For many, a Google search is the most likely starting point. If you search for ‘How to create a brand’, the results include some useful advice, but there’s a big difference between reading a five-step ‘how to’ guide and actually putting the given branding advice into practice.
What about consulting a business mentor or coach? They are in contact with business owners, entrepreneurs and startups all the time. This source of information is great if you need practical advice about setting up in business or advice about specific business issues. Not the right avenue for help with the lesser understood area of branding.
A third option might be to talk with a friend who runs a business. New Zealand is a country of business owners, so just about everyone knows someone who owns a business. Anyone who runs a business should have some understanding of the principles of branding and the importance of branding in helping their business succeed. This isn’t always the case though – branding knowledge varies considerably among business owners we’ve been in contact with. Some definitely don’t have a clear view of their own brand. They might tell you about their mission statement or values or they might talk about so-and-so, “whose mate designed their logo”.
If you’re thinking about branding, you might also do some Google research on logo design. The search results for ‘logo design’ are interesting and concerning at the same time. I tried this recently and the top three paid and organic results used language that some people might find attractive, but I found alarming: ‘Free’, ‘Design your own’, ‘Affordably cheap’, ‘Quick and easy’.
This commoditising of a creative process is the absolute antithesis of branding. Branding is about differentiation, authenticity and innovation. ‘Quick and easy’ devalues a highly skilled process and reminds me of a sign I once read on Manukau Road in Auckland: ‘If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur’.
These online logo design offers involve inputting basic data, making five-minute selections and, ‘bingo!’ here’s your new brand (actually, it’s just a logo and not a very considered one at that). Just be aware of what’s on offer if you’re looking for cheap branding advice.
If you want to build an awesome brand and you’re looking for professional advice, it’s possible that you’ve heard the phrase ‘a logo is not a brand’. This simple statement is so true. Branding isn’t just about logo design. A logo is a symbol or representation of a brand, also known as a trademark. It is a vital part of a well-developed brand but not the brand itself. (More about this in another blog.)
Some potential branding clients have contacted Angle after searching for ‘graphic design’ online. We know this because we always ask. And graphic design is where your search for branding advice definitely gets ‘warmer’.
Most people have some idea of what a graphic designer does, which is likely to include: creating logos, designing brochures and business cards and working with pictures, words and colour (my teenage son tells everyone I have a degree in colouring in).
However, a graphic designer isn’t always the right choice for branding advice. Before I get a flurry of emails, I’m not putting down graphic designers or trying to be controversial. I’m a trained graphic designer myself.
Talking to a graphic designer about branding does makes sense – they should understand branding inside and out but be aware of the following:
1. Graphic design is only ONE part of the branding process – it’s a critical component (creative, design and aesthetics) but still only one part. Branding also involves a strategic process, which requires specific expertise which some designers have and some might not have.
2. Not all graphic designers are created (or trained) equal. Experience ranges significantly from a recent graduate to seasoned expert with years of experience. To the untrained eye, it’s not always easy to tell one from the other, with slick websites and their claims about designing brands. Some designers are more critical, deeper thinkers than others; some understand business needs and some not so much.
If you’re looking for branding advice, talk to an expert – talk to a full service branding agency. Why?
A branding agency has the right mix of skills and experience to plan, build design, launch and manage any sort of brand. All the strategic and design skills will be covered in-house – such as brand strategy, brand identity, brand definition, brand positioning, brand personality, brand naming, brand guidelines, brand tone of voice, brand story and messaging. It’s a lot more than just logo design.
Products, services, companies and experiences all require branding to succeed and branding is widely accepted as a powerful and effective business tool. Whether you’re a startup or your existing business needs a rebrand, a good branding agency will understand the intricacies of your situation, your market, your audience, your strategy and your goals.
Branding involves two core disciplines:
1. Strategy – which helps your brand to achieve business goals by establishing a strong platform to build on through:
• Business thinking
2. Creativity – which helps your brand come to life, makes it stand out, builds customer loyalty and success through:
A strong brand strategy gets to the heart of your brand and finds out what makes it tick and what makes it unique. A branding agency will see your brand in context and will understand your business sector and quickly take information on board about competitors.
Brand strategy requires insight and intelligence, the ability to make connections and also interpret lots of information and see meaning within it. At Angle, we are often presented with market research, customer feedback, management plans and business strategies, as well as lots of personal opinions and experiences. A good branding agency won’t be overwhelmed with lots of information and will be skilled at finding and distilling down the most important gems into a brand definition.
A well thought-out brand strategy acts as a platform upon which a new brand identity is created. Creating a brand identity is the visual and verbal side of branding. It’s a process of designing and visualising, aesthetics, brainstorming, writing and colouring. The end result is a brand ‘look and feel’ made up of six brand identity assets:
5. Graphic elements
At Angle, we call this a ‘brand toolbox’ and we often explain to people that it’s the unique combination of these six assets that differentiates their brand, brings it to life and allows it to communicate with the right personality and message to the right audience, consistently.
Could a Google search do all this for your brand? Not likely.
Could a business mentor or a friend with a business do all this for your brand? Or the online logo design companies or even the graphic designer you found whose website you liked?
The point is that a branding agency with a solid track record of branding projects (always ask to see them) can deliver the full package of skills that you need to get a brand off the ground. Anyone else you approach is likely to short-change the process and the effect of that will be felt long after you’ve paid the invoice.
Rob Holloway is the Owner & Creative Director of Auckland branding agency, Angle Limited. Angle has clients in NZ, Europe & Australia. Our point of difference is our ability to create a point of difference for our customers. We help people grow successful brands by making them stand out, by solving problems, building customer loyalty and driving results.
Do you need help with branding a company, product, service, or experience but you’re not sure where to start? Do you want your brand to stand out, build loyal customers and thrive? Find out about our branding services and how we use branding as a powerful business tool or contact us, we’re experts with a down to earth approach.