A successful brand can be defined as “an identifiable product, service, person or place, augmented in such a way that the buyer or user perceives relevant unique added values which match their needs closely” (De Chernatony and McDonald). The Design Council defines a brand as “a set of associations that a person (or group of people) makes with a company, product, service, individual or organization.” These associations could have been intentionally planted by the brand through methods such as marketing and corporate identity or could be unintentional and outside a company’s control for example through independent reviews. People then grow attached to these brands, trust them, buy into them and develop loyalties towards them or in turn are turned off by them and refuse to buy into the brand. The Design Council defines branding as the “attempt to harness, generate, influence and control these associations to help the business to perform better” which can then be applied to a range of subjects including services, cities, shops, products, publication and people. Branding is important to make your business stand out in crowded markets; it is a way to grasp all of the associations that will be generated in peoples minds and use them to help your business perform well. Strong branding revolves around promoting the company’s strengths and delivering your brand values: this and the management of a brand can play a strong part in making a business the customer’s first choice.
Branding begins with a brand name and brand mark and evolves into a range of tools and communication. The best brand identities have the following nine characteristics: vision, meaning, authenticity, differentiation, sustainability, coherence, flexibility, commitment and value. This can be further simplified into four key elements: the big idea, vision, values and personality. The brand identity is both a visual and verbal representation of a brand that communicates, expresses and visualises the brand so that “you can see it, touch it, hold it, hear it, watch it move.” Branding is the process of creating the range of products including the logo, the livery (business cards, stationery, website and so on) and the communication devices for a product, corporation or organisation and, in a graphic design sense, can be as vital as the product itself. However, issues can occur when people take branding to mean a set of techniques, in the sense of Graphic Design there are techniques such as logo development and typeface selection but branding to a build a brand’s equity requires marketing and product development. People need to buy into the brand and talk about it to build the brand. A brand needs to create a connection with the consumer, they need to believe it is the only brand for them; it needs to meet their expectations and fulfill their aspirations.
An example of a brand which has created a strong connection with consumer is Mulberry. As a business proud of their quality British products it conveys and delivers this heritage across all of it’s touch points consistently. Through its brand application it positions itself as a label to purchase if you want well designed, luxury products. Mulberry’s brand identity perfectly reflects it’s products.
Burberry, another British heritage brand, created a strong identity based on luxury, quality and being an outfitter for gentlemen. Among the brand assets was Burberry check, a key element of the brand identity. When this check was adopted by so called ‘chavs’ (not Burberrys intended target audience) their brand image got damaged by association. Burberry has now moved away from this pattern and refocused their brand strategy around British art and creativity using up and coming British models and actors from the same demographic as their target audience.
Brands have many touch points where they can reach consumers such as through advertising, environment, packaging and signage. The realms to which branding techniques are being applied is continually growing to cover areas such as government departments, systems such as transportation and places such as high streets, cities, and nations.
Brand guidelines play an important role in managing the brand and the associations it generates. For a brand to stay consistent and retain its integrity it needs guidelines for everyone who communicates about the brand to follow. This means every time the brand communicates its message, tone of voice and appearance will be the same. Once a successful brand has been created how it then communicates and is managed needs to be considered; elements that should be considered are the brands story and voice and how the brand engages with customers.
Innocent are an example of a well managed brand – the four key elements (big idea, vision, values and personality) appear consistently across all of their product ranges. Through this, and delivering on their brand promise, they have built a successful consumer relationship.
Branding can control the sets of association people make with a product, company, service or place. Branding involves a range of tools and the creation of a range of graphic design elements as well as marketing and developing of the product. Branding and the management of brands is an essential aspect of business.
Author bio: The Pink Group are a creative agency in London and have based this article around their own experience.