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When it comes to communicating a service or product to our target market, it is like shouting in a noisy room of voices. The loudest, most unique, most easily understood and most consistent message is the one that gets remembered. In business, your brand is your voice. Here we explain how to create a new brand properly.
The most important lesson in new branding is this: do your logo last and your name second from last (if you can)! Of all the brand consulting projects we've done, the most common reason the company's previous brand hasn't worked is because its logo was conceived by some over-excited executives down the pub on a napkin, before any other aspects were even thought of.
Yes, designing a logo is fun and creative, but if you've not got a brief for what you are trying to design and you're not skilled in graphic design, it's going to be horrible. It is like trying to paint the walls of a house before the house has even been built yet. So park those logo ideas, get out a pen and a blank piece of paper, and start at the logical place: your brand's foundations.
The second common mistake is "design by committee". This is where people all sit around a table in lengthy meetings each with their own (often very different) ideas of what the brand should be. Everyone chips in with their own concept and when the group starts to tend towards a suggestion, this starts to get diluted as everyone desperately tries to cram their own ideas into it. The result is an incoherent, messy hybrid brand that no-one will get. To keep it clear, each person should go away and design an entire brand privately, and then all the complete designs be analysed by the committee for a winner.
Your brand encompasses everything from the logo, to the words you choose to write and speak, to your website, interiors, packaging and the things you choose to offer customers. You need a common denominator for all of this to spring from to ensure the brand is coherent across all media. This is your vision, values and persona:
Step 1: Vision
Forget meandering mission statements such as:
"Sony is committed to developing a wide range of innovative products and multimedia services that challenge the way consumers access and enjoy digital entertainment. By ensuring synergy between businesses within the organisation, Sony is constantly striving to create exciting new worlds of entertainment that can be experienced on a variety of different products.".
They drone on with generic buzzwords without conveying any solid message of what the company is trying to do. If the words "committed to", "positive and significant", "to this end" or "value for shareholders" appear anywhere in your mission statement, the person who created it should be made to pay back in hours all the time he/she wasted making it, plus the net time all your employees have spent reading it.
A Vision is massively more useful. A Vision is an intelligent, concise statement that tells everyone in one sentence (and at most two) what your ultimate raison-d'etre is as a business. So sit back and think: what is the one major change in the world that your company or organisation is trying to make?
Here's a few examples of brands that we have worked on:
"Putting modern and absorbing content back onto the radio dial for those living the Cambridge experience." - Cam FM .
A Cambridge, UK radio station aimed at the highly intelligent, and highly unusual University population. It is a station that tries to be an antidote to the embarrassing-adverts smeared formulaic networked pop crap that's elsewhere on the dial.
"Bringing Homeworld back to life, this time online with friends"
A forthcoming Massive Multiplayer Strategy Game currently in production aimed at a multi-million strong fan base of a previous gaming series.
"Making businesses work in the digital world" - Onley Group.
This is ours. We're Technology Management Consultants. We exist to inject new life into businesses and get them using technology to make themselves cheaper to run and a lot more successful. We also take cutting edge companies and help them stay on the cutting edge by choosing and using the technologies that matter.
Your Vision is not the same as your company slogan, although it can be used as such if you wish. Your Vision is an internal guiding statement that everyone in your company knows about to understand why the company is there. So don't worry about how it might appear to an outsider, it's what matters to insiders that counts.
Sometimes, a vision is not forthcoming to an established business who wants to rebrand. In these situations, you need to look around you to discover it. Look at the customers you are aiming for; what is it that attracts them? What do they want to see in your company? Look at their parallel interests and personality types; is there something about these that points to what your business is trying to do? (e.g. if you make electronic car stereos, are your customers the 'boy-racer' types after some loud bass, or middle-aged executives interested in quality crisp sound clarity?). What is your unique selling point (USP)? etc.
Write down as many different sentences that come to your head. Pick the one at the end that most encompasses what your business sets out to do. Then move onto the next step.
Step 2: Values
With a Vision, you now know why you exist and how to coherently communicate this reason to others. It's time to generate some really important guiding principles about how you will go about existing. These are five simple words, and are called the Values.
When stating your "Values", the idea is to get a short list of words which describe the total feel of your company and how it will go about operating. The idea is that everything your company actually says and does fits in with these five words, and if it doesn't your company refrains from doing it or saying it. The words should be easy to understand, and there should be no more than 5.
e.g: There is no greater example of a business' Values than Innocent Drinks:
Step 3: Name and Personality
If you haven't already got a name, now is the time to generate one. There are certain rules however that you should follow when creating the ideal name for both legal and practical reasons. You need a name that's easy to remember, easy to spell, and tells your customers in one quick hit what your company does.
When choosing a name, your brand name should be:
- Unique in all business sectors that your brand touches
- Avoid infringing on a trademark in the countries and sectors you operate in (see here for more). Even a name that is similar to a trademark in the same sector could be seen to be infringing
- Short enough to be feasible (e.g. you cannot fit a 25 character petrol station name on a roadside sign!), and easy to type into a web browser address bar
- Matches a domain name that is available (preferably a .com as well as your home country domain) without hyphens
- Phonetically obvious (spelt how it sounds). It doesn't necessarily need to be a correctly spelt English word, just something that is written as it sounds
- Is available as a Twitter and Facebook handle
- Not contain any geographical references (this limits your scope)
- Not contain your name (this makes you sound like a dodgy trader and passes up an opportunity to tell your customers what your company does)
- Not contain any acronyms (you need a massive marketing budget to get people to learn what these mean)
- Not contain any puns or innuendos
- (Word related to your product or sector) + (word describing your USP or some unique quality of your product or service) in any order
- Ironport (internet security): a 'port' is a virtual route into a computer, and 'iron' is a metal with the qualities of being heavy, strong, impenetrable (e.g. 'iron curtain')
- Facebook (social media): a book is a useful reference of data, and this one's full of photos of people's faces!
- Firmchase (medical task manager): Medical teams are called 'firms' and doctors in hospitals spend their lives 'chasing' tests and results
- DynoRod (emergency drain unblocker)
- AutoGlass (UK's biggest car windscreen repair and replace service)
- DreamWorks (a Hollywood film animation house that creates 3D realistic computer-animated films from imagined stories)
Step 4: Imagery = colour Scheme, font and Logo
You are approaching the fun bit now: the imagery of your brand. This encompasses a lot more than just a logo! The important thing to remember when designing imagery is that it should all fit the persona, values and vision you have created above. This is really the secret to a good, recognisable visual brand: something that really gets the vision values and persona shining through.
While single colours can and do make reasonable corporate identities, it can be hard to convey a complex persona with just one hue. Different colours tend to have different emotions associated with them (red: anger, yellow: happiness, white: purity), and combinations of 2-4 colours can convey almost any emotion. The colour-mood associations may differ across borders, a famous example being that red in China symbolises luck and wealth.
One such brand we worked on, Cam FM, heavily featured a teal colour. This was because the teal was the precise hue of the University's "light blue" colour as you'll see in the Cambridge vs Oxford boat race. The target audience for Cam FM is University members, and so has a strong recognition and affinity with the target audience.
In contrast, using more than four colours is a recipe for disaster (unless those colours are associated strongly with something like a national flag, or a rainbow in the case of LGBT organisations). Too many colours means a mixed emotional message, and also escalates the costs of printing any printed versions of the logo.
The juxtaposition of colours is important. Putting two bold colours side by side might be eye-watering. Insufficient difference might make the logo marks hard to see. Some combinations will render your logo invisible to colour-blind people. But some combinations of colours look very pleasing to the eye.
The best strategy is to use a free colour scheme generator, and pick a starting colour which you think most strongly reflects your company vision, values and persona. Then choose whether to go for a monochrome scheme (varying lightness of the same hue), complementary (opposite colours, often separated by black or white), triads (three equally spaced colours on a hue wheel), tetrads (four spaced colours) or analogic (colours near each other on the wheel). The reasons these colour combinations crop up time and again is that this is entirely human perception as to what looks pleasing. Play around with the base colour's hue, saturation and lightness until you hit a combination that really feels like it matches your vision, values and persona.
