How to Create a Compelling Brand
To succeed in today’s an increasingly-competitive marketplace, you need to stand out- and the most sure-fire way to do that is to develop a strong brand.
A compelling brand helps attract new customers, giving them a reason to select the products and/or services that you offer over those that your competitors have available. Unfortunately, most business owners think that a brand extends as far as a logo, a couple of colours, and, maybe, a tagline -you’re your brand is so much more than that.
Fortunately, in contrast, business owners that understand what branding actually is and how to apply it to their business have the chance to race ahead of their competitors and gain a strong foothold in their market.
With that goal in mind, this post explores how to create a compelling brand.
What Is A Brand?
A brand is the psychological and emotional connection between an organisation and consumers. It’s how its customers, and potential customers, feel when they think about a company and its products and/or services. A brand encompasses all of the prior experiences and ongoing expectations that result in someone choosing to purchase from a particular company over its competitors.
Consequently, branding is the process of creating that connection between you and your desired customer, by generating recognition, loyalty, and trust.
The Difference Between Brand and Brand Identity.
Now, while your brand is the connection between your business and your target market, your brand identity is made up of all the tangible elements that help to create that connection.
Your brand identity includes:
- Fonts (Typography)
- Images and illustration
- Interactive elements
- Videos and animation
- Web design
- Communication (Brand messaging or ‘voice’)
- A consistent style
What most people think of as a company’s brand is really their brand identity: it’s the outward expression of a brand. This not only includes its visual appearance but its ‘voice’: how it communicates with its ideal customers.
Some notable examples of brand identity include:
- McDonalds’ golden arches, as well as their strong use of red and yellow (they even went as far as patenting those particular shades of red and yellow)
- Coca Cola’s prolific use of red and white (so much so that Santa Claus known for wearing the same colours after appearing in Coke ad campaigns!)
- The Apple logo – especially the fact that their logo doesn’t even feature the company’s name is reflective of their trademark minimalism and simplicity
Your brand’s identity needs to be in line with the connection you’re trying to forge with consumers; it needs to match how you want people to perceive your company and how you want them to feel when they think about your products or services.
How to Establish A Clear Brand Purpose and Brand Position
To help define your brand identity, you first need to establish your brand purpose and brand positioning.
Your brand purpose is, in essence, is the reason for your company’s existence – it’s why you’re in business in the first place. Your brand’s purpose is what you’re trying to achieve with your products or services, and how you intend to satisfy the needs and solve the problems of your target audience. This could be reflected in your company’s mission statement, values, and overall goals. Here are a few great examples of brand purposes from famous companies:
- Apple: Making the best products on earth and leaving the world better than we found it
- Crayola: Encouraging children to be creative, and enabling parents to inspire them
- Dove: Discovering the value of ‘real’ beauty and improving self-esteem worldwide
Brand positioning, meanwhile, is the process of achieving your brand purpose. It’s defining your target market and differentiating yourself from your competition so you occupy a specific place in their minds.
For example, Haagen-Dazs has positioned itself as a premium ice cream brand. It costs more than most of its competitors, often considerably more, but that’s backed up by a superior product. So, when consumers are choosing which kind of ice cream to buy, they’re forced to remember how good Haagen-Dazs tastes and how it made them feel. They then have to weigh those positive emotions against the higher price tag and will go on to purchase a tub if their feelings outweigh cost considerations.
What Are the Key Elements for Making A Strong Brand Identity?
Several factors go into forging a strong brand identity.
The first key to creating a powerful brand identity is establishing the right visual elements. These are especially important as they’re the first contact that consumers will have with your brand and forms their initial experience with your company. For this reason, your brand’s visual elements need to stir desired emotions with your target audience, in line with your purpose and positioning. Here are the most important visual elements:
First and foremost, you need to create a great logo. However, a logo isn’t merely an icon – or your company’s initials – it’s the initial outward expression of your brand – so you need to put some thought and effort into designing yours. Think about what you want your logo to convey about your company.
Here are a few tips for designing an impactful logo:
- Give it some thought: Don’t automatically go with the first idea that comes to mind, come up with a few more options. Even if you end up going with the first design, at least you gave yourself a few more choices.
- Brainstorm: If you have partners or employees, take the time to brainstorm together to see what you could come up with. Your co-workers may have different perspectives the end up contributing to an amazing logo design.
- Look around for inspiration: Look at other logos and take note of what you like about them. Try and incorporate those traits into your own logo design. Pay particular attention to other companies in your industry and if their logos do an adequate job of conveying what their products and services do. More importantly, what could you do better?
- Get multiple designs: Websites like Fiverr feature competent graphic designers from around the world (where the cost of living is far cheaper …) who will create a decent-to-great logo for less than $10. You can use this to your advantage by hiring 5 – 10 graphic designers, giving them a rough design or concept for your logo and seeing which one comes up with the best one. You can then take the one you like best and have it improved upon.
When it comes to choosing colours for your brand identity, it’s not just a matter of preferences or what you think looks good: research shows that colours provoke different unconscious reactions in people. This means you should choose your brand’s colours according to the feelings you want your target audience to experience. Let’s take a look at the commonly-used colours and what they represent.
- Red is the colour of love, excitement, and warmth, but also danger and aggression. It’s also the colour our eye is attracted to first.
- Yellow is known as the ‘happy colour’ as is even thought to cause the release of serotonin, the hormone responsible for feelings of well-being.
