(The 10 Elements of a Comprehensive Brand Identity System, and How to Use Them to Your Business Advantage.)
By Ayokunle Bankole
The use of brand identities have evolved over the years with corporate organizations adorning their various office complexes, products packaging and other marketing collateral with aesthetic logos and designs.
The proliferation of brand identities is nothing new. Their use stems from the need to help existing and potential customers differentiate a particular organization’s brand from that of another. Wikipedia notes that, “Branding began as a way to tell one person’s cattle from another by means of a hot iron stamp…with origins in ancient times.” What then is new about corporate identities? What’s new is the sophistication that today’s brand managers have incorporate into their identities; and how many organizations are positioning their brands in order to remain relevant in today’s competitive marketplace.
Brand identities have increasingly grown in importance and relevance that marketing professionals cannot afford to overlook its potential. An effective brand identity possesses two unique powers – recognition and differentiation.
First and foremost, brand identities help an organization’s target audience “recognize” a brand among several competing brands. The recognition attribute activates our sensory organs to identify with a particular brand.
General observation shows that customers are usually favourably disposed to a brand whose identity can be easily recognized. Hence, more and more organizations continue to strategize on improving their brand identities in order to help their target audience recognize them quicker and easier too than others.
Secondly, brands have the power to “differentiate” themselves from those of similar competing ones. What differentiates various mobile phone manufacturers is their brand identity – Apple, Samsung, Infinix, Apple, and Tecno. Brand identities help customers to distinguish a particular product, service or business from that of another.
The hundreds of books – and thousands of articles like this one – makes one appreciate the importance and relevance of brand identities in business marketing. However, it is a paradox and alarming the fact that brand managers have largely failed to realize that the brand identity contest is more than just having compelling logos and designs on some packaging, stationery, company vehicle and signage! The author believes that there are at least ten unique elements that constitute a comprehensive and top-notch identity system. An understanding and correct application of these elements will help you beat corporate obscurity pants down and position your brand for long-term success.
Brand Identity and the Logo
Just as a person’s personality goes beyond his/her name, a brand identity extends beyond the corporate logo which most graphic designers and company executives have erroneously and solely ascribe as their corporate or brand identity. This failure, however, permeates through and rubs off on the entire organization; and limits the prosperity of such brands.
Successful brands are compelling, well-positioned, marketable and above all, comprehensive. They extend beyond just their brand names and logos. Without sentiments, just a few Nigerian brands come to mind in this category – GTB, Cadbury, Glo (and the rest of the GSM network providers), Unilever, Indomie, Vitafoam, Fan Milk, and UAC (you may complete the list).
What then are the 10 identity elements that makes of a comprehensive brand identity system as identified by the author?
1. THE BRAND NAME – the brand name is what your brand is called. It identifies a product or service and the organization behind it. The name is the commonest element and starting point of a brand identity system. Customers spontaneously relate with a brand name easily more than any of the other brand identity elements. Smart companies give their brand names the most professional attention it deserves.
2. THE LOGO – a symbol, sign or an emblem that depicts the visual image of your business. It identifies your business in its simplest form. In a world where visuals are more appealing, it pays to have a visual frame of reference.
3. THE BRAND COLOURS – brand colours are an effective way to connect with your audience in an emotional way. The most prominent brands are defined by their colour. Think of GTB’s dominant Orange; MTN’s yellow; Facebook’s blue; and Coca-Cola’s red.
4. TYPEFACE (OR FONT) – a typeface is a set of characters that share common design features. Compelling brands are consistent in the use of typeface on every business stationery, and in every business communication including advertising. There are hundreds of typefaces to choose from – Arial, Garamond, Calibri, etc.
5. THE OFFICE AMBIENCE – Grossly ignored by many, the office ambience tells more of the type of organization a client or customer is dealing with. It is very important to have a lively and at the same time professional work environment. Did you know that office setting and furniture like chairs and desks have a lot to do with the kind of environment prevailing in the office?
6. THE CORPORATE TONE – the corporate tone is very important in moulding your audience’s perception of the kind of brand that you are. A tone is an attitude or emotion towards the subject and the reader or listener. Successful brands know that the corporate tone must be courteous and professional at all times; and must convey strength and confidence at all times.
7. THE POSITIONING STATEMENT – a positioning statement is a very short descriptive summary of how an organization or individual wants to be perceived, usually in about 6 to 15 words. Brand positioning is about recognizing a niche for your business and constantly communicating it.
8. THE BRAND PACKAGING – the saying, “how you look will have a lot to do with how people perceive you,” also come to play in brand packaging. Most of us have bought products at one time or the other for just the reason of a compelling packaging. Packaging is designed to capture a customer’s attention and it can directly affect whether they buy the product or not. Innovation and creativity come into play when it comes to packaging.
9. THE CORPORATE DRESS CODE – Businesses of all sizes typically adopt a dress code to help guide employee decisions related to proper appearance and attire for the workplace. The corporate dress code could be something from corporate dress, business casuals, to uniforms. Some organizations may allow employees to wear casual clothes on Fridays or during special occasions, while enforcing the corporate dress code during the majority of workdays.
10. THE BRAND’S INTERNAL SYSTEMS (Substance) – to succeed, a product and service need both positioning and substance. Media firms have brilliantly positioned products and services only to see them die because they didn’t align with consumer expectation. If you are a First Bank, and you position yourself as “Truly the first”, your bank products and services should reflect commitment to excellence and innovation. If your substance and positioning are not in sync, you will eventually get out of business or you will have to change your content, positioning or both.