More and more, people are realising that branding isn’t just for big corporations: it’s actually an important issue for all businesses, freelances and creatives operating in a competitive marketplace.
When you decide to buy a product based on name rather than on price or other factors, when a product or company name becomes so familiar that it’s the first you think about and you know you needn’t look any further as the features, quality or customer service will justify any price difference, when you know that the name alone guarantees great value for money and no-frills functionality, these are examples of successful branding at work.
Simply put, branding is about establishing a significant and differentiated market presence. Clearly, in a competitive market, this can be key to business success: it’s what makes your product name recognisable and makes clients buy from you rather than from your competitors; it defines your place in the market, whether that’s low-cost or élite; it’s about the consistency and constancy that mean customers know what to expect when they buy from you.
Effective branding means people recognise your company name, your logo, your corporate colours; they know the style, attitude and tone of voice of your advertising and marketing materials. They trust and rely on you. Your brand inspires confidence and carries with it the guarantee of something specific, different and desirable.
Of course King’s writing style and content is also a part of his brand: it’s consistent and dependable, and the reader knows what to expect when they open one of his books. But it is still important that the book is recognisable from its cover. Even for this world famous author, who makes his living because of the words he writes, the visual impact of the book covers is vital.
In a similar vein, the titles of Fantastic Beasts, Beedle the Bard and Quidditch through the ages all use same font style as the Harry Potter books and J.K. Rowling even went so far as to create the alter-ego Robert Galbraith so as not to muddy the waters of the Potter brand.
Advertising copy is intended to provoke an emotional response in the consumer’s mind, and this is what branding tries to do, too: it creates memorable associations and connections. But unless we are talking about advertising through a purely auditory channel such as radio, for most people, before the actual words become important, the visual impact is what counts.
This visual element can be as simple as the consistent use of colour: a certain shade of red is enough to make us think of Coca Cola. It may be associated with a single letter: a certain shape M will instantly make us think of McDonald’s. In the case of Stephen King, the visual trigger is his name written in a specific font. In other cases it may be no more than a symbol: the Nike swoosh or tick no longer needs any words for us to recognise it.
The fact that visual impact is so important means that good design is fundamental to effective branding, whether you’re an international corporation, a small business, or an individual who wants to stand out from your competitors.