A Complete Branding Guide
Imagine if Coca-Cola randomly changed its red and black label to blue and white.
Do you think you would be able to recognize it? Probably not.
Your eyes are accustomed to searching for the iconic red label in the store aisles, and hence, it would throw you off. So how did we come to associate Coca-Cola with red and black or Subway sandwiches with yellow and green?
The answer is branding. But, it is not just about the color, label, or font. It is about how an audience perceives a brand. When branding your business, the main goal is to distinguish yourself from the competition. By doing so, you can persuade a customer to purchase from you rather than your competitors. For example, Wendy’s is known to be sassy, Fenty Beauty is known to be inclusive, Apple is known for quality, and Google is known for its reliability. These are all parts of what form their brand identity, which they have spent years building. Hence, this contributes to the decision-making process of their customers before they engage with the company.
So what is this brand identity?
The values, ideas, and beliefs that a person associates with a brand are called brand identity. In short, the impression a brand leaves on you is its brand identity. Every aspect of the brand contributes to its identity- the color palette, the font, the customer service, the product quality, the tone of marketing, etc.
In this article, we shall explore what encompasses branding and how you can leverage it to make sure your audience is excited to engage with your brand each time they come across it.
Before we understand brand identities a bit deeper, we must correlate them with real-life examples. Hence, here are some examples of brand identities done right:
One of the most popular redesigns of 2018, Mailchimp, stood out in the digital market because of its highly creative approach to the idea of branding.
Mailchimp went all out with painterly illustrations and creative typography for the visual branding of the company. But what stood out the most was its whimsical voice and the hilarious tone of the website. Mailchimp became one of the most successful digital brands in 2018 because of how unique it was in every way. It disrupted the usual “corporate” communication style by making the interaction with its audience light-hearted and fun.
Apple’s famous branding approach has always been based on emotion, thanks to the leadership of Steve Jobs, a forward-thinking creative genius. Apple has prioritized developing a community of devoted followers right from its founding in 1976.
Because they keep a veil of secrecy over their brand’s internal workings, the buzz surrounding their product launches is unparalleled, generating dialogues among both techies and laypeople.
Apple has long positioned itself as a unique brand that “thinks differently.” Unlike other digital firms, the foundation of their business strategy isn’t what the products accomplish but what they invoke in the customer.
Apple customers don’t think, “I want this since it’s a Dual-SIM, 128GB, 48-megapixels.” Their customers think, “I want this since it’s an Apple phone.” That right there shows what investing in a good branding strategy can do.
Apple’s use of a minimal luxury air when advertising futuristic product releases have enabled the Apple brand to be linked with quality in the eyes of its fans. And that’s why many of its customers pay huge money for a symbol of wealth based on emotion rather than productivity.
Uber realized it had a difficult task ahead of it: convincing consumers that its bad image had left the room when its former CEO was removed on the grounds of overworking the employees and misbehavior.
Uber decided to start from the beginning with a new makeover in 2018.
Dara Khosrowshahi, the firm’s new CEO, assured consumers that he would give the brand a clean slate. And so, they completely rebranded most things while still keeping some elements of the old design. This was done to ensure that it retains the familiarity of its original customer base.
Uber’s rebrand is a powerful example of how design can influence consumer opinion.
The start-up realized that the Airbnb network had grown significantly since its inception and outgrown the original Airbnb identity. The company’s executives needed to remodel the brand as it evolved. So they asked themselves what their purpose was and the core concept that characterized Airbnb.
For a long time, people mistook Airbnb for a place to rent apartments. But, in the end, it is all about home. The company CEO Brian Chesky stated, “You know, a property is just a place, but a home is where you belong.” “What makes this global network so unique is that, for the first time, you can belong anywhere you go.”
That is how they dodged the earlier backlash from their 2014 rebranding- by tying it to a deeper meaning of togetherness and belonging.
Why is Branding Necessary?
Branding improves recognition and makes your customers identify your brand better. Without this, there will be no real distinguishing factor between you and another brand. The moment a kid sees a big yellow M on the side of the road, he knows it is McDonald’s. He asks his parents if they can get a McDonald’s on the way, and that is how the brand interacts with the customer on a personal level. It is hard to miss elements of the brand in your daily life if you recognize what they stand for. So the more you notice a brand, the bigger its value.
2. Building Trust
Branding creates trust. Just as a family will not commit to a daycare facility on a whim, customers tend to purchase from familiar brands. This familiarity can only come when your brand is recognizable. And your brand is recognizable only when the branding is done well.
