My friend is a famous architect. Guess what she told me when I asked her how she became the best architect in the country. Do you think she described her experience or creative approach? Think again!
“Every idea is my child,” she said. “I plan it, give birth to it, raise it. Once it becomes self-sufficient, I let it out into the world.”
I was deeply impressed by these words. They hold the key to any project’s success. An idea has to grow and develop, to become self-sufficient. Only then will it be brilliantly realized. A project that has been “raised and nurtured” will live and grow. It’s a perfect system for branding.
Our agency is often approached by clients who don’t know where to start working on a brand. Some people find it difficult to complete the brief about their company or product. We tell them about everything, analyze the market and competitors, and come up with various ideas and designs. This is convenient for clients, and it’s a common practice. But!
Consider the situation through the lens of “family planning.” It will strike you as absurd.
The client doesn’t mind having a child but delegates the child’s conception to a specialist. After all, there’s no time to waste. Boy or girl? It doesn’t matter, as long as the baby is beautiful. Like the neighbor’s, only better. What color eyes? Whatever, let’s forgo the eyes for now. What do you mean, legs? Let’s skip the legs. We’ll come back to them later. What’s it going to be when it grows up? Come on, it’s not even born yet! All I have is the name… So is baby Brandy ready to go home?
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? And yet this happens in any design agency. Designers make the “baby” look nice and presentable. She’s not her parent’s daughter, she is more ill than well, and she’s headed for trouble. How to avoid it? The answer is obvious: do the most important thing yourself. In other words, you must consider and formulate the concept of branding.
Let’s call it creative conception. :)
A brand has a soul and a body. The conceptual and material components of the image. Don’t rush into raising the body! First you need to breathe soul into it. Otherwise, the poor fellow will not survive.
Below is the so-called Brand Wheel. The first four circles are concept zones. This is your area of parental responsibility. Only the last circle is in the hands of designers: the visual realization of the idea.
Your task is to grow the idea to the level of independence where it can be released into the world (passed into development).
The humorous example of baby Brandy suggests that the clients don’t understand the first thing about children. To create a brand, you need to figure out for yourself what a brand is. Even if you think that at this stage you don’t need anything beyond a logo. The time you spend on this is an investment in your project, as valuable as anything else. The necessary minimum of branding knowledge helps you choose the right path for your business from the very beginning, avoiding mistakes and needless expenses.
After learning the basics, you’ll find that you almost adopted a foundling! You already have a brand, even if you don’t know it. A brand and a business are born simultaneously.
The initial task is usually this: baby Brandy has to be brought out into the light and thoroughly examined.
Companies arrive at brand building at different stages of their activities. This means they encounter Brandy at different stages of her development: a small girl that is easy to raise; an unruly teenager; a mature and hardened woman who needs a rescue team.
As you can see, the sooner you start taking care of Brandy, the easier it is to shape her.
Research at this stage means an impartial examination of your company (product), that is, the current positioning of the brand. Wipe away your tears: Brandy has her whole life ahead of her! For now, study her advantages and disadvantages, her distinctive features and potential, and evaluate your financial opportunities and risks.
To help your brand child, you need to understand her and see things as they are. No blind parental love here! You’ve got things to work on. Strategic positioning is a sign of a wise parent.
Nobody has met baby Brandy yet. How do you fix that? What does she have to be to become famous? Picture her ideal future. She will be smart, beautiful, and famous. Everyone will love her! But what will make her famous and loved? What do you have to do to achieve it?
To make people aware of the features and benefits of your brand, examine your idea. What does the brand offer people? What is its essence?
The concept of the brand is not an accidental epiphany. It requires effort to be built: analyzing the market and competition, finding solutions to consumer problems, creating a USP, and developing a positioning strategy.
The more you rely on someone else’s solutions at the outset, the less likely you are to get a unique product. You can be easily led astray or offered a standard idea. False focus will take you away from the original idea with every step. No designer will define the brand essence for you. No marketer will see its features until you show them where to look. This is your brand. This is your idea. You are the parent. Look into the soul of your baby brand. If it’s empty, fill it with meaning.
