What is Brand and Branding?
Most marketers know something about a brand or branding. Yet, most companies execute inconsistent branding. This article tries to define the key considerations when planning brand development.
Brand can be seen as a combination of identifiable elements, that allow people to associate it with a certain product or service. Brand elements include a name, slogan, logo, color palette, design, symbol, audio or any other feature specific to a product manufacturer or a service provider.
Definition of Branding
Branding on the other hand, is the activity of creating and using those unique brand elements. Marketing organisations normally performe these activities, although larger organisations may have a separate brand management function.
Before starting to build or re-create brand elements, it’s important to stop. It’s important to stop and think:
- What is the the mission of your brand (think mission as a reason for existence)?
- What is the core proposition to your customers?
- What are the key benefits of your brand?
- What is the brand character you want to communicate to external parties?
- What are the internal values you want to use to build your company culture?
There are two categories of Brand elements: core and supporting elements. Core elements are carefully protected and nurtured. You’ll want to file trademarks over these as you will always keep them unchanged in your communication. Supporting elements are more flexible. They should still support your brand recognition, but they also allow more freedom for interpretation and innovation. They are an important aspect of re-freshing your brand in marketing communication. Over time, successful supporting elements may replace some of the older core, and obsolete, brand elements.
Core (fixed) brand elements may include items like:
- Core colour palette
- Audio and tone of voice
- Materials used in Packaging and Retail
Supporting (flexible) brand elements may include:
- Logo Background colours
- Supporting colour palette (seasonal colour choice)
- Photographic styles
- Marketing jingles
- Social Media Conversations
Each brand must agree the balance between fixed and flexible elements. More fixed bias means more consistency, but it may limit creativity. A more flexible approach means more creative power but risk of fragmentation.
Like the above, there are many different elements that create a brand. Let’s spend a little bit of time with each of the most common elements:
A name is the first and most obvious brand element. Without a brand name, your product or service is just a generic name. Own. Bought. Earned. is the brand name of our consulting company. When we established the company, we registered the company under an unique name. We also protected the name by filing a trademark. This brand name allows people to talk about us with a specific brand name, only used by us. Without a brand name, we would be just another consulting company.
A slogan is a short sentence or combination of words, that links back to a brand. In most cases, slogans are used to build brand image by explaining the purpose, vision or attitude. One of the most famous examples include Nike’s “Just Do It” or Nokia’s “Connecting People”. Slogans too can be registered or trademarked to prevent competitors using the same words. They are often used in liason with a logo.
A logo is a graphic mark helping to aid instant recognition of a brand. Visual manifestation of the brand is conducted largely through its logo, which is a combination of design, shape and colour. Most companies also protect their logo by registering or trademarking it.
While colours are often used in a company logo, they are also an important feature in all of the branded communication. Through consistent use of colours in packaging, advertising, retail and websites etc., it makes it easier for people to discover and remember them. Can you recognise the famous characters on the picture on the right, merely based on the colour?
Design is important in every aspect of the brand. It can be a shape of the actual product (like an Aalto vase or Coke bottle), packaging of the product (like Apple white boxes) or the shapes and graphics used in the advertising and anywhere the brand is seen. The more consistent the design in every execution, the more likely people are able to identify the brand from simple cues.
Symbols and Icons
Symbols and icons are different from logos. They can be generic and do not require trademark protection like logos do. As part of the communication, symbols allow you to build certain familiarity through visual elements rather than using words. Think of the pink ribbon, stop sign and traffic lights as strong symbols communicating an idea or meaning.
Brands can be recognised from jingles, songs, sounds or even tonality. The way a company speaks to people is a way to express the brand identity. The audio used in retail stores, advertisements, websites, videos etc. all express the mood and nature of the brand. Just think of the Nokia ring tone you hear when your plane has just landed.
Branding your Company
So how do you start branding (or re-branding) your company? The first step is to take a look at your existing materials and ask yourself: “if I was a customer looking at this material, would I find this company inspiring, credible or something you would like to be associated with?” If the answer is no to any of these questions, you might want to start developing your brand.
Brand is an important part of a company’s identity. How you manifest and build your brand is present in every activity you do – from sales to customer service, from advertising to social media engagament. If you want to learn more about how to manage your branding, just click below: