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 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.
Although when we talk of brands it’s usually the multinational giants who come to mind – Coca Cola, Nike, Nestlé, Apple… – you don’t need to be a big corporation to pay attention to branding. In fact, you don’t even need to be a small company: in recent years personal branding has become an important concept among freelance professionals and creatives.
There are particularly strong examples of this among best-selling authors: if you search Google images for Stephen King book covers you’ll find a whole range of formats, fonts and styles, which is not surprising, since his first book, Carrie, originally came out in 1974 and he has worked with a number of publishing houses since then. But if you look at the covers on his author’s website , you’ll see that, although the style of illustration varies, King’s name is always written in the same font on the books that are currently in print – and this is the same distinctive font that is used at the top of the author’s website. The name is always presented in the same way, so there’s no missing a Stephen King novel when you see it at the bookstore.
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: his current publisher Hodder & Stoughton have reprinted the complete backlist and brought all the books into line with the current brand image.
In the last blog post we talked about how advertising copy provokes an emotional response in the consumer’s mind. 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 MacDonald’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. In future blog posts we’ll be looking at this in more depth.
Meanwhile, if you’d like us to help you bring together the different threads of your brand across print and digital and clarify and strengthen the way you tell your story, we’d love to hear from you.