Designing a deal toy? Approving a pitch book? Here’s how to keep the branding on point.
Branding started a long time ago with people physically marking cattle. There are many definitions of the word brand in circulation today. Some people say it's a feeling. Some people says it's an experience. Some people say it's a promise. I've even heard brand described as "everything". I understand the idea there, but that's a bit vague. The most concise definition I found was from Calin Hertioga and Johannes Christensen, both from the leading brand consultancy, Interbrand. They said:
"A brand is the sum of expressions by which an entity intends to be recognized."
That can involve many things. Building a brand involves a serious process of research, inspiration, ideation, and implementation. At Buttonwood it took us six months to define our new brand. We conducted internal, industry, and competitive research. Then we developed a mission statement, a vision statement, and core values. Only after that was complete did we address the visual identity, tone, voice, and various touchpoints that represent what we stand for. You can't build a good house without a strong foundation. The process was extensive, but fun. By the way, it's not over. It becomes organic, it's ongoing, constantly evolving. Thats why it so important to understand that a brand is a lot of moving parts all aimed at gaining recognition for a company or even an individual.
A brand is not one single defining element. A brand includes many things: color, think Tiffany Blue, voice, think Apple, image, think Patagonia, feel, think Pixar, experience, think Disney World. You get the idea, many elements with one goal: recognition. We've established that a brand is organic. It's constantly growing and needs to be addressed at every level. Starting with the foundation of mission, vision, and core values. If your employees have an understanding of your company's "why", they can express your brand in every interaction. From making a million dollar pitch, to answering the phone on a Friday after 6 PM.
There are many ways to aid your employees, clients and vendors in helping with brand recognition. Start with education. Make sure the word gets out about what you stand for. In order to gain recognition you need to be consistent. Make your employees, co-workers, clients and vendors brand ambassadors. Get them to sing your praises. You need to live the brand. Your brand is reflected in the way you speak, the way you write, your packaging and your website copy. A brand is not a logo. A logo is a visual representation of a company. That makes it a part of the brand but not the whole. That being said, it's important to get your logo right. Again consistency. This is where brand standards come in. They help to guide anyone not familiar with the correct usage and application of any visual branding materials. This comes in handy when working with clients. Branding is very personal to a company. When working with a client, it's very important to uphold their brand standards. At Buttonwood, we create highly branded, custom products for our clients to give to their clients, and brand standards are always on the the top of our minds. We adhere to our client’s strict guidelines in regards to their visual identity and design for their clients based on products, brands and industries.
Simply asking for a client’s Brand Guidelines can help you get it right and often times provide you with inspiration. Things like products, images, and even buildings can support a brand. It's important to get it right. When we design a deal toy we make sure it conveys our sense of creativity and craftsmanship. We handle the process with a personal touch, and ensure it's delivered on time. That's our brand. But let's say the deal toy represents a specialized product that our client's client developed. It's the most unique, well-designed product of its kind. It helped our client's client become an industry leader. That's why we make sure to represent that product, that brand, in the best, most accurate way we can. We pay attention to the most minute details. The curve of a handle, the cut of an outline. Even the clever use of color. That way we are true to their brand, and by extension, we are true to our client's brand. In the end we accomplish this by being true to our own brand. So stick to the brand.
Understanding what branding is can be confusing. But if you just remember it's about gaining recognition you should be ok. Again I quote Hertioga and Christensen:
"Business models, marketing tactics, and environmental constraints all influence persuasion and loyalty, with or without branding. It is recognition that is branding’s function. That being said, if done well, branding can influence persuasion and loyalty by providing orientation, fostering trust, and enabling self-expression (we are what we buy)."
A good brand is well-defined, developed from many sources and keeps growing organically. You can help your company’s brand with every interaction. You can also help your client's brand by being true to their vision, and in the end you help yourself. With a little effort, every day you, can be a brand ambassador.
Links and References
What is a Brand?, Calin Hertioga and Johannes Christensen
A Logo is Not a Brand, Dan Pallotta
We are the company behind the world's most beautiful awards, deal toys, mementos, and corporate gifts. For over 10 years, Buttonwood has designed iconic awards for the most storied names on Wall Street. Our custom deal toys and mementos are designed in our studio in New York and can be shipped anywhere in the world. We are a women owned business and we have been at this for a while.