Famous examples of different colour schemes:
- Monochromatic: Nokia, Starbucks, Coca Cola, Oracle
- Complementary: FedEx, ExxonMobil, Visa, Ikea
- Analogic: Shell, McDonalds, Mastercard, BP, Kodak
- Triad: 7-Eleven, Carillion, LiDL
- Tetrad: Google, eBay, Microsoft Windows
Your logo will almost certainly contain writing. It helps to differentiate yourself from others by picking a good typeface. A whole plethora of individual open-source and public domain fonts exist which are free to download at font indexing sites. Do remember to check the usage / copyright terms of the font before using it in a logo. Using a font typeface in article text may be copyright-exempt depending on your country.
Again, choose a font that conveys your vision, values and persona. For instance, a top-range car manufacturer may opt for clean, sophisticated, smooth thin letters which exude modern elegance, while a heavy industrial vehicle manufacturer might use solid, blocky letters.
Some open-source fonts crop up again and again. These seem to be because people choose them because the font looks 'corporate' rather than than the fact that the font fits the business. By using them you'll end up with a shite logo, or something that looks like another business. The fonts to avoid are: Stop, Neuropol, Papyrus and Arial Black. We've seen these everywhere and the result is never good. Pick a logo that fits your company, not something that just looks corporate.
And now we've arrived at the bit that only idiots start first: the logo. A logo must be distinctive, easy to read, recognisable and absolutely scream your brand values, vision and persona (without spelling it out in words). It should contain your brand name but no other writing (apart from a 'TM' stamp, and only once you have the logo trademarked). Simplicity is paramount: an observer has to be able to devour the logo, its meaning and get a sense of your vision and values within seconds of looking at it. It also should be aesthetically pleasing.
Logos generally have two components: a motif and the text (the brand name). Sometimes a letter of the business name can be morphed into a motif (e.g. Dell's letter E) or otherwise connected to it (Subway's arrows). It is a good idea to create your logo in black and white first, then change the parts to colours from your colour scheme. This way, you'll be able to focus on the shapes and layout.
The motif should be a simple, stylised line-drawing and heavily related to your brand vision and values. This could be object related to your product, or something that your target audience has close affinity with. For example Swiss Air use the Swiss flag atop a parallelogram which looks like the tail of an aircraft and the rounded, 'swissair' text with no spaces looks a bit like the fuselage... it really is a brilliant logo!
Borrowing one of our own examples, Cam FM utilised a bicycle wheel motif. In Cambridge city centre, travel by car is strongly discouraged and bicycles are everywhere. You cannot fail to notice this on driving in to the town. Of all of the symbols of the city, Cam FM's company board felt the bicycle was the most used and loved by their audience:
The brand name should be written in your chosen font. You have space to experiment with making part or all of the text bold / oblique / capitalised. You can also experiment with outlining the text with different stroke thickness (see Lego's logo). You should then experiment with the layout, seeing where the text sits the best in relation to the motif. Keep it black and white until the layout is good. If you are unsure, you can always produce multiple layout versions and invite opinions from colleagues / friends / family at a later date.
Now add in your colour. Replace the areas of black with colours from your colour scheme. It is perfectly acceptable for white and black to be part of your colour scheme if it fits. If you always intended one area to be a certain colour from the start then that's absolutely fine, the B/W stage was just to get you focussed on the shapes and the layout. It is at this stage you'll detect if you've accidentally drawn something phallic.
You may find you end up with several candidate logos. Once you've generated all your logo ideas (and not before), go back over them critically. Examine each one and test it against your brand's vision, values and persona. Chuck out anything that doesn't fit. If you're left with nothing, go back to the start of Step 4.
If you've got a candidate logo, the basic parts of your brand are complete. Extending your brand into the print, web, packaging and interiors domains is the next step and a whole other game!
How Onley Group can Help
We're experts at building brands and deploying them online and in the real world. We can make sure you give people a consistent and recognisable brand experience across all domains. We like to work closely with you so that you have as much input to your own brand as you desire. We help take your ideas, develop them into a fully fledged brand that will last for years. (And we promise, we don't go down the abstract arty-farty route at all!)
To get our help, just ask for a free quote.