Yes, logos are usually a key part of a brand and are often the spearhead of it, but a brand encompasses so much more. How often have you seen ‘branding’ shoved into the list of services offered by creative agencies? It’s a bit like Starbucks offering cakes, or builders offering plastering…related services that bulk the portfolio up but aren’t a really a speciality.
I’ve always taken the the opposite approach and tried to explain to clients how branding positions and differentiates their company. A logo will almost design itself if you get that right first.
A brand should be an all-encompassing ‘promise’ that wraps around the business, permeating every aspect of it. Brand is a shorthand way of expressing what the company stands for and its core values to somebody who hasn’t read your entire website, mission statement and corporate literature (so, pretty much everybody). Even if I’m not directly working on somebody’s brand development their brand still informs and shapes every creative decision I make. Sometimes it means I don’t even need to be creative – a strong brand does the work for me! I don’t have to make any decisions about colours and fonts – it’s all been worked out already.
Everything your business sends out, be it products, communications or presentations, should go through the filter that is your brand. It touches everything, adding emotion and personality, whilst projecting your values. Even the way you answer the phone, the colour of your walls…nothing should be random and everything should follow a rulebook, and creating a brand is writing that rulebook.
It’s easy to focus on a visual identity or logo rather than a brand because it’s the thing you can see. A successful identity can’t be created without a brand being established behind it. Ninety percent of an iceberg is under the sea. The beautiful part you do see above the water (if you’re lucky) is the equivalent to a brand’s logo – it can’t exist without what’s hidden underneath.
There are two kinds of branding someone like me usually ends up working on – creation and rebranding. Both offer opportunities and challenges. A new brand is an opportunity to form a company’s personality from scratch, whilst a rebrand, has something to build upon – with the added advantage of being able to reflect on a company’s history and what has worked in the past. I don’t mind doing either.
Branding for me starts with the basics: talking. You need to get a feel for the personality of a business, the people who work there and, importantly, the customers they deal with. A lot of the time we have to remind companies to put their own tastes aside and look beyond into the values and expectations of the customers they are trying to attract. Colour preferences, ethical values, music tastes, beliefs, attitudes and even smells…any of these could be important to a business and need to be projected outwards to help make a connection with customers.
At early brand meetings, I always try to stimulate an atmosphere of creativity where ideas flow to enable me to build clear picture of who a business is, who it is selling to and why those people should trust it. The discussion will have nothing at all to do with fonts or Pantone colours but can drift in any direction that helps us get a feel for what the company and its people value. If that means having the meeting somewhere that takes people out of their everyday environment, that can help as well.
The result of a branding exercise isn’t just about the appearance of a logo, but a clear way of thinking about how the company presents itself as a complete entity. The end result is a bespoke set of documented brand guidelines that act as a rulebook for anybody in an organisation. Yes, it will have the all-important logo, but the rulebook must go much further than that:
Once the rules are written down, anything new the company does can follow the principle of the brand guidelines. A good guide ensures that all new marketing material and communications are consistent with the brand’s promise, whoever is responsible for producing them.
A logo might just be something as simple as a word written in a certain typeface and a certain colour but you can guarantee there’s a lot more going on underneath the surface.
Azzure Creative are the creative marketing and digital transformation arm of Azzure IT.
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