A brand ain’t a logo (and how to improve yours).
You’ve likely heard the term, ‘brand’ used in a few different ways. For example:
• “I’m branding my website.”
• “Nike has a really strong brand.”
• “Drinking so much iced-coffee that I’m too jittery to type is very on-brand for me.”
Ask any designer what question they hear most often. I would bet it’s something like, “Can you design me a logo?”
That’s a pretty loaded question. Yes…but no. I can…But you need more than that. The words ‘brand’ and ‘logo’ are constantly used interchangeably. But let’s get this straight...
Brand ≠ Logo
A brand is a combination of visual aspects (logo, colors, packaging, photography, etc.) and non-visual aspects (mission, tone, positioning, customer service, etc.). A logo is just one part of all of those things.
A brand encompasses the complete experience customers have while interacting with you, your business, your event, or your product. It’s what pops into someone's head when they hear your or your business’s name.
This combination of visual and non-visual aspects works together to communicate to your audience and help to guide their perception of what they can expect when interacting with your business. This is the important stuff. This means you ultimately have some say in what customers think of you.
Let’s use Nike as an example. When you think of Nike, what pops into your head?
The Swoosh logo.
An image of an athlete running, jumping, sweating.
The feeling of opening a Nike shoe box and the new-sneaker-smell hits you in the face.
The attention you receive from an employee when you walk into a Nike store.
All of these things are different from each other but they make up that magical combination of visual + non-visual elements to form the Nike brand. Do you think that’s by accident? Hell no. Nike has worked for decades to build their brand so that you—the consumer—will associate these positive thoughts with them and ultimately think of them first when you’re in the market for a new pair of sneakers.
Nike is one of the most well-crafted brands in the world, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to level up your own brand. Improving your brand recognition is possible. It all comes down to knowing your goals, pinpointing your audience, building an effective brand, and being clear and consistent with that brand.
1) Determine your goals
At a high level, determining your business goals is fairly easy. If you’re a business, your main goal is likely to make sales and reach an audience who will pay for your products and/or services. If you’re a non-profit, your goal might be to gather donations or reach volunteers. As an individual, maybe your goal is to build your network. Either way, your goals will determine where you need to focus your energy and will be a guiding light as you build your new brand.
2) Pinpoint your audience
Pinpointing your audience is vital. Especially with the different ways people take in information in the modern world. Gone are the days of trying to appeal to everybody via radio, TV, or newspaper. It’s 2019 baby. I don’t even have cable!
The point is, determining your audience is important because you need to know how to appeal to them as you build your brand elements and messaging. Who are they? Age? Race? Gender? Where do they live? Where do they hang out? What are their hobbies? Figuring out your main demographic will help you build an effective brand that will reach that audience and, in turn, achieve your business goals.
3) Explore your brand “personality”
Dissecting your brand personality is the next step. If you look at your business as if it were a person, what traits would they ideally have? Would they be energetic, clever, and bold? Or would they be subdued, matter-of-fact, and established? If your brand were a car, what kind of car would it be? What about a superhero? Would it be someone like Batman—known for his double life, lack of supernatural powers, and wealth? Or would it be a superhero who’s more obscure but just as powerful?
There are a ton of exercises like these that can be done, but the goal is to create a mental portrait of the brand’s personality and what makes it different from others. Your designer should keep these traits in mind as they design the new brand to create something unique to you and your business.
4) Develop your new brand
Once your goals have been established, your audience pinpointed, and your brand thoroughly personified, it’s time to start designing and developing the visuals and messaging. Everything from the color palette, to the font choice, to the pattern style depend on your goals, audience, and brand personality.
For example, if your goal is to sell festival tickets to a Gen Z crowd, then your brand personality might indeed be energetic, clever, and bold. Taking these things into consideration, your new brand might include unique, erratic patterns, and a funky headline font. Also, it’s Gen Z—maybe throw in some clever memes for good measure.
Without experience, it can be difficult to bridge this gap between vision and reality but a good designer will be able to do so with ease.
5) Be consistent
Finally, A well-designed brand is nothing if it’s not consistent. Whether you like it or not, your subconscious thinks that consistency=trustworthy. To a customer, if your brand uses the same fonts, logos, and colors across all touchpoints, you’re going to look legit—like you’ve got your shit together. Which means whatever you’re selling must be good so count me in.
If you’re using whatever fonts you like at the moment, using brand colors incorrectly, or your messaging and tone-of-voice is all over the place, your brand is going to look disheveled and a feel little bit sketchy.
An inconsistent brand doesn’t invoke trust and, in turn, prospective customers/clients might turn to the arms of a younger, sexier, more consistently branded business.
Bottom line is that consistency = brand recognition = trust = customer loyalty = $$$.
I could do a deep dive blog post on each of these steps and there are still many more things that go into creating a well-rounded brand—But at a high level, these are some things that you can do to level-up your own brand. It’s not always easy to look inward and reevaluate your brand, but avoiding doing so could make or break your business.
I lead all of my branding clients through these steps and more via my Oddball Branding Workshop. From outlining your initial goals, to designing the visual elements, to guiding you through the ins and outs of brand consistency, I can help you level up your branding in more ways than one.