Building a brand is crucial to the visibility and longevity of a business. As time moves forward, the standard definition of what a brand is has also evolved.

Guinness, one of the world’s most enviable brands, was one of the first companies to trademark the symbol on its labels back in 1876. The harp symbol, which first appeared on its bottles in 1862, still adorns everything related to the drink today. The company recognized that associating it’s product with a particular symbol, would build trust and recognition. No matter where they were in the world, once people saw the logo, they knew they were getting a true bottle of the black stuff.

Today, when people think of a brand, they often still think of a company’s logo. This is a crucial part of any business’ brand strategy, but building a brand has become about much more than a logo.

So, what exactly is a brand? The concept may seem simple or even obvious at first glance, but many people may fail to realise just how deep the concept goes. A brand encompasses traditional elements, such as a name, slogan, symbol or colour palette. But it has also evolved to include other elements of design and creative visuals associated with a company, as well as how the company is represented to consumers, the actions they take, the words they say, and the tone they use to communicate. A brand’s identity goes well beyond the tangible. You can think of it as a personality.

Building a strong, recognizable brand is becoming more and more important for businesses. According to research by the Content Marketing Institute , in the US 89% of B2B marketers say brand awareness is their most important goal. Additionally, in the UK 77% of B2B marketing leaders say branding is critical to growth.

Why design matters to your brand

So where does design come in when building a brand? Well, we’ve already highlighted elements of branding where design is integral, like the logo. But there are many more aspects where design is needed to merge your brand’s personality with what customers see.

A good brand does several things. It’s memorable and makes customers, and prospective customers, aware of your company as a solution to fit their needs. It delivers your message and reinforces your credibility. It also creates loyalty.

Design matters, because it speaks without words. It makes an impression on people that will let them know what your brand is about without bombarding them with information. It plays a part in backing up what you say you are about and solidifies your brand.

For instance, a sleek design can demonstrate your brand is modern and cutting edge, while something more traditional can convey you rely on what’s been tried and true.

Apple logo on iPhone

It’s not good enough to say ‘we are a cool brand’. In fact, saying that would probably gain you a permanent reputation as the opposite. Instead, you need to show it. The best way for a brand to do this is through their actions and the look of their marketing and branding materials. When all these elements come together, it will tell people what your business is really all about. And if they all align, it will build brand trust and set you up as a reliable brand to deal with.

Think of a person’s personality. You’re more likely to trust them when what they say, do, and how they present themselves are consistent.

How brands are using design

A brand and its design work hand in hand. Design can capture the unique aspects of what you are trying to convey about your company, and can help you stand out from the crowd. Design can help your brand resound in the minds of the consumer. Even if someone does not remember the name, they might remember the logo or another aspect of your branding. Good brands that have stood the test of time and are always recognizable the world over, include Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Nike and Kellogg’s.

These are known for their brand persona, as well as the products they deliver. But what sets Kellogg’s Corn Flakes apart from a shop’s own-brand version? It’s the brand’s name and it’s recognizable design - the box won’t be mistaken for another, because of its distinct red signature logo and the simply designed cockerel beside the bowl. The strong brand the company has built over the years allows them to sell their product for a premium price too.

All of these brands have evolved over time, but there are consistent, recognizable elements that never change. At one time, Pepsi stopped using its name and just used a variation of their circular logo with the distinctive colours. Even though there was no name on the company’s packaging or ads, there was no mistaking it was Pepsi.

Similarly, Nike’s logo has become so familiar to audiences that it has evolved to use only the check symbol, without its “Just do it” slogan underneath. That is the power of having a distinctive, well-designed logo or symbol associated with your brand.

Everything detailing the look of your brand says a lot about your business. From font, colour and artwork, right down to the shape of your business cards, it all contributes to your overall image. Even just choosing the right colour for your brand and using it consistently can significantly increase your brand’s recognition and trust.

At Rebrandly, we know just how important seemingly small things can matter to a business’ online branding. We’ve found that simply including a brand’s name in a link (so FluidUI.Rocks/Branding instead of short.url/hs1hfg8) can increase click-through rates by up to 39%, showing the power a simple change to a small part of a brand’s online presence can have on people’s behaviour.

Creating consistency for your brand online

Recognition and consistency was always key to a good brand and design plays an essential role in this. A brand should be present and move seamlessly throughout every communication strategy used to reach potential customers. It means your packaging, letterheads, posters and advertisements, as well as your website and social media accounts, must all convey who you are, communicating your personality and values.

As new platforms and outlets for marketing develop, so does the need for consistent design. 90% of consumers have come to expect that their experience when interacting with brands online is consistent across all channels and devices. So whether it’s the design of imagery, the colours used, the content shared or the flow of the site, they expect it all to be consistent and on-brand.

Although you may have brand recognition from your logo, if your website does not match your branding efforts, things could go south very quickly.

Another statistic worth taking on board is that 38% of people will simply stop engaging with a website if it’s content or layout is unattractive, according to Adobe. Good websites use colours that resound with their audience, fonts that are easy to read, and it should all link to and strengthen your branding. If your website is off-brand, it may discourage online purchases as people may be unsure if the site is genuine.

Even your UX can play into your brand’s image. If your website makes the check out process awkward, it will be viewed by users in the same way that having no staff at the checkout in a shop would. Obviously, this is an important consideration for e-commerce businesses, but even companies that don’t rely on online sales have cottoned on to what good web design can do for them.

UK restaurant chain Wagamama and the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium in California both manage to use their websites to create the atmosphere of their brick-and-mortar establishments. Wagamama uses lots of striking imagery to show off its delicious food, and communicate the feel of the open kitchens you’ll see in its restaurants. While the aquarium’s landing page uses an immersive video that resembles what you’re presented with when entering the attraction in real life.

Through good design, both sites manage to present a consistent brand experience both online and offline, so online visitors will know what to expect when they visit.

If you’ve already got a strong presence of designers working on your branding and alongside your marketing team, this bodes well. But if good design is often an afterthought, you’re headed for trouble.

Having a good set of brand guidelines laying out your brand’s logo, style, favourite fonts, colour palette and tone is a good start to help your brand stay consistent across channels, whether you’re working with a small team, an agency, or within the setting of a multinational corporation. But that’s just the beginning.

Understanding the role of how design plays into your brand and its evolution is the first step on the road to creating a long-lasting brand identity that can withstand the test of time.

When conceptualizing your brand, it’s best to figure out what your business stands for, how you want it to make people feel, and what you want them to perceive. Then you need to make this evident in everything you do. Your goal is to build a brand that instills trust and confidence in your customers and it takes much more than just a nice logo to do that. A focus on design is essential to building and maintaining a strong brand identity.

About the Author:
Louisa McGrath is a content manager at Rebrandly the URL shortener empowering marketers to put their brand on their links. She can be seen blogging around Dublin city center, except on Sundays when she stays in to pore over the newspapers.

Next Steps…