If you’re reading this, it probably means you’re a startup that’s thinking about getting their logo designed, or that you’re an established company that needs a refresh on their branding. What you’re about to read could save you time, money and a few headaches in the the future, trust me. I have quite a few years of experience under my belt that prove there is a process to follow when you work on branding, and departing from it almost always spells trouble.
Let’s dive in.
Branding, brand identity, visual identity, logo...?
What’s the difference between all of these terms? You probably already know what a logo is. But when we start talking about branding, it’s a little more abstract. Your branding is basically how people perceive you through all the different ways they interact with your company. Do they perceive you as fun, high-end, approachable…? There’s a lot we can encompass within branding: the language and tone you use in all communications and advertising, the profile or persona of your company, your positioning, your brand message, your customer service and experience, and all your visual identity. Your visual identity is what represents all of the visual aspects of your brand: logo, advertising design, business cards, packaging, website, social media image posts… you get the idea.
Don’t confuse marketing and branding. Marketing is your company telling people who they are; branding is how people perceive them to be. Of course, you can influence what they think of your company by having a branding that represents just that. That’s where strategy comes in.
A McKinsey & Company study revealed that brands with strong reputations generate 31% more return to shareholders than the MSCI World average.
The value of great branding
What’s your goal, as a business? Success, sales, scale? Everything revolves around your client. Your client will have multiple choices when the need for your product or service arises. Depending on the financial implication, there could be a very short, or very long purchasing process: a car versus a milk carton purchase, for example. What’s certain is that your client will have an impression, a feeling or emotion when he interacts with your company. Now these feelings will influence his buying process, so you want to make sure that he gets the right ones. If there’s a strong dissonance between your image and the actual message and values of your company, your client will react negatively and you’ll likely lose the sale. The more consistent and pertinent your image is, the more you’ll be able to get strong brand recognition. In the end, that’s one of the things that pushes your client towards referring you to someone else. And that’s a whole other conversation, but referrals are the best and cheapest way to get new business.
Think about how much you’d be willing to invest in marketing and advertising. Branding should be attributed a similar value, because it is essentially a way to market to your customers. Ask yourself the following question: would you invest in promoting another brand than your own, a different brand message than the one that represents you? That’s essentially what can happen if your branding doesn’t reflect who you are as company or speak to the right customers.
Kasper Ulf Nielsen, an executive partner at the Reputation Institute, mentioned, “People’s willingness to buy, recommend, work for, and invest in a company is driven 60% by their perceptions of the company and only 40% by their perceptions of their products.”
Why is brand strategy more important than your logo?
You have to start by defining your actual clients, or ideal clients, to make sure you’re targeting them in the right way when they interact with your company. If you sell a high-end, luxury product, let’s say Ferrari to give you an easy example, you want to speak to customers that have lots of money, that want that sense of exclusivity, and that put value into paying so much for your product. Now, if you take McDonald’s branding: their super simple logo that’s bulky and unrefined, bright red and yellow, and their advertising campaigns that revolve around families and diversity… do you think that their branding would make sense for a company like Ferrari? I hope you’re shaking your head. Of course, my example is far-fetched; the line becomes a lot finer when you’re trying to do the same exercise with two competitors.
Let’s say you’re Ferrari’s CEO, and you ask a designer to create a simple logo that’s easy to read and high impact, that you like yellow and red, and you could even think that McDonald’s logo is pretty nice, too. But the result you’ll get without going any further will hurt your business and you’ll end up unsatisfied and frustrated. Your branding is the vessel with which you communicate your message to your clients. It’s why you have to make sure you have a strategy in place that will be coherent and aligned with your long term goals, and how you want your customers to perceive you within your market. A weak or unclear positioning will hurt your business.
In a survey conducted by the World Economic Forum and public relations firm FleishmanHillard, “Three-fifths of chief executives said they believed corporate brand and reputation represented more than 40% of their company’s market capitalization.”
Even if I'm a startup?
“I’m launching a startup, am I not better off putting the smallest amount possible on a logo?”
My answer is, you can afford to do that even less. But, let’s be honest, you still have to work within your budget if you want your company to survive.
The role of strategy is to make sure that your brand design will be an investment and not an expense. What if I told you that a good brand with a solid strategy pays for itself? Would you invest the money rather than spend a little less on a logo that doesn’t serve your company? If you have a strong branding that speaks to your audience and communicates your message, you’ll win in sales and customers, and the amount you’ll have spent will pay for itself.
If your branding isn’t aligned with your message, however, you’ll likely have to start all over when you realize you’re not getting the results you were hoping for. You’ll end up spending more money than if you’d invested in getting it right the first time. The value of your branding is not to be neglected. Do it once, but do it right.
Truly Deeply, a branding agency in Australia was working with a client on the re-branding of TOM Organic. The rebrand got them finally picked-up by pharmacy chains and supermarkets, and that increased their sales by 1000% in six months without spending anything in additional marketing.
Shop for the right agency, because you need to have the right fit, but don’t just shop for the best price. Make sure the agency you’re choosing has a solid portfolio, talented strategists and designers, reputable clients, and that they offer solid brand strategy, not just good design.
Think about why you’re redoing or getting your branding done, and why you want to hire professionals. The truth is, anyone can put a word in a nice font and call it a logo. How much will it cost you in lost sales or leads if you simply keep your old logo or put something together yourself? Now rethink about the real value of getting a high quality, strategic branding that can help increase sales and leads, and what it’s going to cost you if you don’t; because you can always get something done cheaper and faster. And whether you work with any freelancer or agency, you need to do your due diligence and think about the risks. At the end of the day, that’s what you need to think about. Is your brand image something you consider of major or minor importance? Now, are you going to value major or minor efforts into it?
The Economist reported the power of brand value and brand valuation, saying, “Brands account for more than 30% of the stock market value of companies in the S&P 500 index.”
To give you an idea of how a branding project works from strategy to design, here’s how we do it at Dive.
We define your strategy
This includes your brand personality, your brand message, your different client personas, the goals of the project and of the company, your competition, your positioning, your market, and more.
We work on stylescapes
Stylescapes are a bit like moodboards, except better.
We design your logo
This normally includes 3 versions from which to choose from.
We produce a brand guidelines document
This will include all the logo variants, as well as an overview of all branding elements. With this document in hand, you’re sure to always have consistent visuals, either for internal use or if you work with other partners and agencies in the future.
We design any other visual element, if applicable
Your website, packaging, social media visuals, ads, business cards, banners, and more. This can also include content, video, emails, marketing, SEO, etc.