If we asked you to name the building blocks of your brand, what would make your list?
Many would start — and end — with a logo. But a logo is just one easy-to-spot manifestation of a brand. It’s like the desktop icon that launches a program, not the program itself.
Your brand is the conglomeration of everything you, your customers, and anyone who has ever heard of you brings to mind when they think of your company. When you build a brand, you deliberately set out to direct those emotional connections so that the appealing things that differentiate you from your competition come to mind quickly.
How About an Example or Two?
Think about Lyft and Uber. Both companies provide essentially the same service. You might expect them to be more or less indistinguishable. But they’re not. They feel completely distinct. That’s branding.
They use all the tools of branding to project their strategically crafted personalities. And whether you come across an ad for either, or read an article about them in a newspaper, or actually catch a ride home with one of their drivers, each of those experiences builds your impression of the company. Those impressions — coupled with everyone else’s impressions — is their brand.
So to build a brand, what building blocks do you need to develop?
Branding usually starts as an in-depth process through which we consider what makes your company — and the value it offers — unique. We call this ‘brand positioning.’ Then we begin to develop the design, content, and personality elements that establish and reinforce your brand over time. Each element you produce and each action you take should be ‘on brand.’
Logo Check out Lyft and Uber’s logos. Lyft looks extroverted and fun and Uber comes across as sleek and high-tech. By combining a few simple but well-considered elements, each provides a shorthand version of all the companies aim to project.
Color Scheme Companies associate themselves with specific colors, repeated across all mediums. These colors help audiences cue in to messaging and mood. Uber primarily uses black and white, reminiscent of high-end car companies and personal bodyguards. Uber supplementals their monochromatic colors with a series of cool colors for an urban feel. Lyft, on the other hand, chose an electric pink and deep purple — an in-your-face, impossible-to-take-too-seriously combination.
Fonts Picking the font(s) that suit your brand is another way you can establish personality and reinforce your brand ideas. Lyft’s logo font is flowing, full of rounded swoops, and it feels jovial. In its other materials, they use Gotham, a sans-serif choice that leaves other design elements to express personality. Uber’s font is FF Clan, chosen to be easily recognized at a distance. It’s a stylish font that feels cybernetic and modern.
Materials You wouldn’t give someone an engagement ring in a Ziploc bag and you wouldn’t store a sandwich in a red velvet clamshell case. Doing either would be miscommunication. Packaging materials literally build an expectation around the products contained inside. That expectation is — you guessed it — part of brand. While Lyft and Uber sell services and not products, they do produce items, such as welcome kits for drivers. Watching YouTube videos of Lyft and Uber drivers opening these kits demonstrates how their materials choices help to carry their brand messages.
Websites The way your website looks, the way its user interface (UI) is designed to create user experience (UX), even the speed with which it loads — these factors all contribute to the experience of interacting with your company. It doesn’t matter if you sell real estate or suntan lotion; the way you present yourself allows customers and prospective customers to know who you are on your terms. Comparing Uber and Lyft’s websites, you’ll see not dissimilar web design and architecture, but each still feels different. Lyft’s site stays true to their brand while Uber’s site seems aimed at a different audience — one less interested in the exclusivity they’ve promoted until recently.
(Other design elements that contribute to brand include trade show booths, printed materials, mascots, uniforms, banner ads, and much much more.)
Naming The name you choose is a hook on which your audiences can hang other associations. When you hear the name Uber, for example, the word’s German meaning, ‘over’ or ‘above’ comes to mind — as in übermensch. This fits with their elite brand. The coinage Lyft, on the other hand, connotes rising and elation. One thinks of ‘grabbing a lift,’ which is a low-stress convenience and the opposite of elite. While companies can and do build associations on top of existing names, choosing the right name from the start can significantly speed your branding efforts.
Messaging While design elements evoke ideas and emotions, words spell them out. Direct, clear messaging asserts the key facets of your brand. It gives internal and external audiences the bullet points of who you are and why. Messaging includes everything from tag-lines to mission statements and elevator pitches.
“A ride whenever you need one” – Lyft
“Be your own boss” – UBER
(Other content elements that contribute to brand include instruction manuals, web copy, speeches, and what your staff says when they answer the phone. All of these words give you opportunity to reinforce your brand.)
The personality components of brand cover the actions that your company, your representatives, and even your fans take. Do you sponsor the local Little League team? Does your customer service team make it easy or hard to get in touch? Do you allow employees to bring their dogs to work? All of these things become part of your brand, whether you intend them to or not. For rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, personality frequently comes across in driver interactions. Driver interactions are guided — as much as possible — by manuals and by management and corporate atmosphere.
Because an established brand relies on so many different building blocks, it’s important to stay on brand when and where you can. At Double Six Design, we’re geared up to guide you through this process — from initial brand exploration workshops to brand development and maintenance.
Being so prepared, and being warmly welcoming when you reach out, is part of our brand.