“By brand you mean logo right?”

No. A logo isn’t a brand (full stop) It’s just one element in a larger, more comprehensive brand identity. A brand identity guide will govern overall look and feel, how you want to be seen and recognised. It’s still not a brand though.

Your brand is ultimately the result of customer perceptions and experiences; it’s about what the customer says about you and not what you say; what customers really think about your business and its products.

A customer builds a picture of you in his mind – a brand image, he has a gut feel about you, an emotional connection. This may, or may not, line up with the image, personality or attitude you want to portray through your brand identity.

A negative gap between brand identity and brand image – a brand gap – means you’re out of kilter with what the market really thinks of you.

Yes, a logo (and an overall brand identity) needs to be distinct, professional, instantly recognisable, memorable etc. etc. but it also needs to truly embody and project your true, underlying brand.

So before you even think about creating a logo or brand identity, you first need to define what your brand actually is, what it means, what you stand for and what it needs to say.

Branding workshop

A branding workshop is a good place to start. An open discussion considering your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, this needs to (re)view your brand’s offering from 3 distinct perspectives:

Customer

What are their pain-points, their true needs and motivations?

What really matters to them?

Why do they care about?

Internal

What do you believe customer wants?

Where do you think your heading?

What’s your vision for the future

Competitive

How do you differentiate yourself?

How do you compare?

What makes you unique?

Brand messaging framework

Only then might you be in a position to create a brand messaging framework, the second step in establishing your brand. And it’s not a great tome either. One or two sides of A4 is fine.

Once it’s complete, only then do you have the foundations upon which to create a brand identity guide (which includes a logo) that accurately reflects the desired brand.

Brand identity guide

A brand identity guide, aka ‘brand guidelines’, aka ‘brand manual’ aims to ensure that any kind of company can maintain a strong, robust and unique image that truly represents its brand and the way you want to be perceived.

It’s about consistently leaving the customer with the right positive assertions about your business (and beating the competition at the same time). And again, it needn’t be long. Some of the most effective I’ve managed are just 5-10 pages in length.

A brand identity guide will cover:

  • Brand summary
  • Logo and correct usage
  • Tag line
  • Colour palette
  • Typography
  • Photography
  • Graphical elements
  • Email signatures
  • Favicons

Note that the more elements, or ground rules, you can establish in a brand identity guide, the less chance there is of your brand identity disintegrating through any accidental or purposeful divergence from the norm. It always remains recognisable.

Consistency is important yes, but so too is flexibility, particularly for a start-up or early stage small business that’s learning what its brand really is and really means to customers.

But really, why bother with a brand identity in the first place?

The reasons are many and varied:

  • Improved market awareness / recognition
  • Greater confidence / credibility / trust
  • Active buyers and advocates
  • Motivated, proud staff
  • Brand loyalty and preference
  • Higher prices
  • Greater financial returns

Remember: A customer needs to know you, then like you, then trust you, before he’ll ever buy from you… That’s a lot more than a logo can achieve on its own.