What Makes Branding Work?
I love poking around and trying to understand not only how the brain works, but also how we, as designers, can take advantage of how it works for our clients. And branding is one of those things — it takes advantage of the way our brains work naturally, and that also means the brains of your clients, and your client’s customers.
Here’s what happens: The brain really wants to be efficient when it comes up against new information. It makes sense of information by grouping and forming associations, and branding really helps the brain with this grouping and sorting.
Your eyes vs. your brain
What you see here looks like a random set of elements. Your eyes see them in a certain way, just kind of out there, mixed up, all over the place:
However, while your eyes see things in one way, your brain is working hard, trying to do this:
It’s making sense of the elements by grouping them and forming associations.
Your brain is putting all the things that go together, together. If there were some other single random shapes here, like a single heart or diamond or kitty, your brain would discount it as insignificant — because there are not enough of them to group and associate.
How we can use this brain function
We can take advantage of this brain function with branding.
Because in much the same way, your brand — and your clients’ brands — will be sorted together in customers’ brains with the things that surround it — with the things your brain associates with it. Beer commercials associate their product with good times so that when you’re having a good time, you’ll think of beer and want to have one. Sporting goods companies associate their products with professional athletes, so that when you see their products, you’ll feel like you can perform like those athletes — and want the product. You get the picture.
Consistency is key
This is why it’s also so important to be consistent. Brands must say (and be) the same thing over and over again and must be paired with the same traits over and over, to ensure that those traits, attributes, and messages are associated with the brand in their customer’s eyes. If an athlete isn’t consistent with the desired brand attributes, he or she gets fired.
Companies that want to change their brands every year are playing a dangerous game — their customers’ brains don’t have time to build up the consistency of positive associations. There’s a reason why the Keebler elves are still on the cookie package and Nike continues to sponsor high profile athletes.
The logo alone falls short
So, when it comes to logos — that’s only part of the picture. And it’s not where we should start. Logos can’t entirely address the attributes and associations our clients’ customers need in order to bond with a brand. Yes, they are part of the picture, but they need power behind them.
Logos get their true power from the brand
Ed and I have talked a lot about the real meaning of brand being the company’s reputation. That’s where the logo gets its power. Think of the Nike swoosh. For millions of people around the world, that symbol, in all languages and without any words, makes people feel like they can jump like Michael Jordan and hit a golf ball like Tiger Woods.
This powerful Nike logo didn’t gain its power by accident. It gained its power from Nike’s reputation — and from Nike’s frequent and consistent promotion of the Nike brand.
If you don’t give the customer recognizable things to store together, you don’t get that momentum, that critical mass. This is where the logo comes in and can add to the mix — and explains how a logo alone can’t pull the entire weight. It needs to be associated with other elements of the company’s brand in order for it to have power.
This is also why we’re so excited about the strategic work you can help the client with, because it can give much more power to the design work you do. And it’s the strategic work that clients are so hungry for. They are not getting it from other designers.
Join us in April 2019 for our next Brand Academy Workshop
Learn how you can drastically increase your income by taking branding far beyond the logo at our next virtual Brand Academy Certification Workshop, April 29 & 30, 2019. Register by March 8 to get the Early Bird Discount.
Until then, you can learn more about our branding process in our free webinar, How to Make $20k to $50k on Your Next Branding Project — Before You Even Start Designing.