The terms design and branding have been utilized interchangeably, for long enough. And, in doing so, for years, we have failed to recognize and leverage their individual value. While there is no doubt, that there is a symbiotic relationship that tethers the two together, it’s important that we acknowledge the role of design within the branding process.
Branding lies at the intersection of business, marketing and design. At its core, branding’s purpose is to communicate value and worth. Sure, design plays a large role in how that’s both expressed and received. However, design is a means. Its purpose is derived from strategy.
First and foremost, brand strategy delves deep into what makes an entity valuable. Its aim is to uncover what an individual, or a business’, unique selling proposition is. What does this brand have to offer and what is its purpose in offering it? This part of the branding process is all about constructing a brand’s identity.
Asking these questions, will lead to a solid mission and vision. They will enable a brand to discover their core brand values and delineate their course of action moving forward. In fact, it’s within this part of the branding process, that we see a lot of business and marketing elements at play.
Now, is when brands are asked to consolidate their efforts and define their product, or service, in a way that speaks to their audience. And, as a result, they begin to hone in on their brand personality. Thus, transforming a business plan into a heartfelt commitment. This stage of branding, humanizes a business’ efforts and contextualizes them.
Brand identity is all about how you wish to be perceived and what you wish to communicate.
The following are some of the key elements of your brand identity:
A brand’s value proposition refers to who they are and, how, who they are, will add value to those they seek to reach. It’s a statement that will help guide your business. It will help ensure your brand is making the right decisions and making all of the necessary efforts to support your purpose and further your message.
A brand’s unique selling proposition is slightly more external, in that it aims to tell others why they ought to do business with you versus your competitors. Your unique selling proposition is about defining the key elements that will help differentiate your brand on the market. What unique service, product, value, perspective, etc. do bring to table that makes doing business with you, worth more than doing it with someone else.
A brand’s purpose is it’s why. It’s your brand’s raison d'être. Why does your brand do what it does? What motivates it to create, serve, support? Your brand’s purpose often serves to unite you and your audience under a common goal. For example, a brand’s purpose might be to empower young women in the STEM field. As a result, they offer classes, scholarships, networking events, etc.
A brand’s promise goes hand -in-hand with its purpose. A brand’s promise is the commitment it makes to meet expectations and deliver on the value, experience and quality that their customers have come to expect from them.
Brand messaging encompasses all of the written and verbal communication that a brand puts forth. Brand messaging covers everything from content, slogans, and elevator pitches to press releases and customer care responses. The key to successful messaging lies in authenticity and consistency. A brand’s messaging must always be cohesive and must always serve the larger brand purpose.
Your brand’s vision is what ultimately guides your brand purpose. It’s about looking ahead and envisioning what you ultimately see happening as a result of your commitment to your brand purpose and audience. Where do you see your brand heading? What do you see your efforts accomplishing?
Your brand objectives and goals are the more tangible milestones you wish to accomplish, along your business journey. Objectives are slightly smaller in scope. They serve to keep your branding on track, in order meet larger goals. Setting and editing goals is something that brand must do continuously. New areas for improvement, new ideas, new demands, etc. all require flexibility, strategy, and goal setting. Goals can revolve around any aspect of your branding, for example: visibility, recognition, reputation, and reach.
A large part of what defines your brand identity is what you do. The product or services you offer will inevitably shape how your brand comports itself. Furthermore, the sector, market and audience which it serves will also impact your brand’s need, actions, messaging, tone, etc.
Now, it’s important to note that there are more elements to your brand identity that were not mentioned, but for the sake of this article let’s just say you’ve completed that stage of the process.
Upon reflecting on it, you’ll realize that as your brand identity is taking shape and the above elements are defined, design is being used as a lens.
Businesses routinely use elements of design thinking to find desirable solutions for audience needs and lay the groundwork for brand identity. Yet, once that groundwork is agreed upon, meaning the above-mentioned elements are well-defined (for the time being, of course, as markets, audiences, brands and needs evolve), the purpose of design shifts.
Design’s aim within branding, now becomes, to answer the question, how can we package those solutions and ourselves, as marketable and attractive offerings?
