Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, no matter how large or small it is. A B2B will find branding just as important as a big-name corporation will. Effective branding will not only put your name out there, it will give you quite the edge in today’s extremely competitive market. So it’s, again, in your interest to create branding (or entrust someone with the skills to do it professionally) that’s identifiable, delivers and also gains from its mere existence. In short, a brand that won’t fail to impress.
I read an article today from a fellow designer named Michael Katz who likened his business to the experience of owning a Ford Focus vs. owning an Audi R8 Spyder. Now, seeing as I currently work in the automotive industry, it was easy for me to 1) visualize the cars, since I see them often, and 2) make the connection with the point Michael was trying to make. But even if you don’t see the cars in your mind’s eye, you can make the connection that Ford Focus = everyday Joe’s car, and Audi R8 Spyder = car guy’s sports car. Why do people buy Audis, Porsches, or Ferraris? Is it because they just have so much money laying around that they don’t care to throw it on luxury items like sports cars? Or is it because the brands have a defined persona attached to them, driving a certain type of clientele to themselves? Michael makes the points that:
- Higher prices attract the fans and filter out the price shoppers
- Higher prices increase client satisfaction
- Higher prices allow you to serve your clients better
Fun fact: Some luxury sports car owners aren’t necessarily millionaires but will live thinly for years before having saved up enough to buy themselves the sports car of their dreams.
Right on top of that is also brand recognition. There is a sort of full circle that happens here:
- Create a product/brand
- Implement effective branding
- Produce product
- Offer product and/or service at higher price
- People expect spotless product and/or service
- Clients are satisfied of their product and/or service
- Brand recognition
As you can see, brand recognition is the end result. As a company, you want your brand and therefore your branding to speak for itself. You want clients and non-clients to know your product and know its good reputation without even having ever tried it before. Apple, for example, has a dedicated fanbase that will line up at every release to get the latest product, without ever having tried it before. Apple products, therefore, can afford to be delivered at much higher prices than the industry norm, because no one will really question them or their products. That there is branding at its strongest. You want that.
So how do we create branding that stands out like no one’s business?
1. Stick to one brand
In order for your brand to be recognizable, it needs one logo and a whole set of style guidelines that will vehiculate your business’s values continually. Consistency is key, and failing may very well confuse your customers.
So you might say, “Well, I already have a logo and was thinking I needed a change but now I just read that and you’re saying changing my logo will confuse my customers.” Well, there’s a fine line.
Starbucks began in 1971 with a brown logo and a siren, and since then their logo has evolved with the times, becoming one of the symbols of today’s times. Were they wrong to change? I don’t believe so, although personally I never quite understood the mermaid symbolism (if any?), myself. Their updates have, over the last 30-odd years, been quite minimal, to avoid shock and confusion amongst their consumer base.
So when do we know when a logo update is needed? Well, that’s a matter of taste. Technically, however, it’s frowned upon when a company changes its logo every year. Some signs that it may be time to change, though, include:
- Your logo is clearly dated: It was trendy back then but isn’t so much anymore. Swoosh, anyone?
- Your logo is confusing: If people you hand your business card to end up squinting at it or don’t remember it five minutes later, then there’s a problem.
- Your logo is generic: When the hipster style first came about, it seems everyone and their mother started using “authentic” line art logos. While I think the hipster style can be successful for some ventures, for others it does not fit the bill, in my opinion, and makes them look bland and lifeless. There’s a fine line!
2. Develop branding guidelines (brand book)
Your brand needs careful management in ensuring that its identity and positioning remain strong, clear and to-the-point. Consistency is key. Guidelines will ensure that everyone, internally and/or externally, can apply your branding consistently, without losing the brand’s identity in the material iterated by staff or consultants. This is crucial: thus, your customers can develop an awareness of your brand, and down the line trust it.
Size, colours, icons and positioning of your logo, as well as written tone or messages to carry across and on various media is essentially going to be covered in these guidelines. Correct use of guidelines should be ensured at all times to project the correct image and message to customers. No one thinks of McDonald’s as a classy five Michelin-star restaurant; rather, they convey a homey, no-fuss, no-frills, fast-food image, as they always have, and in return we always think of them this way. (In other words, don’t lie or pretend your brand is something it’s not).
Important things to include in your style guide are:
- Values of the company/individual
- Tone and voice
- Image usage
3. Watch usage of your brand across media
Your staff needs to be aware of these guidelines, as mentioned before, and keep a close eye on their use of them across different media like brochures, flyers, your website, your social media accounts, newspaper and radio ads, and email marketing.
It’s important to create a cohesive image that potential customers will recognise and remember in the long-term. Some of the ways to do so are to stick to one brand, create a branding book, and ensure guidelines are followed on your business material, to ensure cohesiveness.
This subject has me curious on something: Have you recently updated your brand’s look and feel? How did you know it was time? How much did you change?