To attract an audience in any industry, branding is essential. Yet, the term “brand” is used pretty loosely these days. People often use the word brand when talking about logos, or particular company graphics — but, a brand is so much more than that. Marketing guru Seth Godin defines a brand as “the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” A brand identity or image, then, is the face of a brand and its visual representation of the aforementioned ideas.
Thus, bold branding can shape a company’s identity and allow it to stand out in an otherwise noisy marketplace. An effective brand image properly conveys a company’s unique voice and sheds light on its beliefs and mission. Here are some tips for creating a bold brand image, as well as examples of companies successfully differentiating themselves on the market by doing so:
Understand the Product Life Cycle
Very often, people think brand image is shaped solely by designers and marketers. However, to create a bold brand image that resonates with customers, one must thoroughly understand the product life cycle to capture it appropriately within the brand identity. This is an integral first step that should not be overlooked.
There are three phases of a product life cycle: discovery, envisioning, and building.
- Discovering: Product managers and strategists are responsible for the first phase (discovering), with their main focus being on the business.
- Envisioning: In this phase, the design team works on technical feasibility, with a focus on user experience.
- Building: Here, the development team works on building and focuses on the overall functionality.
These three aspects come together to make a great end-product, and the resultant collaboration must be enshrined in any brand image to appeal to a diverse customer base. Those in charge of the brand image must understand the product life cycle thoroughly, and find ways to represent it within the brand image. Without this knowledge, a brand image is at risk of seeming inconsistent and stale.
Apple: Building Brand Loyalty Through Product Design
As an example of how brands can effectively navigate each of these phases, look no further than Apple, with the creation of their flagship product: the iPhone. In the early 2000s, the company had already earned some customer loyalty with the iPod, which was transforming the way consumers engage with music. However, Apple knew that requiring most users to carry two devices with them (a mobile phone and music device) was a barrier to entry.
Their designers knew that streamlining the experience would doubtlessly improve sales, but it would take serious work for them to find a viable technological solution. Murmurs began circulating: Could the company produce an iPod that had phone capabilities? Development teams got to work designing and building iterations to find one that would best meet consumer needs.
After years of speculation, Steve Jobs announced the iPhone in 2007. Throughout the last 12 years, Apple has repeated this product design cycle for each update, continually assessing consumer needs and exploring technologically viable ways to best serve users. With each update, Apple maintained a consistent brand image, conveying a sense of authority and earning a vast fanbase in the process.
Conduct Market Research
As aptly stated by experts at Lucidpress in an article that details seven key elements of brand identity, “A brand’s purpose and positioning can be informed, at least in part, by market and customer research.” The importance of market research in branding cannot be overstated.
Today, conducting research is much easier than in previous years, especially with the abundance of data available. From scouring the internet to simply talking to people via phone interviews, there are many ways to conduct market research. Online survey tools can also be utilized to gather information on specific and targeted topics. You can find some examples of tools for conducting market research here.
Consumer research is key to understanding customer behavior. In turn, this helps draw conclusions about customer likes and dislikes. Based on these findings, a brand image can be tailored to suit audience preferences and make a positive impression.
How Instagram and Twitter Persevered Through Effective Market Research
Among the most influential social media networks today, Instagram and Twitter keep hundreds of millions of users engaged on a daily basis. But if they hadn’t made the effort to continually commit to effective market research regarding desired features, they probably wouldn’t even exist today.
Both of these platforms were started with slightly different intentions than what they have developed into today. Twitter, originally known as “twttr,” began as a platform to share messages in a manner similar to SMS messaging. In the late 2000s, the platform saw explosive growth.
In order to keep the platform operating properly and retain users, the platform developers needed to continually assess user needs. They noted that users expressed frustration due to a lack of tools to effectively communicate with others on the platform. Features such as retweets, hashtags, replies, and the new 280-character limit were added to fill gaps in their service. This has helped keep the platform relevant over the past decade.
Instagram began as a check-in app called Burbn. Unlike Twitter, Burbn was released with an abundance of features; in fact, the platform was downright cluttered. Companies like Foursquare were already succeeding in their niche — and outperforming them by a good deal.
In an effort to differentiate themselves from the competition, the developers stripped nearly every feature, focusing instead on sharing, commenting, and liking photos. With this change, they were able to focus on their strengths. The change came with new branding, and Instagram has persevered to this day, attracting over 1 billion users.
Companies are wise to go where their market research leads them. Whether that means investing in new features or stripping unnecessary ones, brands must focus on best meeting consumer needs to improve their image.
Create Memorable Logos
Branding is so much more than just logo design. That being said, the reason a lot of customers associate an organization with its logo is that logos are one of the most important aspects of brand identity. As stated in the article on Lucidpress, “Your logo is central to your brand identity design. It’s the piece of your brand identity that people will be exposed to the most. It needs to line up with all the other elements of your brand identity, as well as the broader emotional appeal of your brand.”
A memorable logo is one that is instantly recognizable. Consider the Disney logo or the Coca-Cola logo — most people would recognize these anywhere. Many memorable logos are actually very simplistic. In the aforementioned examples, both logos are just a single line of the font with no surrounding graphical elements.
A simple logo makes for a blank canvas, that customers can fill in with good experiences they’ve shared with the brand in question. Additionally, simpler logos are also more transferable — a useful asset in today’s digitally driven world. It’s not enough for logos to look good on billboards and flyers; today, they also need to look great as social media icons or favicons.
What’s more, color psychology plays a big role in creating an appealing brand image. Experienced marketers know that psychological tools, like color, are extremely useful for connecting with customers and conveying brand messages.
In fact, an article on USC Dornsife that discusses the psychology of color cites a study that found that “people make decisions within 90 seconds of their first impression of a product, and color alone contributes up to 90% of the information that forms the decision.” With this in mind, marketers are wise to understand how colors they choose can significantly impact brand identity.
To create a bold brand image, a logo that can be utilized on various platforms is a must. Furthermore, platform-dependent transformable logos should be considered. This will help brands reach a wider variety of customers. In an article on Thrive Global, custom WordPress developer Jason Daszkewicz predicts that transformable logo trend will overshadow the traditional, unified approach to logo design sooner than later: Specialized iconography, dynamic design, and thoughtful adaptation help to establish a real connection with the specific needs of the target audience and allow (companies) to tell (their) stories to potential customers.”
A brand itself might be an intangible and philosophical concept, but developing a solid brand identity is what enables companies to communicate with customers on a deeper level. A bold brand image not only allows people to remember a company fondly but also is able to communicate a company’s essence and values at the same time. These tips should help in creating a brand image that ensures people are saying all the right things about your company, even when you’re not around.