Would you buy baby care products from Johnson & Johnson or a brand you had never heard of? Most consumers would go for the former because the brand is familiar and hence seen as trustworthy.
Brands that have a comprehensive brand identity are easier to advertise. Why? Because a brand that has a consistent visual/audio palette is far easier to recognize than one that doesn’t. Imagine a Pepsi ad that doesn’t have the color palette of the iconic drink. Pretty unlikely, right? Having a visual identity makes it easier for advertisers to connect with the prospective consumer.
4. Financial Valuation
In the stock market, every company is run by its valuation. And its valuation is run by its brand value. This brand value, in turn, is run by the brand’s identity. Hence, the company must invest in a good branding strategy to help increase its brand value.
Assuming you have never invested in the food sector and you do not know much about the stock market, you see the top few stocks on your screen. They are Starbucks, Golden Gate Capital, and Blinker International. What would you be most inclined to invest in? Most people would prefer Starbucks because they are familiar with it and are most likely customers themselves. This reflects the brand value of Starbucks. And branding has played a massive role in it.
Kyle Cosmetics grew exponentially over the past few years because of how recognizable it had become because of social media. This was a result of employing great branding strategies.
How To Develop a Branding Strategy?
Branding Strategy is a step-by-step process to build a brand image and shape its identity so that it connects with the audience.
1. Brand Core
A brand with shaky foundations would never be able to grow. Hence, it is essential to know what the brand stands for. The brand core consists of three things- values, vision, and purpose. These have to be crystal clear and have to shine through in everything the brand does or shows.
Conveying these aspects succinctly in the design and marketing helps amplify it, but reflecting it in your brand experience helps turn your prospects into loyal customers.
Tesla’s core purpose is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy so that together we can save the planet. This shines through in everything the brand does and is. In May 2021, it publicly denounced Bitcoin as a payment method for Teslas because of Bitcoin’s non-sustainable mining process. This is just one of the many instances where Tesla has lived up to its purpose.
2. Brand Vision
Where is your brand heading? And how will it reach there? Having a clear vision for a brand helps you create a plan for its growth and development. This, in turn, adds value to your brand.
Keep in mind that the goal must be so vast that both the difficulty and the potential of realizing it are bold and scary.
While this goal should be ambitious, attaining it must be possible for the organization to believe in and buy into it. Once your organization believes it, your consumers will too.
Having a clear idea of where you want to go will enable you to make better-informed decisions and think more strategically. That way, if a specific activity or decision takes you in the direction of your future brand, you will be far more likely to stay “on brand” and scheduled.
LinkedIn’s vision statement says, “To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” Understandably, they are working towards realizing this vision every day.
3. Brand Values
What are brand values?
They are essentially a compass pointing to the North Star of your company’s performance. Your brand’s principles are at their very foundation.
It will determine how you want your brand’s identity to be seen in the marketplace.
It’s more about the impression your clients, suppliers, and the general public will have about your brand since this is about how your company does things.
When Jeffree Star Cosmetics says they are “Vegan and Cruelty-Free,” those are the ethical values that the brand holds.
4. Brand Positioning
You can alter whatever you’re doing to be more desirable if you have a good knowledge of certain things. Like your audience, their issues and wants, as well as the competitors in your field.
And these changes don’t have to have an impact on business operations.
It might be as simple as the way you display your company’s services.
Because, after all, positioning is all about how people see you.
As a result, how you portray your brand makes a significant impact on how it is remembered.
You no longer need to be a trailblazer or have unique items. Positioning begins with a product or service; but, positioning is not something you do with a commodity. Positioning is what you do to a consumer’s thoughts, influencing their idea of what you are.
Let’s do an exercise: Think of 3 fashion brands.
Maybe you thought of brands like Prada, Gucci, or Louis Vuitton.
Now think of affordable fashion brands. You probably thought of brands like H&M, Forever 21, or Zara.
Whatever brand comes to mind, it was able to establish a distinct position in your head. And this is the most basic example of how placement works.
Customers, on the other hand, can position companies differently depending on their lifestyle and experience. A well-off customer might say Louis Vuitton is affordable, and Schiaparelli is expensive. And they might not even consider buying from H&M.
5. Target Audience
Who is your brand trying to reach?
What are they like?
What are their needs?
What do they dislike?
These are all questions you need to know.
No matter how effective & compelling your marketing is, advertising baby products to people who are not parents will not help your brand sell.
Knowing your audience not only helps convert prospects into customers but ensures that the brand is shown to the market sector where it is most penetrable.
