How a strong brand identity creates an overall experience
Your brand is everything to a customer. It’s how your business makes them feel and what they believe they know about your products – even if it’s not true. That’s why it’s crucial you ensure your brand identity is spot on.
Here, our senior designer James Bornshin explains what branding is, why it’s important, which brands are doing it well and what you should be doing to ensure a strong brand experience.
What is branding?
In simple terms, branding is the process of distinguishing your product or service from others, through name, design, values, and tone of voice.
Branding is more than a logo and visuals, it’s how your brand is perceived by consumers or users through values, missions and behaviours. You need to really understand who your audience is; what they like, how they talk, what motivates them, why they should like you and why you’re different from the rest.
Once you have these identified, you can use your findings to shape your brand’s look and feel. Having all the strategy outlined before you start simply means you have a baseboard that underlines everything you produce. You’ll be able to quickly and easily identify what’s right and wrong for your brand by answering simple questions such as:
Does this colour palette attract our audience?
Does this typeface suit our tone of voice?
Is this the right photography style to represent us as a brand?
As a lot is determined by your customers’ reactions nowadays (mainly on social media), branding can often be a complex process. However, if you invest in a good strategy, the cost far outweighs the consequences of not delivering on your promises.
Why is branding important?
Good branding helps you differentiate you from your competitors and create a strong, positive brand perception.
Great branding is strategic. If you can clearly identify what your objectives are, define a promise, story and tone of voice, you’ll not just shape your customers’ expectations and convey what you aim to do for them, you’ll create a brand that has a strong, unique persona.
Having a strong brand can:
Generate new customers
Improve employee pride and retention
Increase business value
Which brands do it well?
Social media is key in customer communication, which is why it’s now such a big aspect of branding. Take innocent, which has long been seen as a master of branding. Its packaging is clean, simple, and straight to the point, and its advertising is always witty and memorable. In almost every brand workshop, someone highlights innocent as a brand they like.
What innocent has managed to do really well in more recent years is translate its persona from the offline to online world. The logo could be removed from innocent’s twitter profile, and you’d most likely still recognise the tweets as belonging to the brand. By identifying its audience, persona and story early on in the brand strategy, innocent has created a robust tone of voice which is easy to translate to different forms of media when necessary.
Patagonia is another example of branding done right. Yes, it produces high quality apparel and products, but the brand is also built around its environmental activism, with marketing geared towards customers that align with Patagonia’s values. Customers know that when they buy a Patagonia product, they’re committing to a brand that gives back to the community, and environmental causes.
Whether you like McDonald’s or not, its undeniable success and longevity is partially thanks to brand consistency at every touch point, regardless of where you are in the world. All its stores look the same and are easily identifiable, there’s a consistent customer experience and from a visual perspective, the brand has produced some of the best advertising campaigns.
McDonald’s is also very good at changing its products depending on which culture it’s retailing to, making itself more appealing to consumers there. While this brand hasn’t had a smooth ride over the years, it’s a great example of how brand strategy can update the vision and values, and positively alter customer perceptions over time.
Quick tips for creating a strong brand identity
Now you know what branding is, why it’s important and which brands have done it well, it’s time to apply it to your own brand with some quick tips.
Clearly identify yourself. Who are you? Pin down what you stand for, why you exist and how you’re different.
Clearly define your audience so you can target them properly.
Tell a story. Make it easy for your audience to understand what you do, and why you do it.
Be consistent across every channel. From a visual point of view, and tone of voice.
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Written by James Bornshin
Senior designer James is a branding bigwig and print nerd at heart.