Branding 101

At one point or another we have all heard term “branding.” It has become the buzzword in the business world-- “We need to ‘brand’ our image” … “We need to design ‘branding’ pieces.” But, what does that really mean?

Simply, more and more business owners (and even non-profit organizations) realize that giving their organization a distinctive identity is crucial to their marketing effort—to generating recognition in the community and building the organization.

Given that, what do you need to do? If you are a new company, less than a year old, then this is a relatively easy task since you have a chance to define your image from the start. If, however, your company is more established, then looking for ways to make your business recognizable is a little more complex because you will most likely want to retain enough of the “old” to capitalize on the “equity” you have built, but do so with a fresh . As you can see, much of this “branding” effort focuses on your “corporate identity” materials.

To start the “branding” process, first think about your target audience. Are your services and/or products geared to a specific generation? Who will be making the purchasing decision? Do you have a logo and perhaps a tag line? We can all envision the logo of “Kleenex” in a script font and even refer to almost any brand of tissues as “Kleenex”—a name which has become generic for an entire category of a product.

Another memorable and well-known example is Xerox. The all caps logo of “XEROX” easily comes to mind with its slogan, “The Document Company.” It, too, has become synonmous with all brands of copiers and even the verb “copy.”

Now I am not saying that just having a good logo will transform your company, but it is the start. So, if you do not have one, look toward marketing firms and designers that can generate logos and tag lines. And, consider this an investment.

Also, don’t skimp on the production of your identity materials. Who wants to look home-based, even if you are? The key here is to remember that branding requires that all your pieces have common graphic elements, which Comcast cable should be applauded for doing. Comcast uses the same red swirl graphic in their advertising, mailings and even on their vehicles. It makes them more memorable, which is exactly what you want to do.

That brings me to the next point in the branding decisions-- where does your company need to use branding? Is it advertising, presentation materials, billboards, mailings, website, client correspondence, etc? This will, of course, depend on your marketing plan and the ways that prospects and clients come in contact with your business. It may be all the ways listed above or just a couple. The key is consistency!

Now that you have decided what pieces need a branded company image, it is time to create them. Communicate to your designer or marketing firm that you will need graphics tailored for a variety of media. Make sure you are comfortable with the graphics in all sizes large and small. Your logo should reproduce well on a billboard or on a matchbook without technical difficulties or a compromise in the “look.” (For instance, logos that use striped letters often reproduce in large formats, such as billboards, as a pale version of the type; yet on a small imprinted item, the letters close together. In either case, the integrity of the original design is compromised.

A good reminder, too, is once you have these graphic elements, do not forget to use them. If you do advertising in different phone books do not let each phone book representative create a different ad for you. Use your logo and slogan on your fax cover sheets, invoices, memo pads, and anything else that can put your name in front of the right people. Remember, the uses and the text change, but your “brand” or corporate identity needs to remain the same if you want your branding efforts to be effective over time.

 

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