Put yourself in their shoes, chalk out their problems, and make sure you position your brand to help address those issues. For example, Lenskart made sure that they profiled their audience well- Who were they trying to reach? People with seeing difficulties, looking to buy glasses online.
What were the issues they were facing? They had a limited assortment of styles to choose from and were too busy to go to a physical store. They also wanted to know how the glasses would look on them before they bought them.
How did Lenskart address these issues? They marketed themselves specifically to people with glasses and announced a 30-day return policy if the customer was not satisfied. They also had a “virtual try-on” where the customer could “see” the frame on their face by switching on their device camera. This gave the buyer confidence to make a purchase.
6. Market Research
Analyzing the market helps us penetrate it. That is because analysis shows us the loopholes in the brands that already have considerable market share. And this allows you to bring to the customer what your competitors cannot.
This is how you can stand out in the market and in the eyes of the consumer. Do not emulate the brand identity, voice, or style of service of existing companies. You can study them for inspiration, but with a critical eye.
As a result, you must evaluate them from the perspective of your consumer. Determine what product choices they currently have and where the market is underserved.
7. Brand Culture
Good brand culture means that everyone is on board with the values and purpose that drive the brand. Instead of the brand being a public image that is projected only outwardly to customers, it’s something that is built from the inside out. It means that the people who make up the business live breathing embodiments of the brand they represent.
A Samsung employee using an Apple phone might deter you from buying a Samsung phone. That is because you would doubt whether the Samsung employee truly believes in the brand’s products, values, and purpose. This is just a loose example of a company member’s lack of belief in the brand.
A good brand culture
- attracts like-minded people – whether they’re potential employees or potential customers
- grows an environment where people that are motivated to work for you and are passionate about what they do
- creates team members who are great brand ambassadors who boost your brand awareness
- builds brands that are authentic and truly represent what the business believes.
8. Brand Personality
Interacting with a brand is like interacting with a person. And like people, every brand has its unique personality. Personality is what helps differentiate a brand from its contemporaries. One look at Wendy’s Twitter account and its sassiness and humor jumps out at you. Similarly, one visit to the Savage XFinity website and the diversity of the models stands out. These are all aspects of the brand’s personality.
The brand personality is arguably the most significant part of its identity. It comprises visual identity (logos, illustrations, color palette, font, typography), tone (voice, idea delivery), and the brand core.
9. Brand Guidelines
Brand guidelines are the reference tools that help maintain consistency in what a brand looks, feels, and sounds like. Think of your brand identity as your company’s personality. It’s how the world recognizes you and begins to trust you. If you see someone change how they look and act all the time, you won’t feel like you know who they are, and you certainly won’t trust them. A brand style guide or guidelines include six essential elements: your brand story, logos & icons, typography, color palette, Imagery & brand voice/tone.
Elements of Visual Branding
Visual branding is one of the most critical aspects of brand identity because it garners a consumer’s first impression. There are various ways to etch a brand in a customer’s mind visually. Here are some:
Imagine the brand Mercedes. What comes to mind first? It’s a legendary logo, right?
A company’s logo is its face, and developing one is perhaps the most significant branding you will do for your organization. Consider who you are as a brand & how you want to be regarded by your consumers during the creative process of making the logo. Use this as the foundation for your design plan.
The design of your website is also an essential part of your branding strategy. Your website is your brand’s digital store, and it should be visually appealing, user-friendly, and, most importantly, a representation of who you are as a company. To pick your web design elements, use your brand guidelines in the same way you did for your logo (like fonts and layout).
A color story is a significant part of your brand identity as it is the most fundamental visual stimulus to the viewer. Imagining McDonald’s as anything other than yellow or imagining Dunkin as anything other than pink and orange is difficult. Similarly, your color palette will become your brand’s primary identity, so choose it wisely.
Airbnb and Uber were great examples of how typography can revolutionize a brand’s identity. Your brand’s font makes a significant psychological impact on the viewer’s perception of you.
- define the font
- grows an environment where people that are motivated to work for you and are passionate about what they do
- specify the usage
- mention the variations (light, medium, bold)
Do the same with the secondary font.
It is a massive misconception that branding is only something that big corporations do. Anything that can be perceived as a brand. Be it a YouTuber, a product, or a service, no matter how big or small. And every brand needs branding. Every brand gets a brand identity irrespective of whether they consciously put any effort into it or not. But putting that extra effort makes sure that the brand’s image is tailor-made to exactly how it should be. That is what drives the brand’s recognition and identity in the market, and you can steer the public image of your organization yourself.
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