Branding Guide

What Does It Mean to Have a 'Brand'?

Marketers are quick to tell business owners they need a brand. That's good as far as it goes, but how many follow that statement with an explanation of what it actually means? It is hard to understand how important branding is if you cannot even define the terms.

If you don't know what it means to have a brand, you've come to the right place. Let's start with the definition and work from there. Among more than two dozen possibilities, the Merriam-Webster online dictionary offers these two:

  1. A characteristic or distinctive kind; and
  2. A public image, reputation, or identity conceived of as something to be marketed or promoted.

We can summarize the definitions by explaining brand as those characteristics that give a company its distinctive image. Whatever sets a company apart from the competition constitutes the core of its brand.

A Brand is More Than a Name and Logo

Having a brand is about more than coming up with a catchy name and supporting it by creating a logo. A case in point is Yugo, the brand name of a Yugoslavian carmaker that has the distinction of building what are considered the worst cars ever made. The company is no longer in business.

The Yugo brand was not a good brand. What made the company so distinct was its poor quality in an era when quality was everything to consumers. Yugo was distinct enough, but in a bad way.

A Brand is About Creating a Good, Distinctive Vibe

The goal of branding is to create a good vibe about your company. Regardless of the products or services on offer, whether you’re on social media or run your own marketing blog, you want customers to think positively whenever they hear your brand name. You want them to be so loyal to your company that they would not think of purchasing from the competition.

How does a company achieve this sort of loyalty? By distinguishing itself from the competition and then continually striving to be the absolute best it can be. Take any of the most successful brands in the world and study what they do. You will discover that they are distinct in some way, shape, or form. You will also discover that they spare no expense to take care of the customer.

That's what it means to have a brand. Catchy names and beautiful logos help, but they only enhance branding. They are not branding in and of themselves.

What Makes a Logo Great?

Now, once you have settled on your brand, your company logo creates a visual representation of that brand. As such, it is important to get the logo right. It's not enough to settle for something the marketing department put together in under a half hour. Remember that you do not want something good – you want something great.

5 Principles of Logo Design

Graphic designers follow five basic principles when designing logos. Nail all five and you are likely to end up with a genuinely great logo.

  1. Relevant – We hear a lot about relevance in the content marketing arena. Relevance applies in logo design as well. The image a logo presents to customers must be relevant to the company's industry. It must be relevant to the company's brand.
  2. Uncomplicated – Some use the term 'simple' here, but we prefer uncomplicated. An uncomplicated logo may involve quite a bit of texture and colour, but it's still easy to look at. It is easy to identify and associate with the company's brand.
  3. Memorable – A truly great logo is one that people will remember for the rest of their lives. Two of the best examples are the Coca-Cola and McDonald's logos. We are willing to bet you remember both.
  4. Adaptable – Logos designed to be adaptable can be used in any format. They work equally well for print advertising, online marketing, broadcast marketing, and merchandising.
  5. Enduring – This is another term we decided to change. Rather than being timeless, a great logo is enduring. It should be designed with the understanding that it needs to endure for many, many years without losing its relevance, adaptability, and memorability.

Think of a few company logos that stand out to you. It is a safe bet that they all incorporate these five principles in some way. They are all great because they were designed with the five principles at their core.

How to Create a Great Logo Aligned with your Brand

Knowing the five principles does not necessarily lead to a great logo. The principles have to be incorporated into a design process that includes multiple steps. Getting there starts with understanding a company's brand. The designer must then do some market research and test a few designs to gauge customer reception.

With a faithfulness to the five principles and a willingness to create, test and adjust, it is possible to come up with a great logo that encapsulates a company's image and message in an unforgettable way.