by Geoff Somner
Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes
When we talk about branding, we are really talking about brand identity, but before you can get your identity right, you need to make sure that your brand is right.
What is your brand?
In marketing terms, your brand is your products, your services and your market positioning, but it’s also your people, your ethos, your culture and the trust you have built with your employees and your customers. Your brand is defined by its values – is it driven by tradition, cost, excitement, adventure, credibility, security or numerous other qualities?
Why is your brand so important?
Your brand gives your potential clients an understanding of what to expect, before they buy from you. Customers return time and again to strong brands because they know what to expect and they want to buy into the brand’s values.
How do you know if you’ve got your brand right?
Firstly decide what it is you really want your brand to be. Where do you want to be positioned in your markets? What are your values, or more importantly, what values do your potential customers look for in your product or service? And don’t make the mistake of competing on conflicting values; you cannot sell high quality products at rock-bottom prices – at least not without looking cheap or unscrupulous!
To be clear, we are not just talking about your branding, it’s not just your logo and your promotional literature, but the overall impression of your organisation, which is affected by every single interaction that a potential customer has with it – how clean your vehicles are and how they are driven, how and where you advertise, how long it takes to answer your phone and how it is answered, how your staff are dressed and how they interact with customers, the layout of your shops/offices/studios, how enquiries are followed up, the look and feel of your products, the options available, the packaging, and then maybe the price and the after sales service. To mention just a few.
Once you know what your brand should be, take a step back and take a good hard look at what you’ve currently got. What does your brand actually represent? Ask potential customers how they perceive your brand. Do they see your brand as you see it, or how you want it to be seen?
So, you know what your brand should be, how do you get your identity right?
In fact, what is a brand identity? A brand identity is defining all of the things that define your brand. It should include a logo, a strap line, graphical and photographic styles, a colour scheme and typographic styling to define how promotional materials should look. But it can also define a ‘tone of voice’ to be used in written communications, a script of how a phone should be answered, design of staff uniforms, design of shop-fronts and signage, layouts of premises – and so it goes on.
How do you distil your brand values into a single identity? A good start is to choose half a dozen of the values that best reflect your brand and focus on them. Then define your Unique Selling Point (USP) – the one value that makes you stand above your competition. This can often be the basis of a company strap line, for example, BMW’s strapline ‘the ultimate driving machine’ represents their USP of ‘performance’.
This is where I predictably say that you need to talk to professional, but it is true. There is a lot invested in your brand, so it is important to get the identity right, but that requires a number of skills, not least to see the identity impartially – based on the identified brand values and the USP, rather than personal preferences. Approach a reputable design agency that can develop an identity to reflect your brand values across all potential uses, from stationery to brochures, exhibition stands to vehicle livery and websites to offline and online advertising.
But you already have an established identity…
You already have a logo and colour scheme that is used on signage, vehicles and promotional literature. In this case, an update may well be more appropriate than a complete redesign, so that you don’t loose recognition from your existing clients, but actually draw their attention to the revised brand, showing that you are evolving as an organisation.
There is of course the matter of cost, especially if rebranding means new vehicle livery and uniforms, but it is worth looking at the maths, or rather the return on investment. How much would an identity that invokes your brand values in your potential clients be worth in potential sales? How much would you save on advertising by having a brand that is more easily recognised and understood?
I see that Jacob’s biscuits recently updated their brand identity to bring it up to date – but I guess they didn’t need to?
A Computer Science graduate way back when, Geoff is an experienced programmer utilising his system analysis and interface design skills to enable the team to build effective applications.