- Blue, being the colour of the sky, invokes feelings of calm and peace. However, while it represents loyalty and stability (‘true blue’) it can also symbolise boredom, coldness, and sadness (feeling ‘blue’).’
- Green is the colour of nature and provokes feelings of health and wellbeing.
- Orange conveys youth, enthusiasm, and creativity. It’s also been found to promote feelings of wholesomeness or heartiness, which is why it’s frequently used in food packaging.
- Purple represents luxury, royalty, and sophistication. It can also convey mystery and spirituality. feelings of tranquillity and calm.
- Pink implies femininity, romance, and playfulness.
- Brown, as the colour of the earth, conveys calm and stability. Much like green, it relates to things that are natural and simple.
- Black conveys formality, sophistication, and mystery. But by the same token, it symbolizes the night, fear, and evil. Black is also a great colour for contrasting – to make other colours stand out more.
- White represents purity or innocence, as well as cleanliness, freshness, and simplicity. Conversely, white can seem stark, cold – or just plain. That being said, its plainness can also represent a blank slate, and symbolise a new beginning or a fresh start.
The fonts, or typography, of your brand needs to complement your logo, colours, and, most importantly, your brand messaging. It needs to match the tone you’re trying to strike in all your written communication. So, for example, you can’t have a cute or quirky font if you have a serious product or vice versa.
This is all the other visual elements of your brand, including photography, pictures, icons, and, animations, that are used on your website, in social media posts and ads, and throughout all offline promotional materials. These are an integral part of your brand messaging and are crucial in shaping your brand’s voice, so they should appeal to your target audience and be consistent.
Additional Characteristics of a Strong Brand Identity
As well as having strong visual elements, other traits help to create a compelling brand. This includes making your brand:
- Distinct: Select visual elements that capture consumer’s attention and stand out amongst your competitors.
- Cohesive: This refers to ensuring all the elements of your brand identity fit together. They need to appeal to your target audience and be in line with your brand purpose and how you’re trying to position yourself in your market. Ideally, your brand identity will have a ‘theme’ that extends across all of the products and or services you offer.
- Memorable: Make your brand easy to recognise and remember.
- Scalable and Flexible: Design your brand identity in such a way that it can expand as your business grows. For a good example of this, look no further than Google. At first, when Google was just a search engine, its branding mainly extended to its multi-coloured logo. However, as its offering grew so did its branding. Now, they have logos for each app, including G Mail, Maps, Docs, Slides, etc, and each one is instantly recognisable as a Google product as it all fits a similar theme.
- Easy to Apply: Design your branding in such a way that it can be picked up and worked on by different people. This could be the other people that help run your company, different departments within your organisation, or external design or marketing agencies that you hire to work on your branding. The most effective way to do this is to create a set of brand guidelines – which we’ll look at in the next section.
Maintaining Your Brand Identity
Dedicate Ample Resources to Maintain Your Brand
You’d think that the most recognisable brands, like Coca-Cola, Nike, and McDonald’s, wouldn’t have to spend as much on marketing, after decades of establishing themselves. I mean, no one’s going to forget about Coke, right? However, it’s those same companies that spend the most – to the tune of $100s of millions – to maintain their brand. This perfectly illustrates the fact that if the world’s most prolific and popular companies have to dedicate ample resources to their brand – then all businesses need to.
You need to set aside time and money to growing and subsequently maintaining your brand. This includes:
- Assessing and, occasionally, improving your brand identity
- Expanding your brand identity to new products or services – and launching them
- Increasing awareness among your target market
- Researching how consumers feel about your brand (i.e., how well are you achieving your brand purpose)
- Reviewing your brand strategy.
Continuously Evaluate and Update Your Brand
As you build brand awareness among your target market, you’ll learn more about how they feel about your brand and which of its elements they respond to. With this information, you can update and upgrade your brand: tweaking your colour palette, refining your logo, finetuning your brand messaging, etc.
If you’d like to see examples of this tweaking and updating in action, go back and take a look at some of the brands you grew up with that are still around today. Search for old print ads on Google and their old TV commercials on YouTube, and you’ll soon notice the subtle ways in which they updated their brands over the years, while still retaining their core identity.
Establishing Guidelines for Your Brand
As mentioned in the previous section, part of what goes into creating a strong brand is making it easy to apply. The simplest way to do this is to create a set of brand guidelines. Your brand guidelines are a set of rules and instructions for how to express, or communicate, your brand. It’s what can and can’t be done when using your brand in marketing activity.
Your brand guidelines should include:
- How your logo should be used, and if you have more than one, which is primary, secondary, etc.
- Your colour palette: which are your primary colours, etc.
- Fonts: styles, sizes, spacing
- Imagery: What tone and feel should it have? What should imagery feature and not feature
- Brand messaging: What kind of language, tone, etc. is used in brand communication.
Your brand goes a long way to determining how successful your business is, because it defines the connection between you and consumers. It’s why they choose to buy from you instead of other companies in your chosen market. For your company to be as successful as you’ve envisioned, you need to strengthen your brand – and, consequently, your bond with your customers, as much as possible.
Steve Jaenke has been involved in the digital world for over 2 decades. Seeing the power of SEO early in the market he pivoted his business to focus on assisting SME to understand and leverage the power of Google. He is a recurrent judge for the Australian Web Awards awards.