Let’s Talk About… is a series of short publications where complex topics are discussed in an accessible and light-hearted format. Let’s Talk About… is presented as a case study of the ins and outs of the world of design for seasoned experts and newcomers alike, including those who may be undergoing the research process before engaging with an agency for future projects. With this in mind, we hope you enjoy this series of publications as much as we’ve enjoyed producing it.
What exactly is branding? If you ask a dozen experts, you’ll likely get a score of answers. All equally correct, but none entirely accurate. Every aspect of the brand builds the brand identity, from intangible elements to concrete things you can see or touch. Simply put, the only acceptable answer to the question “What is branding” is: What isn’t?
Branding is the constant, methodical art of crafting a Brand Identity. While both terms have been used interchangeably, they can be differentiated as the brand's actions and the intention behind those actions, while the latter is the collection of elements curated to create an experience in conjunction with the perception of consumers towards a brand. The perception of these elements is what consumers see as “the brand”.
A brand’s identity is evolving and constantly changing, thus consistency matters. Consistency with the visual language and brand’s voice ensures a seamless, interconnected experience across multiple touchpoints.
We can split a brand’s identity into two main groups: visual language and experience (also known as “feel” or “feeling”).
The scope of brand's identity includes things of irrefutable value like a brand’s logo, the colors that are used throughout the different touchpoints, textures, illustrations, photography usage, patterns, etc. Those are just some examples of the visual elements that form a brand’s identity. But a brand’s identity goes further than what can be experienced through sight or touch. Very much like your very own identity goes past what others can see. Identity includes intangible elements like the tone and voice a brand uses when engaging in a conversation with clients or other brands, and how people feel when interacting with a brand. Things like a sense of luxury, or fun and excitement are all part of a brand’s identity. Every aspect of the brand should be planned out to transmit those feelings.
A brand’s identity is comprised of a mix-matched troupe of these elements. While some may be crucial to a brand, some can be less relevant for others.
Let’s review some of the more dominant ones.
Logo: visual representation of a brand’s name. Imagine your name was not spelled with letters but instead with an icon or image.
Logomark: Icon part of a logo
Wordmark: typographic part of a logo
Fonts (Fontface, font family, typeface): The type families a brand uses are equally important. Some brands stick to one typeface, others use hundreds.
Color (Palette): A brand’s color is just as important as their logo. Brands go to excessive lengths to protect the use of their colors. For exmaple:T-Mobile has copyrighted their recognizable magenta and Coca-Cola spends hundreds of hours to ensure the iconic Coca-Cola red is the exact same shade of red throughout thousands of touchpoints across the world.
Tone (Voice): How a brand interacts with people is part of the brand identity and reflects the brand’s personality. Is a brand serious and corporate, or is it young and sassy?
User Experience: Have you ever disliked a brand because they offered a poor experience? User Experience is how you as a consumer interact with a brand and that lingering feeling you get after an interaction. There are hundreds of moving parts that may be out of a brand’s control, like shipping damages or service outages, but how a brand ensures quality and handles these issues speaks volumes and is all part of the user experience. Other aspects of user experience can include great customer service, among others.
So, after all this… What is branding?
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