The smell of cologne when you walk by Abercrombie & Fitch.
+ Sight: The Nike Swoosh. The Starbucks Mermaid. The way the Apple stores have all their products displayed in a large, open, brightly lit, minimal space. The way you interact in an Apple store is similar to the way you interact with Apple products.
+ Hearing: Commercials with jingles that get stuck in your head. (Has anyone heard 1-800-Kars4Kids?!). Slot Machines - Revenue in Las Vegas fell by 24% when sounds were removed!
+ Touch: Our skin has more than 4,000,000 sensory receptors. Think about materials, weight, softness & comfort of product. Also think about how you can use touch for packaging.
+ Taste: McDonalds Fries vs In-n-Out Fries.
+ What is a brand personality?
As a designer, we like to learn about your brand and how we can visualize it. If your brand was a human, what type of personality would it have? If you have a small business, most of the time the brand personality would be the same as the owner of the brand. You should take the time to decide if you want your brand's personality to have an identity of it's own like Coca Cola or Apple or a more personal brand.
+ What is the purpose of a mood board?
Mood boards are one of my favorite things to create for any project, whether it is for a client or for something I am working on for my own projects. A mood board is a collection of cohesive images that are collected to show a visual reputation of a "mood" or a "vibe". Mood boards give a visual idea to what you're thinking so you know which direction to go in. For our process, we have the client select images, logos, textures, and more so we can see what ideas they would like to see in their brand. We then compare their notes and their mood board to come up with a cohesive brand design for them. A mood board sets the "mood" or vibe for how we want the brand to feel when it is done.
+ what is the purpose of a logo?
A logo is a small identity mark that allows people to make a connection between a brand and it's visual identity. A logo allows us to make a quick visual connection to the brand but remember, a logo isn't the whole brand. Most people think of just a logo when they are actually looking for a brand identity. Just like we talked about earlier how farmers had their own brand marks so that others would know whose cattle it was, the logo is equivalent to their brand marks.
Good logos should give a visual cue as to what the business does. Logos can be just word marks like coca cola or they could include icons like apple does or it can include both options and can be used depending on the location of the logo. If a logo is done correctly then you should be able to look at a logo and get a feel for the rest of the branding and get an idea about the company. This is why people put so much emphasis on a logo.
+ what is a brand style guide? what is a brand board?
A brand style guide is one document that has all of your branding guidelines outlined so that you can ensure that your business will have consistent branding. The style guide outlines, colors, fonts, logos, logomarks, voice, etc and how they should all be used or not used depending on the situation. If you have to hand off your artwork to a designer, they can follow all of the guidelines.
A brand board is a summary of the the brand style guide. It is more of a snapshot and doesn't include all of the do's and don'ts. However, most small businesses only need a brand board. These are also very popular on Pinterest.
+ What is a brand strategy?
A brand strategy is your long term goals for developing your brand for your business. The brand strategy is the actual actions for implementing your brand identity. These are the actual steps you take to make sure that consumers fall in love with your brand. How are you going to connect with your audience? How are you going to make sure they stay loyal?
+ when is the right time to brand?
We will have a full article on this question but it's actually a personal decision. Most of the time, businesses that are just beginning, won't know where to start with branding. Maybe they don't know what their mission and values are, maybe they have changed their business plans multiple times which means they shouldn't brand their business yet. But if you don't brand early enough, how many people are going to pass you up because you don't stand out? How much harder do you have to work because your branding doesn't speak for itself? Ultimately make sure that your customers are having a good experience, whether you have your branding figured out or not. Get clear on your mission and values. Know which direction you want to head in, and then brand.
+ What is a rebrand?
A rebrand is when your visuals no longer represent what you do as a company. When your brand is no longer aligning with your goals or your business direction has completely changed, then it is time to rebrand. If your audience is confused by what you do because of conflicting branding and visuals, then you should invest in a rebrand. Remember though, you want to brand your business for where you want to be in the future, not for where you're at right now, so make sure you're looking at the bigger picture.
These are common terms that you will hear when you hear people talk about branding. Hopefully these clear up any questions you have about branding.
We also created a free download for you to DIY your branding. The Brand starter pack guides you through a Brand Clarity questionnaire, Defining Your Core Values, Identifying Your Target Audience, Creating Your Business Bio, and a Checklist for your Brand Design.
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