What is branding?

What is branding?

8 May 2019 |
Posted in Branding

“Your brand needs to be a truthful reflection of what you represent and what you deliver”

Your understanding of branding and how it can benefit your business, will vary according to your marketing experience. Perhaps you have a marketing degree and are a full-time marketeer for a large company, or you’ve been ‘elected’ the marketing member of your team, because you ‘do’ social, or you could be an entrepreneur starting up.

As a design agency, we work with a range of different clients of all types and with varying degrees of design and marketing knowledge. Wherever you fit within this arena, you’ll need to have a clear understanding of branding concepts to enable you to brief your designer – whether they are based in house or from an external design agency. So, whether you’re looking to refresh an identity, brand your social pages, or create an identity for a new business, we’ll help you get the branding basics in place to get you off to the best possible start.

Facing up to reality

Your brand identity is in simple terms the face of your business. It makes up the visual elements of your brand, including your name, the design of your logo and a palette of colours. Yet, it also encompasses non-visual elements such as your tone of voice and personality. It’s a way of distinguishing your business from your competitors and an opportunity to show what makes you a better choice.

Your brand has a tough job. It’s got to work hard to encapsulate what you do and how you do it, while reflecting your company values, culture and personality.

The good, the bad and the misunderstood

Brand image is about how your brand is perceived by others. The best outcome is for your brand collateral to be perceived as a true reflection of what you represent. But it can go wrong when what you reflect isn’t true to your company values. To gain customer satisfaction, what you portray within your brand image needs to square up with what you deliver. Your brand needs to be a truthful reflection of what you represent and what you actually provide.

Understanding brand assumptions

Whatever your brand is trying to achieve, is dependent on the meaning that the audience takes from it. While it’s not possible to tailor a brand to each and every individuals’ personal experiences and associations, we can base a design on a company’s customer insight and commonly shared associations. This knowledge forms part of the key information needed so that the brand is based on solid information, avoiding the danger of relying on an unfounded ‘gut feeling’.

Communication will go awry when these preconceptions and associations vary so widely that there is little common ground, and as a result your brand is misunderstood. Testing the design is a valuable exercise to gain feedback about how a design is perceived and whether it has the desired effect.

As designers, we instinctively feel ‘from the gut’, we have to carefully assess what we deliver in terms of a brand, and relay client insight into our design direction and decisions, and ultimately our messaging.

Visual impressions

Part of how we perceive a brand identity is based on our visual interpretation of the brand elements that include the logo, colour palette, font, and language. We might perceive that a brand is a young and vibrant company, that it’s a financial centre, or perhaps a community based organisation. But what are the visual design elements that combine to give these impressions? The perception is based on associations we make with certain colours, fonts, images, coupled with the tone of voice that is used in the copy.

Creative branding for Snape Maltings

We can determine from the design we created for our client, Snape Maltings, that it’s a creative organisation. The unique and bespoke lettering is certainly a clue. In fact, the identity for the arts and retail centre, located in rural Suffolk, takes its inspiration from the surrounding natural landscape. The lettering is based on a pattern of hand-cut paper strips to resemble the reeds around the nearby River Alde, with a colour palette reminiscent of the reeds, bricks, slate and sky surrounding the site. The lettering pattern is used as a device on its website, packaging, brochures and flyers.

Snape Maltings Brand

Corporate branding for Mantle Business Centres

There is a stark contrast with the identity for Mantle Business Centres, a commercial enterprise that provides serviced office accommodation at multiple sites. It’s all about space and composition to reflect what the business offers. The brand uses snappy language, to keep the message to the point, while at the same time creating an efficient personality with the strap line, ‘Work. Meet. Grow’.

The concept is for the brand to be recognised whichever location you are at, with the site illustrations taking on a similar style to the openness of the outline font, Futura Demi. Petrol blue and turquoise have been chosen as the two corporate colours used throughout the branding – keeping it uncomplicated and recognisable throughout the different locations.

Mantle Branding

Buying into the Dingbats brand

There’s a certain buzz with the identity for Dingbats Notebooks – a High Street and online brand with a young, eco-conscious vision. Here the brand identity is reflected in the design of the products, with a personality that’s fun and quirky with a fashionable range of colours to choose from. The notebook collections are based on Wildlife and Earth, with each design having its own personal story and meaning, echoing the company’s environmental commitment. In essence, the green message becomes the brand. When you buy a Dingbats Notebook, you’re buying more than a notebook, you’re buying an commitment to the environment with a product that’s degradable, vegan and recyclable.

Dingbats Brand

The human side to branding

Branding must be seen as a multi-layered process that encompasses many different elements. Apart from elements such as your marketing collateral, your brand includes your most valuable asset – your employees. They are living and breathing your brand every single day and in essence are bringing your brand to life. Creating a positive culture in the workplace will help your brand to be relayed to the outside world.

The top award for promoting a positive brand through employees must undoubtedly be handed to John Lewis. The company’s values are based on excellent customer service and are reflected in the courtesy and training that its employees exhibit. The company also stays true to its promise, “Never knowingly undersold.” In essence, John Lewis will match the price of goods that they sell that customers find cheaper elsewhere. It’s not just a gimmick – they stay true to their word and build customer trust and loyalty by keeping their promise.

Making branding personal

And while we’re talking about how successful branding can create customer loyalty, it’s worth mentioning about how this loyalty can be gained by adding emotion to the customer experience. People won’t often remember what you said or did but will remember how you made them feel. Feelings and emotions are key drivers in approaching a brand strategy, creating a feel-good factor will have customers coming back for more.

It’s naïve to view branding as merely a logo design. It’s much more complex and multi-layered than that and needs to be viewed as one of the foundation stones to building and developing a successful business. Do you need help with your brand design and marketing collateral? Get in touch to discuss how we can help you develop your branding.