This is when design becomes far more visual and overtly creative. It’s when we convert those internal, identity markers into distinctive and desirable brand elements. These elements can include:
A logo is graphic symbol that represents your brand. It identifies that which belongs to your business and helps raise awareness about you and your efforts. A logo often reflects the core values and purpose of a brand. The goal is for it to be both distinctive and memorable.
A slogan is a simple and memorable catchphrase that often accompanies a brand’s logo. Its aim is to help communicate what the brand is about. A successful slogan will help differentiate the brand and at the same time, evoke positive emotions from those who hear it. Great slogans are often adopted by audiences, thus making it and its brand easily recognizable.
A brand’s voice is the way in which it communicates, whether that be in the interactions it has with others or the content it shares. It can include everything from the tone a brand uses; to its use of colloquialisms; to its sense of humor, or lack thereof. All brand messaging must employ a cohesive a brand voice, in order to inspire trust and build a solid reputation. The best way to ensure your brand voice is consistent is to have it be authentic and to make sure it takes into consideration your brand’s unique value and selling propositions, audience, industry, purpose, message, objectives and values. Furthermore, a brand’s voice will help define its personality. By giving humanizing your brand, you make it more relatable and accessible to your audience.
Typography is all about how text is arranged, and how it’s styled. Choosing the right typography is key, given that it can communicate a lot about brand’s personality. The right typography helps establish your brand tone and helps communicate your brand values.
Understanding the psychology of color is important when it comes choosing your brand palette. Even though a certain color might not evoke the same feeling in all individuals, as emotions associated with a particular color can vary depending on personal experience, preference, etc. one still pay close attention to color. Certain industries utilize colors that connote a more serious and somber tone, while for example, the hue of a color can alter a person’s response to it. Choosing the right color can help your brand stand out, or even fit, if needed.
Your website is a critical part of your branding. It serves as a hub for your brand and as modern-day business card. It’s where your audience will learn about your brand story, fall in love with your mission and ultimately, make the decision to actively support or engage with your brand and its services.
A brand’s visuals be they infographics, gifs, photographs, etc. all help to differentiate it in the marketplace. A consistent visual brand helps generate trust and increase brand recognition. Visuals that are unique, appealing and informative help both deliver the brand message and ensure that it’s remembered.
With the overabundance of information online, it’s important that brands think creatively, in order to stand out. One of those ways, and perhaps one of the most effective, is print communication. These days a simple, personalized, handwritten letter can go a long way, as can clever packaging. A brand’s visual identity needs to account for and work offline.
Brands need to think outside the box. Two clever ways to brand your business are through the use of audio and smell. Appealing to a person’s senses can often bring about feelings of nostalgia, or pleasure. By, for example, consistently playing the same music when someone browses your website or by spraying of your products with the same scent, your customer begins to associate them with the positive experience they had, while using your products, services and site.
Last, but certainly not least on this list, is brand experience. Brand experience is all encompassing. It refers to the feelings, sensations, thoughts and behaviors that are your audience has as a result of interacting with your brand. This is something that can greatly enhance your offering. It differentiates your brand and it can even be selling point of its own. There are many brands that sell products, because they also sell an experience or a lifestyle to go with it.
Of course, there are many more ways in which a brand can express itself. These are only a few of them. Brands can and should feel free to explore and get creative when it comes their branding.
The advantage of doing so, is that by successfully representing your brand identity in a unique and consistent way, you can create a favorable brand image.
Your brand image, is how you are perceived by your audience.
Have you successfully defined and sold your audience on your efforts, your values, your purpose and your message? Is your target’s view of your business congruent with how you had wished to be perceived? The answer to the latter will tell you whether your branding is effective.
Unfortunately, though it is usually during this part of the branding process, where we see individuals mistakenly argue design and branding to be one in the same. They believe creativity and visual design are all that go into elements like logos or business card layouts.
However, as you can now tell, branding is far more than design.
When people use terms interchangeably they are not only neglecting to differentiate between both branding and design, but they are also failing to acknowledge that different types of design exist. Design runs far deeper than what can be seen. Just as branding runs deeper than a logo and its slogan.