Branding – More Than A Logo

Part 1 – “The Steer”

Branding‘ is a term we are all keenly aware of these days. But how often does anyone stop and think about the origin of the term and the implications of that origin? You have seen it a hundred times in cowboy movies, the ranchers applying the hot iron to the steer’s haunch and the branded mark smoking as the cow rejoins the herd. But amongst that herd of thousands of cattle belonging to many different ranches, that brand is readily identifiable. Well, the herd is today’s marketplace for products and services. Our clients are the ranchers. The branding that their products and services carry marks them out in exactly the same way.

The cowboy analogy only goes so far though. Modern brands begin with something much less tangible than a cow and a hot iron. A brand is a feeling, a way of doing things. It’s about the character of the business. A modern brand is a promise. Marketing speak? Maybe, but drinking a Starbucks coffee in Belfast is the same experience as drinking one in London and here’s the point: you know it will be before you walk in, because of the brand. That’s how brands work. They offer a mental shortcut to an expectation. Some brands are so successful that they have themselves become verbs – we ‘hoover’ the carpet or ‘google’ information. Some brands even transcend this and become standards in themselves. Is Apple, for instance, really the ‘Rolls Royce’ of personal computing? These concepts only work because of our understanding of how branding works.

As a design house, we might like to think that we mystically create brands for clients, we don’t really. We can only help bring them to life from the ideas that already exist. Our first task is always to challenge our clients to tell us what it is their business believes in and stands for. From these discussions we can tease out the detail and work on all the elements that finally add up to the visual representation of the brand: the colours, imagery, voice, language, typography etc. And every detail is important.

Look out for Part 2 – “The Process” next week