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July 12, 2019

4 Key Elements of Branding (That Aren’t Your Logo)

How many of you think the most essential element of your brand is your logo? Or your colors? Or your fonts? Would you be mad if I let you in on a little marketing secret? Psst. Those aren’t the most critical elements.

YES, those items are foundational in developing a strong and memorable brand, but they are all pieces that you build out on the front end, in the infancy of your brand. A powerful brand is all about how you integrate those elements into all the facets of your business to create a cohesive, recognizable, and comfortable brand that your ideal customers seek out, and doing that is about way more than your logo.

Think about some of the brands that you feel most connect to, or energized by. Sure, seeing that logo maybe evokes all that positive brand juju, but those positive vibes were built up with little deposits over time. They are the summary of your positive interactions with that brand over an extended period. Interactions that may have occurred face-to-face, online, when they used a product or engaged with their services, or maybe even through a really great customer service experience that turned a potentially negative experience into a positive one.

So, if your logo is just a symbol that represents your business and possibly reminds people of your products or services, what are some of the other elements of branding that can influence people’s decisions and feelings towards your brand?

Brand Style

Style is an easy place to start because, ideally, it should be derived from the elements I mentioned above. They should all look and feel cohesive and you should be able to manipulate some of those elements to create cohesive brand style everywhere your business shows up. In a storefront, at a tradeshow, on your website, on social media, in advertising. Everywhere. I have a client that always says he wants to be able to lay out everything we have created for their brand, whether it has a logo on it or not, and it should all look and feel like parts of the same whole. And I think that is a GREAT approach.

Your brand style includes more than just fonts and colors. Here are a few elements worth considering as you build this out

  • Use cohesive design elements
  • Use similar layouts
  • Use similar text formatting and hierarchy
  • Determine your photography style and implement it across your multi-channel marketing efforts
  • Keep it simple – meaning every new marketing piece or marketing effort doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel. Come up with a few, solid formats that serve your brand and business well and use them as the foundation for all the collateral you will create going forward.

Brand Voice

Voice is just as important to your brand as the visuals. What you say and how you say it will be key in creating messages that resonate with your audiences. Regardless of your images or colors or brand styling, if words you’re using to communicate who your organization is and how they create value don’t resonate with the people you’re trying to reach, you’re certainly in for an uphill battle. When thinking about developing the voice for your brand here are a few points to consider

  • Who is your audience
  • How do they like information delivered
  • How much information is needed from someone looking to make a decision to purchase your products or services? (ie. I need to do a lot more research to purchase an enterprise software to implement company-wide than I might need to decide which office chair I want to purchase).
  • How can your voice mimic your brand style? If your style is clean and crisp, what does that sound like, if you’re whimsical what does that sound like? How can you tweak your messaging and content approach so that it feels “on-brand”

It’s also a good idea to figure out how to implement this across the board. You want all your brand messaging to sound like it comes from you. Regardless of where your clients or customers are reading these messages the approach and voice should always be familiar to them and should be in line with what they have come to expect from you. This starts on things like website copy and social media and trickles all the way down into how you communicate with them on a regular basis via phone or email.

Brand Experience

You’re probably thinking you can skip right over this blurb because you don’t own a retail establishment, restaurant, salon, or other physical location where someone might come in and “experience” your business – but you’d be doing a brand your disservice. Brand experience is all about consistency in every interaction someone has with your brand. Experience can range the gamut from in-person, in-store experiences to user-experience on your website or using your products, to your sales process and buying experience, all the way down to how you manage problems when they arrive, not if.

Brand experience really gets down to the brass tacks of your customer journey. Bits and pieces of your brand should be sprinkled into every part of that. If it’s not, then there is nothing that separates you from the guy across the street doing the exact same thing and trust me, there is always a guy across the street. If the cornerstone principals of your brand are exclusivity and high-quality service, how do you deliver on that each and every time your audience engages with you? It’s worth thinking about… and also worth implementing.

 

Brand Sentiment + Reputation Management

Finally, all of these elements (and many more) determine how people feel about your brand. Experts love to talk about measuring brand sentiments on social media, or reputation management via online reviews. Your brand sentiment is essentially the average read on how people talk about their interaction with your brand – the intangibles. But, brand sentiments also exist offline (though they are much harder to gauge) and they are the result of every. single. thing. your business does and how they do it.

That brand sentiment is what someone tells their mom or their friend or the colleague about working with you or using your services. It’s someone’s impression after calling into your office and talking to your receptionist or sales staff. It’s all about feeling.

Think of brand sentiment as your brand’s savings account. Every great interaction, positive experience, exciting new event and amazing campaign you create puts little deposits into your savings account. Slowly, over time, those positive sentiments turn into avid brand loyalty.

Think about your apple snobs (no shame, it’s me, I’m the apple snob, thanks for asking). I use multiple apple products every day, and I’m happy to fork over my hard-earned dollars not because I think their half-eaten apple logo is the absolute cutest and I just can’t get enough of their black and white minimalist…. everything (although it does make me giddy with delight), but because their products deliver on my expectations, integrate well with my everyday needs, their customer service has been helpful *most* of the times I have needed them, which hasn’t been a lot, and like most “luxury” brands, I get that little hit of dopamine and positive juju when I buy or use their products because they have positioned their brand to represent a certain status. Check out this Seth Godin video on how businesses use status and exclusivity to promote their brands.

Brands like apple don’t become household names because they designed the right logo and picked the perfect font and coupled them with a great brand palette, they become household names because they put all the parts and pieces in motion a long time ago to make small, regular deposits into their brand savings account to build a reputation for developing products people just can’t live without (or at least they think they can’t!)

 

So, the next time you are thinking about asking your local marketer or brand strategist to help you with refreshing your logo and brand, consider the value of using their experience and expertise to dive deeper into some of these elements that are going to get you a much higher ROI in your brand savings account.

 

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