Branding is a cornerstone in marketing. Unfortunately, most people don’t really understand what it is. I think an explanation, or a short lesson-Branding 101—would be useful. Useful because branding secures future sales and company longevity.
Branding is a pretty involved subject but this lesson is Branding 101 so we’ll just take a simple overview of the subject.
What’s in a name?
For a moment I want you to forget about branding and think, instead, of people.
People have names. Some names are distinctive, like Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple. Other names are less memorable, such as John Smith. As there are many John Smiths, you may be asked, “Which John Smith?” if discussing him with a friend.
A company’s name should be distinct and thought should be put into choosing a business name. Having a unique business name that is indicative of what the business does is important. It is even more vital when taking into account the widespread use of the internet. When people search the internet they should be able to find your company and there should be no mistaking that it’s your company that they have found.
The internet also helps you to research names because you can Google prospective names and find out what comes up. You can verify that no other business is using that name. If another business has a similar name to yours, you can make sure they don’t do the same type of work or you can make sure they haven’t racked up bad press that will rub off on your business.
What about appearance?
Now let’s talk about faces. When you see someone you know you recognize them instantly, right? So let us say that you know a Mary Sue Parker, that you have know her all your life.
Now let us imagine that Mary Sue has her hair dyed a different color, cuts it a different style and then gets rid of her glasses and replaces them with contact lenses. While she is at it she decides to get a full makeover and update her wardrobe with a completely new style.
Now you arrange to meet Mary Sue for lunch, unaware of all the changes she has made to her appearance. When Mary Sue arrives and waves to you from the entrance across the dimly lit room you would experience a moment of confusion. Who is this stranger?
Branding to put it simply is the face of your business. Not just the face, but the hairstyle, hair color, the clothes. Just as people recognize you by these surface appearances, your clients must be able to recognize your company when they see it, even when in different circumstances. They will see it in the postcards you send out, the business cards you hand out at networking meetings, the letters and invoices you send them, the articles that are written about your company in the press, and your company website that they visit. They may not be expecting to see you when they see you. Therefore your company “face” should be instantly recognizable so that they actually notice you there—like walking past an old high school buddy in the street.
It is desirable to be recognized because then you get to cash in on your reputation or make a sale based on your relationship with the customer (because he can “place your face”).
Even better, you will be able to charge more and make better profits because your brand is more trusted than the unbranded, or less branded, competition. Let me share an example:
Last week when I needed to make a purchase of a highly portable computer, I went out and priced a netbook, thinking it would be perfect. When looking at the netbooks, I didn’t really recognize most of the brand names. Those I did recognize were ones I did not particularly like or trust when it comes to computers. I started asking the sales representative questions. He pointed out the iPad display. I walked out with the $570 iPad, instead of the $390 netbook— I am not easily influenced on the basis of what everybody else is buying but I am influenced by brand trust which played a major role in my decision to spend the extra $180.
The Rules of Branding
Now the art of branding, or making your company recognizable, has certain rules to follow that have been proven to achieve instant recognition. Following these rules will result in a repetitive marketing “face” that will result in more bang for your marketing buck.
Use the same colors
A pretty basic trick is to select specific colors as your standard marketing colors and stick to them. The repetition of colors, used in a similar manner will form part of your “style”.
Colors mean something. The shade or intensity changes the meaning. This should be taken into account when making color choices as these will set the tone or character of your business image. For instance, a deep blue in our culture would indicate knowledge, science, technology, effectiveness, etc. Change the shade to powder blue and it probably means baby boys. Change it again to aqua and it might mean retro, fun, swimming pools, water, etc.
Stick to the same fonts
A selection of fonts should be used repetitively, too, but should not be generic (Arial or Times New Roman are very widely used and therefore would not be distinctive choices). Again, the font choices mean something. See the diagram below provided for examples of fonts and the ideas that they potentially communicate.
Graphics should repeat your business character
As a marketing company we have selected bright, distinctive design which is appropriate for our business character and industry. These same colors might not work well for, say, a chiropractor. All that red will mean something different when dealing with peoples’ health and pain issues. For instance, a software company may choose to use very slick, professional images to portray their technological ability, while a dentist may choose images that more resemble family snapshots to portray a close-knit friendliness.
Logos are key
A distinctive logo is key to being recognized. It should communicate the main idea of what your business is, or the central activity it is engaged in. This may involve following conventions for your industry, such as the use of greens for environmental companies, but should still be designed to be distinctive enough to be recognized as your company.
When the Renewable Energy Training Institute had us design their logo they knew they wanted something patriotic as they work with veterans and government organizations. The solar energy they work with needed to be represented as well as the concept that they are involved in education.
Initial sketches and concepts were involved and highly detailed. Our marketing team came to the conclusion that further research was needed. The result was a distinctive but simple logo that communicates several ideas instantly with a nod to industry conventions.
Note the patriotic eagle indicating the strong veteran ties, the sun made from solar panels and, even further, note how the upswept wings of the eagle are reminiscent of an open book (a traditional symbol of learning). The idea of knowledge is repeated again in the shade of blue.
Stamp your “brand” on your marketing campaigns
These are just a few of the methods used to create a strong brand. The branding should be continued across all printed materials, as well as the company website and web marketing campaigns.
The RESPONSE! team has an entire array of methods and nuances that we use to create a company image. It is a subject well worth learning about as it improves marketing results when a company stamps their brand on all their promotional materials.
Talk to your Marketing Consultant to find out more about Logo and Branding services available through RESPONSE!