The Basis of a Brand
November 1, 2018 | Sophia Ramos, IAH Communications Specialist
Advertising has evolved over the years. What started as word of mouth and hanging shop window signs grew to billboards, neon-lit entries, to commercials and now digital ads on YouTube, Facebook or even when you’re driving using the Waze app.
Today, it makes sense that branding is essential to the success of a company. The number of times a person can interact with a company’s brand is higher now more than ever. Branding is a term mentioned frequently across industries, but what exactly is it and why is it important?
A brand, or a business’ identity, is what a person thinks of when they hear an organization or company’s name. When used consistently, a brand can serve as promise to customers that their experiences with a product or service will be reliable and meet their expectations. Brand consistency starts with messaging and visual guidelines that lead to trust among consumers in any industry.
Message = mission
Beyond its visual notoriety, branding starts with a deeper core – the mission and values that shape how a company talks about themselves and who customers believe they are. Why we choose the same coffee shop, clothing brand, or even have a long family history of attending the same university, derives from brand loyalty. When customers have positive brand experiences, they often become loyal despite other options that might be more convenient, cheaper, or downright better in the long run.
Fostering this trust and connection all starts with the ensuring messaging reflects the mission, vision, values and actions of a company. As the foundation, the mission statement clearly defines an organization’s purpose (which is likely to never change). Creating a mission statement should take intentional and forward-thinking planning. For example, the IAH spent a year distilling its mission into one concise sentence: We empower faculty to achieve their full potential by creating community and cultivating leadership. The mission of the IAH demonstrates what we have done, will continue to do, and work to perfect in the future. The mission informs the vision statement, which is what the organization aims to accomplish in the future. The two statements combined help us understand why the organization exists and how consumers, stakeholders, and employees are a part of this story.
Mission-focused communications builds relationships because key audiences can form familiarity with company’s work and values. Every advertising piece, social media post, and message should tie back to the mission which will strengthen brand experiences and expectations for audiences.
The visual identity
Paul Rand was an American art director and graphic designer that is often recognized for his iconic logo creations for IBM, UPS, and ABC television network just to name a few. As a champion in creating corporate identities, he said it best: design is the silent ambassador for your brand.
Yes, the mission, vision and values outline how and what an organization does, but the visual identify of a brand connects and reminds that message to the world. The visual identity which can include the logo, colors, and typography should remain consistent across all mediums. Just as in messaging, maintaining the brand and logo’s integrity makes it easily recognizable to consumers.
However, this doesn’t mean that a logo can’t evolve as a company grows. Ten years ago, it would be unimaginable that Instagram would even exist, nonetheless have over 800 million active users across the world. Similarly, with changing mediums and methods, logos can change to reflect how the organization operates in present times. Think for instance, the brand Pepsi. The company has 10 logo iterations since its first logo in 1898. As Pepsi grew, it shed its cursive features and moved into a modern, slim logo.
The Institute for the Arts & Humanities is no different. What started with brown-bag lunches and conversations in West House, the IAH has moved into Hyde Hall and grown to include a new, crafted logo and branding guidelines that harmonize with UNC College of Arts and Sciences and broader University branding. Here’s a look at the evolution of the IAH logo (see right).
As the first touchpoint for potential customers, the look, feel and visual identity are essential to a successful brand. Effective visual branding gives your work credibility and resonates with your customers.
Creating an impression
Branding elements compose a picture for your audience. A brand works together like a system, with messaging and visual components creating a memorable impression for the target audience. And when viewed as a relationship building tool, these brand impressions are valuable and applicable in any arena – whether it be a nonprofit organization, business-to-business model, or in higher education.