What’s a brand, and why do you need one?

By Emma.

A lot of people think of logos when they hear the word brand. And that’s fair enough – a good logo is a critical piece of brand identity. But a brand goes far beyond a logo – it’s the emotional response your customers have when they think of you; the summation of who you want to be, what you are, and how people interact with you; in short – it’s a vision of everything that your company aspires to be.

This might sound like psycho-babble, but think of some of the great brands: Apple, with its “think different” tagline and beautiful, minimalist, design; Coke, the soft drink that owns Christmas; Disney, the world’s pre-eminent entertainment company. These businesses don’t just have personality – they have artfully designed themselves so that they can leverage public perception in their favour.

Today, branding is more important than ever before. Your customers are behaving in new ways thanks to the internet: they’re checking out you and your competitors’ websites against one another, and deciding who to go with. In almost every case, customers will have made a decision about you and your company without ever talking to you or visiting your physical premises. How do they make that decision? By evaluating your brand. That’s why it’s absolutely vital that your branding, online presence, and marketing materials are every bit as strong as your actual business: in many cases, it will be all people look at to decide whether they want to become your customer or not.

Take the companies we discussed above: many people in the I.T. world have gone on record as saying that there’s nothing special about Apple products. In blind taste tests, Coke is regularly beaten by its biggest rival, Pepsi. And Disney – well, I love what they’re doing today as much as everyone else. But lets remember that the stories that this legendary storyteller is currently focusing on (Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar) are ones that they’ve bought – so much for creativity.

So if the difference between these companies and their competitors isn’t in the product itself, where is it? It’s in the brand – it’s in the story that each of them is telling not to their customers, but with them.

This last point is central to the idea of a good brand: it’s not something that gets “made” and then exists in some vacuum – your brand will change with you, it will pick up connotations as customers evaluate their experience of your business alongside the story you are telling about it. It will evolve organically. A brand is not an icon that sits on a webpage – it’s an idea in your and your customers’ heads.

This is why you have to get it right. Many people can tell a good story. But can they find the right story? And, once they’ve found it, can they tell it in the best way, a way that you can live alongside authentically? If your branding lacks authenticity, your customers will figure it out.

No one can do this effectively alone, and that’s why people like Kiss Design exist. Our main job is to become an expert in you and your business, and then tell your and your customers story as well as it can possibly be told. Some businesses might have stories that are more obvious than others – but we’ve yet to find a company that doesn’t have the seeds of a great brand at its core.