Designing products for 13 years for a large Fortune 500 Corporation, you’re bound to learn a few things. And I’ll be the first to admit, I learned way more working for Stanley Black & Decker than I ever did in school. There’s so much you learn with real-world experience you just can’t be taught.
As a Product Designer, I not only learned how to design products for their specific brands, but learned some key brand information that will help any business get their brand on the right track.
1. Brand Identity is more than logos and colors.
The clean and sweet way to say it is Brand Identity is the visual part of what makes you recognizable to your customers. It’s the message and feel they get from your product, service, or experience. This is why the consistency of your brand identity is so important, (but more on that below).
A brand identity includes so many different components. There’s your business name, logo, typefaces, and tagline. There’s your color palette, packaging and print, social media, advertising, and website. And then there’s shape, textures and patterns, imagery, and graphics. But even those aren’t the entire list. A brand identity encompasses all of the touch points and applications. How many of those touch points and applications depends on how widely the brand is seen.
Strong businesses with recognizable brands make sure the brand is appropriately covered on all aspects seen outside (and even inside) the corporate walls. Wearing a branded T-shirt? The color yellow should be as close to the brand yellow as possible. Selling a high-end and expensive product? The customer service should be right up there with other high-end brands, treating the customer like the big spender they want to be treated like.
2. You can have multiple brands selling similar products.
It’s no surprise that large companies own multiple brands. It can be an incredibly lucrative and smart move on a business’ part, as long as it’s done correctly and the brands are created and run specifically to their own identity.
You’re familiar with the brands PANTENE and Herbal Essences for hair care right? They are both brands that sell shampoo, conditioner, and other hair products. You can buy them both in pretty much any drug store, supermarket, Walmart and Target around.
But did you know they’re also both sold by the parents corporation Proctor & Gamble? P&G also sells the brands Aussie, Head & Shoulders, and Old Spice in the hair categories. You may ask “Why would they sell the same type of products in the same locations under different brands?”
Well, the products, although very similar, and some (although I have no proof) may be exactly the same, are marketed to different customers. Taking a guess here, but based on the brand identities for each brand, PANTENE seems to be marketed to more adult women who are looking for a higher feeling, but cheaper drug store product, while Herbal Essences is typically cheaper, and has a more fun and laid back vibe, catching the eyes of teens and college aged girls. Even the smell is marketed that way.
The benefit for P&G is the ease of selling more product to a larger range of customers. This = more $$$. But the key it to make sure they have a clear brand identity for each one.
3. The best brands have consistent brand identity and follow clear brand guidelines.
Think about the best brands you know. The most popular. Maybe Coca-Cola? Nike? Apple? What do all these brands have in common? They’re always consistent in their appearance, use, size, scope, color, feel, etc. Unless they’re purposefully going outside their own guidelines (think a new product, or changing the logo guidelines to allow the NIKE Swoosh to be broken up on a new shoe design), they’re always recognizable.
The best brands are one you can recolonize even when OUT of context.
Have you ever played that game, maybe online or on your phone, where you see a logo and guess what it is? Maybe the logo is mostly covered? Or maybe the logo is there, but all the colors are gone? Even harder, when the product is there, but the logo is gone? Can you tell what brand it is now?
You can probably at least guess the big brands because they’re strong, and have always been so consistent, that when parts are missing your brain automatically fills them in. Didn’t think those ads were getting to you, did you?
Brands are made to be kept consistent. Don’t let yours get too sloppy.
4. You must educate all your employees on your brands and the consistency needed to reinforce those brand identities.
You can be the biggest advocate of your brand and follow all the rules, but at the end of the day, if your employees cannot be consistent with your brand, you’re going to loose brand strength. I’ve sadly had experience where designers, and those who should be the largest advocates for the brand, weren’t following the guides correctly.
But even the lowest gal or guy on the totem pole should know how to use the brand correctly for the job they do. If that means training, then so be it. But treating the brand like it’s not as valuable as it is should be taken seriously. Educate not only how, but educate as to why it’s so important. Make them understand so that they’ll want to be just as much as an advocate as you are.
5. Listen to your customers.
You get to decide what you want your brand to be. BUT, and that’s a big BUT, your customers give some of the best insight of your brand could be.
Here’s and example:
Sildenafil was a pharmaceutical drug created by the labs at Pfizer to reduce hypertension, or high blood pressure. During research the drug didn’t do as well as they had hoped. However, one of the side effects patients were getting was penile erections. Yep - the drug known as Sildenafil turned out to be the early marketing of what we know as Viagra today. The drug became the first oral treatment approved to treat erectile dysfunction in the United States. But had the company not listened to what the patients (customers) were telling them, they may have continued on their path trying to come up with another hypertension drug. By listening to their customers, they sold the same product, but decided to change branding and marketing course, making millions in revenue.
Sure, you may love your brand, but it doesn’t mean people will buy it. Make sure you get in tune with the customers who buy your product, and continue to stay in tune. Don’t stop researching. There’s always something your customers can tell you.
So, knowing all this now, do you feel like your brand identity is up to snuff? Or maybe your own brand needs a boost?
I’ve created a completely FREE 12-day Branding Boosting Challenge for small business owners who needs a little help refocusing on their brand.
This isn’t a step-by-step PDF on how to create a brand board. No. This is a daily guide sent directly to you with a short challenge you can do that gives you more insight and understanding of your own brand. Think you know your brand now? Just wait.
Subscribe to the Challenge here and each day you’ll receive a new 15-minute task you can do to take your brand to the next level! We’ll cover everything from your competition to positioning, and everything in between. You can’t afford not to try it out. And who knows, maybe you’ll be the next Viagra.