A well designed brand is like a well designed car – lovely to look at, lots of power, and can really take you places. The power of a brand is based on how well it can convince people to buy your stuff. There are countless definitions of what a brand is, and regardless of your definition, if the brand doesn’t help you sell more stuff, then, it isn’t doing its job.
All brands are built with three essential elements: Personality, Message and Identity.
Brand Personality: Defining the underlying personality of a brand is sometimes difficult, but is always necessary if the rest of the brand elements are to come together. The personality reflects what the organization wants its brand to be known for. Think about specific personality traits you want prospects, clients, employees, and partners to use to describe your brand. You should have 4-6 traits (5 is ideal), each being a single term, usually an adjective.
Authentic, Creative, Innovative, Approachable
Trustworthy, Trendy, Cool, Desirable, Reliable
Relevant, Honest, Flexible, Unique, Relevant
How you define the personality determines the tone and voice of your brand, and therefore all your communications. A brand that is “hip, cool, trendy” sounds decidedly different from one that is “honest, trustworthy, reliable”.
Brand Message: What do you customers need from you? Why should they choose your brand of product or service over another one? What can your brand deliver that no one else can? The answers to these questions form the foundation of your messages. I have found it useful to create three core messages based on these customer needs. Each of these messages needs to be supported by “proof points” which are specific, measurable and relevant to the audience. For example, think of Brand X as a car.
Brand X is BETTER: safety record, flexible seating arrangements, trade-in options
Brand X is CHEAPER: gas mileage, insurance premiums, maintenance costs
Brand X is FASTER: redesigned engine, chassis, performance measurements
Which of these messages best reflects the brand is based on the brand personality and the needs of our customers. It is not based on what we think sounds good, what is easy for us to prove, or what our boss thinks. At least it shouldn’t be anyway…
Brand Identity: Ask ten graphic designers their opinion of a company logo and you’ll get ten different answers. Brand design is the aesthetic that communicates the underlying message and personality of the brand. There are five core elements to any brand identity:
How these elements work together are explained in “Brand Guidelines”. These help anyone working with the brand know what to do and not to do with the brand. Combined with templates (Presentations, documents or web pages for example) and standardized collateral (business cards, signage and such) your brand begins to take form. From here on, it is all about execution.