What are the main elements of a brand?
What are the main elements of a brand?
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when somebody asks what a brand means to you? It probably comes as no surprise that most people will likely say “a logo” or “a tag line”. However, so the phrase goes, “there’s more . . . much more”.
The objective of this article is to set out in simple terms, the main elements of a company’s brand, from the perspective of ‘where to start’.
Logos and tag lines are something you arrive at, not where you start. To understand where these brand attributes come from, we have to take a step back and get a clear idea what a brand stands for, what does it offer, what benefit does it bring, what values and ideals does it hold; in essence – who is it?
Purpose, position & personality
It’s helpful when thinking about what you want your business to achieve to consider these three elements, which we at The Creative Tree consider as the real elements of a brand:
Your brand’s purpose
Why does your business exist? What do you want to achieve through your company’s brand? A company’s mission statement is often used to communicate this. Scanning through some of the world’s best-known brands can give an inkling into this. For instance:
Google -“to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”.
Apple – “bringing the best user experience to its customers through its innovative hardware, software, and services.”
Amazon – “serve consumers through online and physical stores and focus on selection, price, and convenience.”
Vision statements take this a step further and begin to articulate the future they believe their company help bring about. For instance, Amazon says: “Our vision is to be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
Before starting the branding process, having a good handle on what your business hopes to deliver beyond a healthy balance sheet is essential. Mission and vision form the bedrock of your company’s existence. Of course, these basic ‘tenants’ of your company, also refine over the years. All of the companies listed above have changed theirs over the past few years. This change is in keeping with the realities of a dynamic market place, and consumer trends and attitudes.
But, you have to start somewhere. So, what’s your brand’s purpose? What aspect of the world we live in do you hope to change?
In the words of one of marketing strategy’s giants, Philip Kotler, brand positioning is: “the act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market”.
The keyword in this is ‘mind’. A well-positioned brand is a brand that comes up in conversation in everyday life, be that business life, personal life or within specialist niches. It’s a brand that, for many, occupies their hearts and minds when a specific product or need arises. A well-positioned brand stands out from the crowd. It has a clear set of factors that differentiate it from the competition.
Some of the main questions business owners should be asking themselves regarding the brand’s position are:
- What does your target market want?
- What need are you aiming to fulfil?
- Does your target market have specific expectations; for instance, particular sensitivities towards culture, ecology, sustainability?
- Is your target market inspired by something in particular, such as an activity, a colour, a mindset?
- What are your capabilities in delivering what the market wants?
- How does this differ from what your competitors offer, indeed who are your competitors and what do they offer?
If your business is starting out or you are looking at a brand refresh (link to brand refresh article), our suggestion is to get your closest team together, perhaps also somebody that’s not entirely related to your business but trusted nonetheless, and get those creative juices flowing. Creativity like this demands a more carefree, liberal, uninhibited approach to thinking . . . at least initially.
Use post-it notes to stick up ideas around the answers to the questions above. Once you have a wall full, start grouping and categorising them. Look for patterns, commonalities, ideas that respond to everyone. Don’t discard what may at first seem irrelevant or off the planet, as these may lead to further, more robust ideas.
The goal of this? A simple statement that sums up, ideally in just three words, what your brand delivers. Then use this as the basis for a powerfully worded brand statement that will resound with your target audience.
Assigning the first-person identity to a company or a product can happen naturally. But it’s also helpful to consider what your company’s perspective on the world is. What does it stand for? What attitude does it have? Perhaps ask the question, “if my brand were a person, who would they be?”. For instance, is the person the brand relates to or wishes to emulate:
- Is it outgoing or more introverted?
- Is it outspoken?
- Does it champion an ideal?
- Is it more intellectual?
- Is it politically active?
- Does it relate to an action?
- How would you hope somebody it met would react – as a friend, or perhaps a mentor or leadership figure, a source of fun or simply inspirational?
Aspects such as the voice it speaks with, the tone it uses and how it behaves, all come in to play and help create a relationship with its chosen audience, empathic in some instances too.
First things first and begin with the end in mind
The process of developing your brand’s identity embodies the ideas of starting out with the basics and making sure you know where you are going as a brand.
Before you even consider designing a logo or picking colours or a cool tag line, follow the basic steps of deciding on its purpose, how it is positioned and ‘who’ your brand truly is. Once you have these nailed down, including living with it for a while and not an overnight decision, only then start on the attributes of the brand. For example, look at the visual aspects from different dimensions, such as:
Shape: smooth, sharp
Geometry: dimensionality, angular, flat
Colour: reflecting aspects such as, neutrality, invigorating, exciting, serious, fun, loving, the list is endless although, try to keep the pallet simple, but don’t be afraid of colour.
Representation: static, objective, living, natural, spiritual.
A final thought
When distilled down to a single aim for the brand, a single question emerges: When people encounter your brand, how do you want them to feel? This one question embodies all the attributes and elements discussed up to this point.
And don’t forget, branding can be personal too. It’s all too easy to simply think of a brand as a consumer-related entity, or one that helps define the image of a company. But, people can have brands too. How people express aspects of their brand can be entirely different from the way a company does.
For more information on how The Creative Tree can transform your brand, call us today on +44 (0) 1932 850 122 .