In the almost six years that I have been working in graphic design and web development, I have gotten some pretty strange questions. I’ve gotten questions about whether or not I did my designing in Microsoft Word using their Word Art tool. I’ve gotten questions about content itself and whether I could/would make it multiple colors and font styles to “keep the reader engaged.” I’ve gotten questions about how much another business/blogger paid for there design. I’ve been asked to blatantly copy someone else’s work. So, for the most part, there is no question that surprises me and no question is really too off the wall.
One question always remains and today I thought that I would try to answer it once and for all.
What is a brand & why do I need one?
This question gets asked repeatedly. I am working on a design for a dear friend right now and one of the first questions she asked was this one. Why did she need a brand? Why wouldn’t a regular logo work? I mean, couldn’t she just print business cards from Vistaprint and let that be it? Who really pays attention to that kind of thing anyway?
Those are all legit questions. And the answer is that yes, a regular logo will work. Yes, you can print business cards from Vistaprint.
That is one of the biggest mistakes that I think businesses make. Not creating a brand. So let’s get to it…
What Branding Isn’t
Maybe the better question is what a brand isn’t. A brand is not your logo. A brand is not your color scheme. A brand is not your icon(s) or your background pattern or your WordPress theme or your the font you choose. Your brand is the overall feel and experience they have when they come in contact with you, your services and your products.
I follow tons and tons of photographers and businesses on Instagram. Tons. What can I say, I love pretty pictures. I’m also an Instagram junkie. During any given spare moment, you can find my scrolling my feed, looking at photos and reading posts. Staying connected is so simple these days! I digress…
Whenever I scroll through my feed, I can quickly identify whose image I’m looking at without ever noticing their name. People like Shay Cochrane, Lara Casey, and Emily Ley have established brands that flow consistently throughout the internet. I know when I see an image marked with a shiny gold pineapple, that Emily Ley is posting. I don’t have to see the name, I don’t have to read the post…I see the image and I correlate that automatically. There is recognition of who she is, what she does, and what she’s about.
Branding isn’t going on Etsy and purchasing a $50 logo that anyone and everyone can purchase and calling it a day. Branding isn’t sitting in Microsoft Word or Canva and playing with text until you find something that “will do” for your business card. Branding isn’t duplicating another logo design and simply changing the name to suit your needs.
What Branding Is
According to Investopedia, “brand identity” is…
…how that business wants to be perceived by consumers. The components of the brand (name, logo, tone, tagline, typeface) are created by the business to reflect the value the company is trying to bring to the market and to appeal to its customers.
I love this definition. How the business wants to be perceived by consumers. The goal…the purpose…the vibe they want to put off. The “what do people think when our business comes to mind?” That means that how you are perceived, the clientele you target, and the vibe you put out there is completely up to you.
How it Works
Think for a minute about your favorite beverage. For me, my all time favorite drink has always been Dr. Pepper. Granted, nowadays I only drink it once in a blue moon, but regardless, it’s always been my favorite. My grandmother always had cold doctor pepper in the bottom right drawer of her refrigerator. She drank regular, my PawPaw drank Diet. It was a staple at their house just like The Days of Our Lives always was. There was never a time that I can remember that they didn’t have Dr. Pepper at their house. Whenever I hear someone talking about Dr. Pepper, even if I don’t see the bottle or logo, I immediately recognize a few things:
- The way it tastes. I’m convinced that Dr. Pepper out of a can is way better than out of the bottle. Even without drinking it, I can taste it.
- The way it smells. I’m that person in a restaurant that can smell the drink and tell you right away what kind of drink it is.
- What the logo looks like. The dark burgundy, the round emblem background, the style of the fonts. I can picture it in my head without needing anyone to tell me what it looks like.
- The frustration that I feel when I go to a restaurant, ask for Dr. Pepper and they tell me that they don’t have that but they have Root Beer. Okay, I’m not sure that that has anything to do with branding other than to say that, it can’t be duplicated. It can’t be replicated. There is only one Dr. Pepper.
- My grandmother. No matter how many other things I remember about my grandmother, I always associate Dr. Pepper with the memories I have of her.
Imagine for a minute, if you will, that you could evoke the same feelings and same sense of familiarity with your company or business. What if you could create an identity that left positive thoughts, sent off good vibes and set you apart from the competition? Wouldn’t you want to create an identity for yourself and your business that people recognized?
Okay…all that’s great. But what does branding actually include?
I’m so glad you asked. Your “brand” is everything. It’s your logo. It’s your website. It’s your business cards and stationary. It’s your email signature. Your instagram template and the images that you use. It’s how you carry yourself and what you post on social media. It’s every little thing that you are sharing, tweeting, posting, blogging and creating in regards to your business in an attempt to build a recognizable and stand out identity that customers and consumers can trust.
It does include the logo. It also includes what images you use. It includes your mission statement and your target audience. It includes your pricing and your anticipated customers. You don’t include in your mission statement that you are a “web design company geared toward helping small businesses get off the ground using affordable design packages” and then have a baseline package of $5000. I don’t know about you, but to most start up small businesses, that isn’t affordable.
Your brand is everything that you want to represent & everything you want your customer to recognize about you.
There is something to be said about consistency and recognition. One surprising statistic that I read in an article on LinkedIn was that, “60% of US millennials expect consistent experiences when dealing with brands online, in-store, or by phone (src).” Your customers want to see consistency. They want to know that when they come to you, that they are getting the same quality that they have seen throughout your social feeds.
So, why do I need a brand?
You need a brand to build your reputation. It’s as simple as that. Your brand = who you are (or what your business is). We are visual creatures. We recognize images before we read words. Branding builds recognition. It builds loyalty. It helps to spotlight the things about you that set you apart from your competition. It answers the “why them over everyone else?” question that could be the deciding factor in gaining new clientele.
Branding gives you the opportunity to create, promote and build a reputable business and reputation that customers and clients can recognize and trust.