All too often when we start talking to people about branding they respond with, “oh we already have a logo”. While a logo is part of a company’s brand they aren’t the same thing. If we compare the situation to a person, the color or style of any given person’s hair isn’t what make up the whole individual. Each of us has a unique voice, message, and personality and it is the sum of all these things and more that defines us. A company’s brand is no different. And just as many of us carefully choose our outfits to ensure they convey a particular message about us, so too must a business have a quality brand strategy that will ensure its brand conveys the right message to the public. But do you really need a brand? To fully answer that question, we first need to define what a brand is.
WHAT IS A BRAND AND HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM A LOGO?
Let’s start by clarifying where the term originated. The word ‘brand’ originally arose in the Middle Ages and refers to the use of a heated branding iron to mark livestock with a unique symbol, the purpose of which was to declare ownership to others or help an owner easily recognize their own livestock. This early idea is the foundation of a logo. However, as indicated above, branding has evolved to include much more than just a logo.
Whereas a logo is the simplest visual representation of a company and is designed to increase public recognition of a brand, a company’s brand encompasses everything the public associates with a specific company. For example, a brand includes how the company makes us feel; the emotion the company evokes in us. A brand defines how the public perceives a given company – it consists of everything we know (or think we know) about the company. A brand guides a company’s every interaction at every level. Logos and brand names are tangible entities and are generally fixed. A brand, however, only really exists in the minds of the public and it's fluid.
This is not to say that logos are not important. Having a memorable and powerful logo is crucial to any brand strategy as it enables the public to quickly identify products and services provided by a company. But, if your business only has a logo, that means you have little or no control over how the public perceives your business. Is that the situation you want to be in? Do you want the public defining your business for themselves? By deliberately creating a brand for your business, you gain a measure of control over how your business is perceived. In fact, if you can define a strong brand for your company and accompany it with a killer logo, you'll set yourself up to make real and financially valuable connections with your audience.
So to answer our original question – yes, you absolutely do need a brand.
HOW DO YOU BEGIN TO BUILD YOUR BRAND?
There are a lot of things to consider when designing your brand. Remember our person comparison? Just as each person has a unique voice, message and personality, so too must your business. The first step to developing your brand is to determine what makes your business different from your nearest competitors. Start by defining your core values and your business’s mission. From there, you can start thinking about a color scheme and the type of tone, language, and voice that will best align with those values and mission. This will help you create consistent messaging and a cohesive experience across all your communication platforms. These are the sorts of things that need to go into your brand strategy. Once you’ve finalized your brand strategy you can then begin using it to develop your communication tools.
For example, should your icons and graphics have a fun and quirky feel or would a more structured and informative approach work better for your brand? Similarly, should your blog posts and product descriptions have a playful or serious tone? The ultimate goal for your company should be to clarify the experience you want your audience to have and create a consistent and repeatable approach to all aspects of your communication pieces. A comprehensive brand strategy will enable you to create a brand that does just that.
This may all seem a little daunting but allocating sufficient resources to developing a sound brand strategy will do wonders for your business. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter how good your products or services are, if you can’t make meaningful and emotional connections with your audience your business will stagnate. Your brand is the crucial tool you need to make the connections that will allow your business to grow.