It is essential to understand the complex mix of brand character, colour palette, font, logo, imagery, attitude and positioning that makes up your full brand identity.
Let’s deal with the biggest frustration for brand geeks: your logo is not your brand identity, it is just one element of the package. It follows that many people can create a logo for you as a piece of design but that does not mean you have a brand. Starting out you can pay the low cost of an online logo to get you going recognising what you are doing with limited / no resource, but recognising that you do not have a brand.
Equally, colour palette is not just ‘my brand is blue or pink’,it is the range of specific colours you use with your brand. Some of which are the logo colours but it also includes the wider colours used consistently when your brand appears. For example, the Argos brand is white writing on red background but they regularly use a sky blue as part of the overall identity. The other warning is to understand colour psychology and not just have colours you like personally, but ones that fit what will appeal to your audience and fit with your style of business.
Brand character is about developing a personality that lifts you from a name to a brand. Are you fun, frivolous and interesting or are you professional, technical and expert? Do you want to lead in your niche, be cost-effective or premium priced? Innocent Smoothies and Cravendale have a clear character that has been carefully crafted to fit their strategy; and in their case with an attitude.
In other words, you need to have a well defined brand strategy and then develop a brand identity that fits your strategic thinking and direction.
You have a strong brand identity when your customers have a positive and distinct image of you just by the mention of your name, not seeing a logo or any marketing materials. You have built a clear picture that comes to mind instantly. This is equally true for B2B as it is for consumer brands. Don’t allow your audience to make their own minds up about your image, carefully manage all of the ways that they see you to create the ideal picture in their minds.
If I say Virgin, you think Richard Branson and risk taker, entrepreneur, dynamic and irreverent, the people’s champion who takes on the established companies. This is reinforced by the confident, flowing logo design and bold, challenging red colour of the brand, along with the tongue-in-cheek adverts, while reinforcing the distinctiveness of the brand. While he is less front and centre, his imprint is still clear to be seen in the overall brand approach.
Brand identity is a detailed process with many elements. The final piece of advice is not to play with it as it can bite you back. British Airways tried to reinforce their international credentials in 1997 by replacing the Union Jack (who calls it the union flag?) with ‘world art’ tailfins for its planes. They were forced to back down under massive public pressure and revert to the British designs. They had misunderstood the fundamental principle of your brand: always understand what is at the ‘core’ of your identity and don’t mess with it!