Join Sean Adams for an in-depth discussion in this video What is a brand?, part of Branding for Designers.
- Branding is perhaps the most overused and misunderstood word in graphic design. It has become the catch-all term encompassing logos, identity systems, slogans and websites. So, before we start with "What is a brand?" let's determine what isn't. First and most importantly, a logo is not a brand, unless it's on a cow. A logo is just that - a logo. It's job is to identify, not describe.
The brand is the promise, reputation, and big idea. It is a highly valued asset. A brand creates emotional connections, good or bad. We respond to brands with loyalty, or reject them. Let's start with the promise. Consider a brand such as FedEx. FedEx promises fast delivery and efficiency at a reasonable cost. The brand may engage in other activities, but that is the core concept that we expect.
All of the communications, advertising, and messaging reinforces the FedEx promise. Next, what is the reputation? If I've had a good and reliable experience with FedEx and I approve of their actions, they have a good reputation. The opposite is true. Enron was named one of America's most innovative companies for years. Paul Rand designed the logo. This all changed, creating a fatal reputation with a scandal involving fraud.
And finally, the big idea. McDonald's promises good food, served quickly, at a low cost. But the big idea is the reliability and safety of the same product, whether I am in Hong Kong, or Chicago. I don't need to wonder if that hole-in-the-wall diner will be clean or dirty. I know that I can rely on McDonald's for a consistent experience. We are all tribal. Brands work with that sense of tribal identity.
I am part of the Starbucks tribe and Betty is with The Coffee Bean tribe. Jack is part of the BMW tribe. Jane identifies with the Mercedes tribe. Every branding effort is focused on ways to make these emotional connections and create loyalty. If successful, the brand turns the consumers into advocates and salespeople. These parts, the promise, reputation, and big idea, are typically out of our hands as designers. We cannot create a brand.
The brand is created by the public's perception. And that perception is the result of many elements, from the reputation, actions, promises, customer service, to the product and graphic visuals.
- The history of branding (pre- and post-1950)
- The elements of branding
- Conducting research
- Solving problems and presenting solutions
- Creating logos and identity systems
- Building a visual system with color, typography, and more
- Communicating branding with manuals and vision books