Is Branding Really Necessary?
For decades, we have specialized in improving brand recognition for a range of small- and medium-sized client businesses. Throughout, we have seen one question consistently come up: does any business, product, or service truly need a formal “brand” to thrive? Of course, the short answer here is a resounding “Yes!”
In truth, it does seem quite logical that success (or failure) would be driven by the market. Perhaps in a perfect world there would never be a need to market a service or product. Everyone would be magically aware of all of their options, and the simple economic rule of “Supply and Demand” would allow only the best to survive. Sadly, universal psychic awareness of our global marketplace is not an inherent trait of consumers.
As consumers, we seek ways to identify and distinguish the options we have available so that we are able to make informed decisions. Moreover, those who offer their business, product, or service to a crowded marketplace must stand out in order to thrive — they need their target audiences to know who they are and why they are good investment; otherwise, no one will buy what they offer.
Thus, a solid brand actually meets the needs of both buyers and sellers.
A Logo Doesn’t Make the Brand
All too often, businesses mistake a logo for a brand. While a logo is a critical component of branding — it serves as the visual signifier that, ideally, captures all branding efforts — it is wholly dependent on a consumer’s pre-knowledge in order for it to have meaning. Furthermore, a logo needs many complementary ideas to associate with the design for it to be effective. In the most basic sense it is an empty vessel waiting to be filled.
That noted, even the least recognized logo is not necessarily completely void of meaning. Typically, and often subconsciously, one will attach a range of concepts and emotions to particular shapes, font types (if words are part of the logo), colors, and more.
Consider, for example, a logo you may not readily recognize:
Do you see the “W” on the left and the “M” on the right? This “WM” design is the logo for West Marine. They specialize in boating supplies like rope. And a great logo like this one will resonate with the demographic because it draws on preconceived notions of the consumer. It is strategic, not something that simply evolved from a series of aesthetic preferences.
Nonetheless, when first seeing the image above, you likely did not start thinking about rope, boats, and the ocean unless you were already familiar with the company. This is where solid branding built on a strong graphic identity fully maximizes the potential of your logo.
The Brand, Branding, and Graphic (Brand) Identity
Here’s something to consider:
No company actually owns its brand.
That’s right! “Brand,” by most definitions, refers to the intangible thoughts, feelings, and ideas of consumers; it is how people perceive a company, service, or product. Today, more than ever, a company cannot define a brand for consumers; rather, it is defined by consumers … their reactions to a range of elements, including what they tell each other about it. Your brand is a living entity, and it lives in the hands of the consumers.
Branding, on the other hand, would be the actions employed in order to shape and solidify the brand (or to change consumer perceptions). There are many tangible elements to consider when executing branding strategies. Together, these elements comprise the graphic (or brand) identity; the colors, shapes, fonts, and various other forms of visual communication that work together to evoke feelings, thoughts, and emotions in consumers.
So in contrast to a brand, any given company wholly owns its graphic identity. Branding would be the strategies and actions used to fully employ a graphic identity. Whether launching a new brand or seeking to evolve one over time, various aspects of a graphic identity can be manipulated, for example …
- Corporate typefaces
- Image styles
- Color palettes
- Logos (or wordmarks or lettermarks)
- Logo lockups
… to name a few. When you subject these elements (and many others) to a rich, creative environment that is backed by decades of hands-on experience and deep strategic thinking, your brand will be set on a path of growth and improved stability.
And when you choose to leverage ioCreative’s expert services and guidance, this is exactly what you get!
Branding: Where To Start
When you’re ready to make the next move with your current brand, or considering the launch of a new one, we at ioCreative will begin by first seeking to understand.
We analyze a client’s product (or service) to identify its features and benefits — especially its unique selling benefits, or USBs. We then “work backwards” from the point of view of the product’s target audiences, taking into consideration demographics and psychographics and other critical elements, to develop high-impact images and messages that resonate.
Our process requires research, graphic design, and copywriting expertise to develop a competitive brand identity. Expertly applied and presented, the brand will be properly positioned in the marketplace, drawing the right kind of attention and desired actions to compel target audiences and propel your bottom line.
Brands are powerful but fragile, thriving when used with absolute consistency in every application yet suffering when the brand’s standards are applied clumsily or inconsistently. As “brand managers” for many of our clients, we know that a well-managed brand has the potential to change the destiny of a company.
Driving Brands with ioCreative’s Marketing & Collateral
We love our clients almost as much as we enjoy witnessing their successes! Of course, we would never be able to make such claims if we applied the same set of branding strategies to each engagement. A strategy that propels one brand could be damaging for another and our clients’ needs are specialized, so we work with them one-on-one to uncover strategic threats and then prioritize goals.
We identify the strengths, weaknesses, features, and benefits that may apply. After we have a comprehensive understanding, we apply extensive research, analysis, concepting, and revising followed by creating a logo and complementary set of design elements that ensure a powerful and unique graphic identity.
Additionally, while our marketing toolbox is large, complex, and full of proven strategies, each effort needs well branded collateral to serve as the tools of the campaign. These are the tactical tools of this communication strategy, the vehicles that deliver your brand to the eyes, ears, minds and hearts or consumers ready to convert.
Branded collateral traditionally includes such tools as sales brochures, presentations, promotional photography, website content, etc. We expand this definition to include everything from tradeshow booths to branded promotional give-away items to branded t-shirts and caps and more — basically, almost any media which a target audience might enjoy or find useful in experiencing your brand and related messaging.
Finally, in conjunction with our SEO-first strategy, we apply the graphic identity consistently and wait for the magic to happen … it always does.