What are the key elements of good brand identity?
“Determine who you are and what your brand is, and what you’re not. The rest of it is just a lot of noise.”
– Geoffrey Zakarian.
Branding is powerful. A good brand can evoke feelings, emotions, movement, and action. When you think about the great brands of the world, they do most if not all of those things.
What they also do is stay true to not only their values, but their brand elements. How their brand is displayed and used and how the various elements are placed and set is vitally important for the power of the brand.
Much of this power is subliminal and you probably don’t even realise the effect it’s having on you. Consistently telling your brand story whilst also setting your brand out in the way it was intended is important, and the lifeblood of a valuable brand.
But what are the elements that make up a good brand? Well… read on and find out…
The logo or wordmark
A logo or wordmark is often considered to be the brand on its own. This is incorrect (as brand identity is far more than a logo) but a logo does form a core part of a brand identity.
What’s the difference?
A logo is usually a symbol or icon that represents the brand, sometimes with a subliminal key message or value embedded into the design. The Nike ‘swoosh’ is a good example of this.
A wordmark will be the brand or company name set in a typeface that should be used on all the collateral and marketing that company uses. Think DHL, Coca-Cola, or John Lewis.
The logo or wordmark are then used in almost everything that’s created by that company. The logo is used as a metaphorical stamp to show, without any confusion, that this content, marketing, or message is from that company.
A logo will appear in anything from an email signature to the bottom right hand side of a billboard.
The size of the logo might not have seemed important before, but the size of the logo in comparison to its setting is important. Will the logo act like a watermark and be fairly small compared to the marketing or advertising?
Or will the logo be big and proud on other areas like exhibition stands and social media banners?
This really matters. Just whacking your logo in whatever size on whatever you feel like will make your brand look less thought-out and more accidental. It’s the difference between a professional company and someone who’s clearly making it up as they go along!
In guidelines we often stipulate the logo size relating to the formats our clients use.
The position of your logo is important too. Where your logo appears and where you place it will need to be set out in your brand guidelines and this becomes an important part of your brand and is a core element. It’s important to set out in your guidelines where it appears for on the format it’s intended for and then use it consistently in that position. Large companies and organisations will not allow their logo to be tarnished by placing words or images too close to it or putting it in inappropriate positions.
Colour and style variations
It’s also a very good idea to have a PNG version, a white logo, a clear background version, or even a black logo for certain messages, situations, materials, and so on.
Most logo designs will come with the different styles, but what they don’t necessarily come with is guidance or rules on where and when to use them. This in itself is a very easily fixed and important element to your brand message.
Your brand colours will certainly feature in your logo or wordmark but will then direct the design of any marketing, clothing, leaflets and similar.
Depending on the organisation your brand colours will often be two-tiered:
Primary colour palette – these colours will appear in your logo and in all marketing material that you do.
Secondary colour palette – these colours will allow you to be more flexible in some instances on marketing materials, adverts, or packaging. These colours will always complement the primary colours and should not be used over and above or instead of the primary colour palette.
Using accurate brand colours is vitally important for any printed materials and items like PDFs, business cards, social media banners, adverts, and so on. Don’t guess!
Good brand identity includes the typefaces and fonts that you use alongside your brand. (Watch this space as we’ll be writing a blog about that soon too.) Even with the simplest of brand guidelines these are included and are there to help you stay consistent across your marketing and company messages.
Usually you’ll have around two typefaces for your brand identity. This will help you stay consistent at all times. A designer will appreciate having more than one typeface for different marketing and design work depending on its objective.
Your guidelines should also cover an alternative system typeface to use which is globally available on the most common computers and websites. That way, when you’re creating email marketing, Word documents, PDFs, PowerPoint or anything digital, it will translate well and look the same at the other end.
One key thing to remember here, in this ever digital-led world, is to choose a typeface that is available to most designers. That way, when you’re creating email marketing, Word documents, PDFs, PowerPoint or anything digital, it will translate well and look the same at the other end.
There’s nothing worse than a typeface being poorly translated on the other side of ‘the cloud’ and making your life complicated and your document a disaster.
Tone of voice
Just briefly, as this is a large subject that we’ll discuss another time, your tone of voice then follows on from your mission, vision and values.
How do you introduce yourself? How do you email? Which words do you need to use regularly – and which ones should you always avoid?
Tone of voice is important because words have such a deep meaning. Politicians can lose jobs in one sentence from bad PR after they use the wrong word and brands are also under close scrutiny. What does your brand stand for? Which words do you feel match that?
A tone of voice document should be used for all copy and content created for and shared by your brand.
There’s no doubt that you’ll be creating images for your company and brand. How do you keep them consistent? Most companies don’t add their logo and typeface to their images. The image should speak for itself in both the style it’s been shot and the content. An image taken in a certain way is a way of showing your brand personality and should be shot professionally with a clear brief and within your brand guidelines. Things including the way the photos are lit as well as the filter, story, perspective, and rules of photography can define precisely how your images are created and used.
The images you use, the style of those images, and the way you set them and apply your wording, logos, and other elements is a core part of your brand.
We create photography for brands because of this. If words are important and a picture paints a thousand of them, then on-brand images are important!
This might seem a little draconian, but it’s important. Just like any self-conscious person lets only the best photos of themselves be tagged on their Facebook, you should be just as protective about the images your company is aligned with.
Ah… the hidden, silent icing on your delicious branding cake. Small graphical elements will be carefully placed and set within your brand identity, website, and marketing. Icons or symbols, often used to separate pages or as bullet points, are a key element but are often forgotten or not even created for a brand.
Certain shapes, spacing, your approach to whitespace in copy and content, and even colour blocks will be part of your graphical elements. The branding rules will ensure that all of your content from digital to print is set out correctly and as intended for your brand.
This simple area can have a huge impact and is where a cheaper ‘DIY’ brand will fail. Using stock elements may have copyright issues, not having spacing and colour block rules will mean anything is possible and your brand is open to a redesign every time it’s used! Consistency is important when building trust with your potential buyers. Imagine if you went to buy a coffee from Caffe Nero and their branding had suddenly turned yellow. You’d be a bit confused.
Make sure you get a “Wow!” instead of an “Oh dear!”
Make sure the space around your logo is protected, your bullet points on leaflets are pre-determined, and that you have a clear set of guidelines for designers and marketers that you work with, on where you put what.
The way your brand was created and the messages that you intend to send out will need working on and developing long after a branding agency like us hands it over to you.
Pay attention to the little things. A brand’s success relies on far more than just popping your logo in the corner.
Do you need to work on your brand identity? This is what we do exceptionally well at Be Smart.