As owner and CEO of brand consultancy the projects* and with many years of experience in brand marketing, I know that brand identity is more than just developing the right logo for your product or creating a new cool advertising campaign.
It’s about creating a complete personality that amplifies the core elements of your brand’s DNA. It’s made up of what your brand says, how it acts, how you communicate your product and values, and what you want people to feel when they interact with your business. Essentially, it’s how your brand will be perceived by customers, your team, your partners, and the outside world. It’s your company’s personality and a promise to your customers.
The projects* were launched in Sydney in 2008 and since then we have worked across Asia-Pacific, the US and Europe supporting a wide range of global companies such as Qantium, Westfield, Pernod Ricard and Suntory in developing their brand, in addition to helping startups and launches develop their brand identity. That’s what experience has taught me.
Start with strategy
There’s always a lot of excitement when the prospect of a new visual identity is discussed, but to achieve a seamless result, creatives need a clear brief that gives their working context and removes subjectivity. The key is to define a clear strategic positioning of the brand. Start by immersing yourself in the brand, involving people at all levels of the organization, asking them to identify opportunities for growth and improvement.
Time spent discussing the company’s vision for the next 5-10 years is time well spent. Agree on your brand purpose and values and how they can be brought to life. Examine who your current and future customers are, how they behave and what motivates them. What is your “secret sauce” and how can it be transmitted? Audit competitively both locally and globally – even if you currently operate locally, this may change, so think big.
This information combined with a brand map will reveal future opportunities and form the foundation of the brand’s strategic positioning. To give you an example, projects* are currently working with a large retail company to develop a new brand identity and half of the budgeted time has been allocated to strategic development – the right balance, in my opinion.
Tell a captivating story
A strong brand identity should be unique and clearly tell the brand story. Storytelling personalizes your brand and connects with customers on an emotional level by building loyalty and gaining preference. In projects*, we walk clients through a process around ‘culture tenants’ – dissecting what makes the company unique and what aspects of the brand to highlight.
Often, this gets to the heart of why the business was started and its purpose. We look at various factors, for example, the history of creation (think Tesla), the personalities involved (Mark Zuckerberg, anyone?), the rituals (washing your hands when entering an Aesop store), your followers /communities and how they engage (the love of Ferrari).
Key story elements backed by a strong strategic position will give you an even stronger foundation on which to develop a creative brief.
Much more than a logo
A brand identity encompasses a range of touchpoints that should be recognizable, distinct and timelessly aligned with the brand story, permeating all aspects of the brand and customer experience. Visual creation and agreement on images and icons, digital interface, colors, fonts, typography and of course the logo are all essential.
However, one area that is often overlooked is tone of voice, language used and style of communication. It’s important to agree and document what your brand says and how it acts – essentially how to speak to customers and what their customer and user experience should be like. These elements are all complementary and contribute to the overall brand identity – the promise to customers to focus on emotion and what they feel.
When projects* developed Qantium’s new brand identity, it focused on how data powers human possibility, highlighting the impact on people. This was a massive shift from a previously tech-centric organization, but putting people at the center of the brand changed the look and feel, resonating across all touchpoints, including the language of the brand, which makes it more accessible and user-friendly.
Be timeless and global
The first question to ask when your new CMO suggests it’s time to refresh the brand is “why?” “. Changing brand identity is a lot more fun than preparing reports to the board, but it’s important to resist the temptation to change brand identity every time there’s a personnel change. .
The identity must be timeless and long-lasting, allowing the company to evolve and grow. Think beyond your current product line, geography or customer and check the name, words and symbols globally. When we started our business 14 years ago, we hadn’t thought of going to the United States, where the name means something totally different, but in this globalized world, everything is shared across borders. . My advice is to ask the team to imagine the future and ask a series of “what ifs?” questions. If the brand identity still holds up after that, then you’re onto a winner.
My favorite example is one of the most successful companies in the world, Heinz, which has only had three logos since its launch in 1869, with the second logo being developed in 1957 and still in use.
There is nothing safer than consistency
The fundamental definition of a brand is the promise of consistency, which means that every brand touchpoint should have a consistent look, feel, tone and promise. Define the role and identity of each of the channels in the brand ecosystem (e.g. product, retail, customer communication, advertising and digital channels) ensuring they flow back to the core brand .
Color, typography, font, tone, and photography are ways to ensure consistency across multiple channels. Strong brand guidelines are essential.
A good example of this is Virgin Atlantic which, despite launching 38 years ago, has retained its fun and adventurous celebration of all things travel and flight. It has a clearly recognizable font and color palette centered on “Virgin Red and Purple” that resonates throughout all aspects of the brand, including aircraft, uniforms, check-in counters, digital channels, loyalty, advertising and customer communications. But for me, it’s the cohesive tone and language that really sets it apart – quirky, fun, personal yet still professional. It is this consistent point of difference in the more formal world of aviation that Virgin has credited with part of its success.
The rules of the mark are to be followed
This is a big problem for me and where so many brands go wrong. To ensure brand consistency across every touchpoint in the organization, it is essential that all team members understand the brand guidelines and follow the rules laid out in the brand bible. Make it part of the induction process.
The best companies we work with in this regard are global luxury brands. When producing events for Chanel or Coach, every detail must be approved by Global. Audi has a brand book about flowers. While this can be frustrating for regional teams, it protects the brand from local interpretations.
Conversely, I’ve seen many companies fail on this crucial aspect as the complexity of multi-level teams got in the way. It’s really about great communication and making people feel proud of the brand rather than limited by it. Remember that your team members are your best brand ambassadors.
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