Branding: Identity by Design
“Branding,” as a term, may seem broad and vague to the uninitiated. Branding refers to a company’s marketing identity, which helps customers recognize, remember, and form preferences for doing business with that company over their competitors in the market.
You don’t need to look far to see examples of strong branding:
Coca-Cola, Apple, and Target (among so many others) have built successful brands that billions of people identify and connect with. Each of these companies even pushed their largest competitors to undertake a major re-branding during the last five years (Pepsi, Microsoft/Windows, and Walmart, respectively).
Branding isn’t just for huge, established corporations though! Small, emerging companies can follow the shining examples of these larger companies to point the way to branding success, and learn from the missteps of their competitors.
To explain the process of branding from the ground up, we've created a fictitious client to “work for,” and design an entire brand for that client. What follows is an explanation of the steps taken and choices made throughout the brand-development process.
The faux corporation we dreamed up was a carbonated energy beverage maker in the vein of Red Bull and Monster. To build this company’s brand we needed to generate a name, a custom logo, a standardized color palette, and at least one typeface (font) for logo typography and consistent header text across all web- and print-based materials.
Every industry has ties to specific branding themes - common associations that have grown to define the very nature of the industry. It is important to recognize these themes and patterns, and find a way to fulfill industry-specific branding themes, while simultaneously establishing a unique and independent identity to “stand out from the crowd”. The branding themes for energy drink companies are fairly established, so our task was to work within those known parameters and expectations, while finding ways to differentiate this new faux brand from existing ones.
1.) We settled on the name Night Owl Energy Drink, as an easy nod to the effects of caffeinated beverages. This first step shaped all subsequent choices.
2.) The logo design included pictographic and typographic elements, featuring text reading “Night Owl Energy Drink” with an illustrated owl incorporated into the text line as a typographical character.
3.) We selected two bold colors that contrasted well – black and yellow – to make the logo and all other branded materials really eye-catching.
4.) The font (Blacksmith) was selected for its bold, solid-looking qualities. Notice that these general qualities for colors and fonts are consistent across most of the competing energy drink brands, but the particular combination of colors and fonts is unique.
These decisions brought us to this design:
The real website for the imaginary company followed, and with the already-established brand elements, there was a set of guidelines to follow for designing all the graphic materials for the website. Note that certain areas of the page are highlighted for further analysis.
A.) The logo is featured prominently, on every page of the site.
B.) The major colors throughout the web page are brand-consistent (black & yellow).
C.) The headline font matches the brand font (Blacksmith).
Each of these aspects helps reinforce the brand throughout the website, to impress the company’s identity and message upon visiting customers.
We’ve explained what branding is, and discussed the steps that go into building a brand from scratch. Branding is usually an afterthought to a small business owner, but it is hands-down the best way for a business of any size to make a strong first impression. It’s no coincidence that whenever multiple businesses compete for a share of the same market, the company with the strongest brand typically comes out on top. Branding is a powerful tool that can help a company stand out from competitors and appeal to potential customers - and it is a smart move for any business.
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