The brand essence is the main idea that reflects its unique value. That special thing distinguishes a brand from the competition and makes it valuable in the eyes of the target audience.
These are not just pretty words. This is a clear message to the market and users about what exactly they are getting and how it is going to improve their lives. But to be able to convey this message, your brand needs character and image.
Understanding how a brand can be characterized is key to its further development and one of the ways to elevate its position.
The brand character must meet the expectations of the audience; otherwise it will not arouse affection and response. It’s impossible to develop adequate brand attributes without understanding its character.
Here are the examples of the main types of brand characters:
- Winner (Nike, Jordan, Marine Corps, Gatorade)
- Innovator (Jeep, Discovery Channel, Trader Joe’s)
- Good guy (Dove, H2O, Sesame Street, Whole Foods)
- Rebel (Red Bull, Harley Davidson, GoDaddy)
- Protector (Johnson & Johnson, Allstate, Kraft, Berger)
- Source of Knowledge (Harvard, Bloomberg, Forrester, Wall Street Journal)
- Magician (Apple, Pixar, Lotto, Viagra, Disney World)
- Seducer (Victoria’s Secret, DeBeers, Courvoisier, Axe)
- Fun guy (M&M’s, Snickers, Dr Pepper, Looney Tunes, Comedy Central)
- Honest (Levi’s, Jim Beam, Wrangler Jeans)
- Inspiring (Lego, YouTube, iPad, Nikon, Photoshop)
- Leader (Porsche, Rolex, Tiffany, Chanel, American Express)
Each character sums up the brand values in its own way, addressing the audience in its own language. Each character has its own visual style, voice, even taste, and smell.
To find your character, you need to thoroughly study both the features of the company (or product) and the target audience. Your brand must find acceptance!
A company or product may have special features or solutions to a problem. These are your advantages. Your main task is to make people see them, believe in them, and remember them.
For a brand to become noticed and attractive, you have to work on its individuality in three directions:
- conceptual uniqueness;
- visual uniqueness;
- emotional uniqueness.
People see first and feel second; only then does reasoning kick in. However, work on individuality must be done in reverse. First you develop a brand concept and then look for visual and emotional ways of expressing it.
The fuller you flesh out the idea and the more information you can provide, the easier it will be for designers to create an original and memorable visual identity which reflects your brand’s goals and character.
The emotions that a brand transmits are inextricably linked with its essence, purpose, and character. They create a bond with users and turn them into loyal customers. Emotional branding is so important that it has become a separate area of marketing.
Try to gauge the needs and requirements of your target group and understand what they will find exciting. For each group, you can find separate emotional triggers that also correspond to the essence and character of the brand.
Here are some sample emotional triggers:
- Love / romance
- Dominance / power / strength
- I’m better than you
- Desire to control
- Family values
- Fun as a reward
- Wish fulfillment
- Quick passage of time
- Exciting discoveries
The brand’s tone of voice can also be emotional. It creates and maintains the necessary mood and the connection to users. So it’s better to consider the tone in advance.
A good parent will choose the name for the baby brand responsibly. Naming requires taking into account the brand’s positioning, analyzing the competition and consumers, checking for unwanted associations, looking for accidental matches in databases, and testing consumer reactions.
A body is something material, visible, and tangible. This is what designers actually create. But let’s not forget that the idea has to grow and take shape, becoming a self-sufficient whole.
As you work on the concept, your vision will become clearer. You will be able to visualize your brand yourself. It will be not a random fantasy or whim but rather a logical result of processing information. You’ll be able to picture the desired logo, corporate colors, branded advertising banners, mascot… If you know what it all should look like, it means your idea has become self-sufficient and is close to being realized. Now it’s up to the designers.
A self-sufficient idea is not necessarily perfect. But it’s sufficiently complete and informative to be passed on to the next stage of development with no risk of being misunderstood. This will help you avoid common problems in developing visual identity and end up saving you time, money, and brain cells. Most importantly, you’ll be able to let your idea out into the world, and rest assured that it will blossom into a successful and unique brand.
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