a word about branding
Every day, with every interaction, you are shaping and reinforcing people’s impressions of you and your organization.
Branding is all the buzz these days. It’s been around for centuries, but we’re finally getting smarter about using it. Some people use the word “brand” interchangeably with “company” or “product line” (e.g., “brands you’re gonna love this summer”). Others use the term to refer to visual identity (e.g., “we need to brand this with our corporate colors”). Still others think the brand is the logo itself – and we can understand why, since the word originally referred to the hot iron rod with the symbol used to mark livestock or shipping crates.
The best way I’ve heard brand defined is as the “promise” you make personally, or your organization makes collectively, to the world. It's your commitment to the people and groups who are important to you or involved with you in one way or another. It's the sum of all of your relationships. It’s about more than the product or service you offer; it’s about overall mission and integrity.
Your brand is more than what you make or what you do. It’s more, even, than how you show or tell what you do; rather, it’s who you are. It’s more of a “pull” than a “push.” When we look at it that way, it suddenly becomes much bigger and broader than a name or a logo or a tagline or even an identity system.
Let’s define some terms.
A logo is the visual representation of your project/product/organization in its purest form. Sometimes it is a logotype or wordmark (both mean a combination of letters or a typographic treatment). Sometimes it is a lettermark (an abbreviation or initials, grouped together in some way). Sometimes it is a logomark (a design element or unique shape). Sometimes it is a combination of these, and often we designers call this combination a lockup. Any of these can be very simple or very complex. A logo does not have to be complex to be effective; usually, in fact, the simpler the logo, the better.
An identity system encapsulates everything that tells your story to your stakeholders: the name of your project/product/organization, your logo if you have one, the typefaces and colors and papers and textures you use, your website, your social media presence, the lingo and tone you use in written and spoken words, your email signatures, your brochures and flyers and ads and business cards, your uniforms and signage, your tagline and jingles, your policies, your pricing, your level of responsiveness, the personalities of the people in your organization, the way you answer the phone or respond to messages, etc. A brand style guide is the document or record that describes these various elements and their proper usage.
A brand is a promise built and fulfilled over time, the essential truth or value (the “soul,” if you will) of your project or organization, the sum of all of your relationships with your people, what people feel when they think of you.
Putting energy toward developing an identity system can help as you build your brand. As they say, consistency is key. Even if your brand personality is about being inconsistent (for better or worse), it is a result of consistently presenting your inconsistence. Having – and holding – standards helps you be consistent.
If you’d like help developing an identity system or brand style guide, please say hello!