“Our company needs a new brand. Will you create a logo for us?”
Anyone who has spent 5 minutes in a design house has heard this statement from a prospect at least once. Though it drives designers nuts, it is actually a common misconception that a logo is a brand.
A logo is the first thing your customers see, so it creates an impression. A logo begins to define the style of your organization. Are you sleek and modern, simple and elegant, or brash and bold? Colors, typography, and style of a logo mark all combine to create the impression of your organization. These are all logo “truths.”
But your logo is still not your brand.
Your brand is also not your product, your website, or your name. These elements are simply spokes on the wheel of what constitutes a brand. When our team evaluates what creates an effective organizational brand, we start with the following 4 pillars:
PILLAR 1: Strategy
If you don’t have an overarching strategy to bring your brand to market and to help it be successful there, start here. Strategy is the single-most important aspect of your marketing efforts. It belays every marketing tactic and undergirds every strategy.
A cohesive, unified strategy that outlines all of the elements of your brand, defines who your target market is, and lays out your business development goals is key to marketing success. So before you put pen to paper (or pixel to canvas) on a logo or website, make sure you have an overarching strategy in place that guides all of your marketing decisions.
- Target Market
- Market Research
- Competitive Analysis
- Market Strategy
Hubspot says, “A well-defined and executed brand strategy affects all aspects of a business and is directly connected to consumer needs, emotions, and competitive environments.”
Need help understanding the strategic side branding? Check out our new Strategy Audit.
PILLAR 2: Functionality
Your brand must meet some minimum standards to be considered practical to your customers and engage their buying power. Is your brand useful to your customers? Does it make their life better? Are the interactions that your customers are having with your brand pleasant and helpful?
Harvard Business Review states that “Ultimately, brand is about caring about your business at every level and in every detail, from the big things like mission and vision, to your people, your customers, and every interaction anyone is ever going to have with you, no matter how small.”
Here are some of the elements of pillar 2:
- Product quality: Is your product or service good?
- Are you unique? Probably not, so you have to at least show that you are different from everyone else in your category.
- The comprehensive grouping of your customer’s experiences/interactions with your brand
- Customer support: Are they helpful or hostile?
Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon.com says that:
“Your brand is what people say about you when you leave the room.”
When was the last time you polled your customers to find out what they are saying about your product or services? Is what they are saying what you want them to be saying? If not, some brand tweaking may be in order. Today’s social listening and influencer tools are extensive and can help you discover what is being said about you online.
PILLAR 3: Messaging
Messaging is the way you speak. It is the story you tell. The way you talk about your products and services. What you choose to feature or not to feature.
Remaining cohesive and unified on messaging begins internally. Before you introduce your brand to the marketplace, make sure you have unified internal stakeholders through a set of vision, mission and value statements that represent your organization’s core identity. If people are not bought in internally, it will be harder to sell your brand externally.
How you present your product’s features (what something is) and benefits (what something does) can help or hinder your messaging. We’ve found most organizations remain “feature-centered” and leave it to the prospect to figure out what’s in it for them.
That’s not a good messaging strategy.
Apple is brilliant at benefit-marketing. Anyone remember the iPod? Apple was successful at selling it because they sold on benefits (1000 songs in your pocket) vs. features (cool new gadget with lots of storage space).
Additional messaging elements that we will unpack in a later blog are:
- Brand Promise
- Brand Personality
- Brand Voice
- Brand Story
PILLAR 4: Look & Feel
Finally! Once you have the above pillars in place (or at least Pillar 1 defined, and the rest being actively worked on), you can begin with the visual elements. Your brand’s visual elements include the following:
- Design: Logo, colors, typography
- Print ads, online ads
- Online interface: website and social media presence
- Brick and mortar interface
The visual elements are what most often grab the attention of your audience and reflect who you are as an organization, a product, or a service. When considering visual elements, make sure they are a true reflection of the entire organization and where you are heading.
As you can see with the 4 pillars, what seems to be small or unimportant details of your brand really matter.
The combination of the 4 pillars create an emotional bond within the heart and mind of the customer that results in a purchasing decision (or multiple purchasing decisions). Because research proves that emotions are the main drivers in the entire decision-making process, creating a strong emotional bond with your brand is key to marketing success.
And one final reminder as you step into the world of branding…
A brand left unattended will lead to entropy of said brand.
This means that if you don’t control what your organizational brand is, someone else will—whether they are inside or outside of the organization.
Harvard Business Review cleverly states that “When left unattended—or without a strong, unified, organizational-level core identity— individual managers will do their own ad hoc marketing. The result is a hodgepodge of corporate logos, tag lines and packaging. Customers will be confused and the company will look disorganized.”