Branding is not a logo. It’s not a fancy font or tagline, and it’s not a color. And it’s not some “indefinable quality that you’ll know when you see.” Designers say this when they want to charge you a bazillion dollars while they’re walking the astral plane looking for “true essence.”
Branding is none of those things, though each may play a supporting role.
What branding really is
Let me ask you some questions and you’ll understand the simplicity of branding:
- When you see the golden arches of McDonalds, what do you think of?
- When you see the multi-colored font of Google on their home page what do you feel?
- When you see a Nazi swastika, does it elicit any emotional or analytical response from you?
- When you see the apple on a Macintosh computer, what happens inside you?
The answer you thought of or what you felt for any of those questions is branding.
When I was a kid, the golden arches of McDonalds meant a quarter pounder with cheese, ice cream sundae and getting to bond with my dad. Now, as an adult and after two unfortunate incidents back to back, I see the golden arches and think of vomiting. Unfortunately for McD’s, both cases are equally steeped in branding.
When I see a Xerox logo I think and feel absolutely nothing. I don’t own a Xerox and I don’t really want to, though I couldn’t tell you why. I don’t even remember ever using one. I remember using a copier, but what brand it was…no idea. But that’s also branding, isn’t it?
When I see the Macintosh apple, I don’t really think of anything specifically, but I do get the same feeling that I do when I’m creating something. I get that feeling of magic, and that something utterly insanely bitchin’ is going to happen soon.
These are all the province of branding. I guess we could loosely define branding as: the message or feeling that is delivered or evoked or recalled upon viewing an identity of some sort.
If a company gives you the warm-fuzzies, that’s branding. If a company makes you want to laugh, that’s branding. If a website looks shoddy and unprofessional, that’s their branding.
What’s the problem with your website?
Though we’re going to talk about websites now, what follows is true for brick-and-mortar companies as well. It’s also true for individuals. Remember that when you’re on your next job interview.
Why your site’s brand is suffering:
- The problem is that you’re using a free theme that hundreds or thousands of other people are using.
- The problem is that you created or hired someone to create a logo and you slapped it on your site, thinking it would insta-brand you.
- The problem is that when someone stops by your site, you’ve got (according to web usability surveys) about three seconds to grab them before they leave.
- The problem is that you bought a $49 or $99 cookie-cutter logo from a logo house and it doesn’t really do much for your site.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to put myself out of work here. A good logo is an absolute necessity, because it is part of your total branding package.
But done wrong, a logo is nothing more than a bumper sticker. It might be entertaining or look great, but it doesn’t do anything for the saleability of the car.
It has to be the right logo and it has to work hand in hand with the rest of your site and whatever qualities you want it to exude. A humorous website, for example, with an ultra-slick medical looking logo is not really creating a cohesive brand.
In contrast, a medical website with a shoddy logo isn’t creating a very good brand either.
A sports website with a sports logo…that fits, right? Branding.
How will branding solve your problems?
If your website is suffering any of the above woes, proper branding can alleviate them all. As we looked at already, branding is partially the visual identity of a company, but it’s also the feeling they elicit from you. A strong brand will give feelings of:
- Market Domination
Good branding will give you these qualities (if it’s done right).
If you’re in doubt about whether or not you need a brand, that should end here. You do. It’s more important than ever. There are millions and millions of websites and companies out there. And with the speed of technology and communications being the way they, we see more brands and we see them faster than ever before.
In this constant stream of brands and products, if yours blends in, it’s gone. Poof.
My brand, a quick case study
Off to the right there is a little 125×125 badge I use for advertising. As of this moment, this badge shows up in exactly three other places on the whole internet.
Obviously I designed that badge and logo, but let’s say I’d paid a designer to do it. Ordinarily something like that would cost from $200 up to $500. Is that worth it?
Within the past two weeks, this badge, from the three locations in which it shows up, has already earned me over well $500 in commissions. I know the brand is growing and inspiring confidence because I receive tons of emails that say, “I keep seeing your little hook logo all over the place.”
Why does this badge work?
First, it’s an alright design. I mean…it’s not horrid to look at. You know, there’s no green with pink stripes and six different fonts. So that’s alright.
Second, it’s legible, which isn’t necessarily true for all 125×125 badges you see.
Third, the tagline “Design that kills…in a good way” is sort of funny-ish. Or maybe it’s just weird, but it’s not boring or stagnant or stuffy.
But as we’ve discussed, such a badge doesn’t make a brand. That’s why I make it my first priority to do other things that solidify the image I want to portray. I do the things a tiny ad like that couldn’t possibly do on its own.
Other parts of the branding package
Customer service : When a customer or potential customer writes me, I usually write back within 5 minutes or so. That’s pretty much unheard of online, unless you happen to know that your customers are the most important part of your business.
Sometimes it takes me longer to write back, but usually not. And if it ever takes me more than 24 hours to get back to a client, something is awfully wrong. Like possibly my head fell off or I was attacked by gargoyles in my bathroom.
Personality : When I write my customers back, they get the same service as my badge portrays, namely that I don’t act like something I’m not. I have a sense of humor that I don’t try to hide. I have a personality that isn’t “put on hold” until I get to know you better. Who I am makes my work what it is. They’re inseparable.
This isn’t by any means me patting my own back. It’s just what I do for my brand.
So, long story still far too long, get yourself a slick logo. Get a nice website. Do what you can to polish your identity, but don’t stop there. Act the professional and be professional in what you do.
Your branding will never be better!
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