A brand is a ubiquitous concept. Everyone from designers to marketers, small business owners to influencers seem to be talking about the importance of having a brand.
Yet, if you asked four different people to describe a “brand” (and detail what makes a good one) you’d likely get four different answers—a lot of which depends on the person you’re asking.
The most common answers often point toward the three L’s: the line, the look, and the logo.
While this isn’t necessarily wrong, we believe a brand encompasses so much more than that. And more importantly, before you can arrive at those three L’s, you have to build a solid foundation, which is where our work comes in.
So, today, we’re sharing our definition of a brand and the 5 components you need to consider if you want to build a strong, recognizable brand, and which component should come first.
We view a brand as a consistent story that allows you to communicate the essence and value of your business, as well as the more practical parts, like what you do or offer. Your audience then receives these messages in a variety of formats and through a variety of channels, which slowly causes your audience to form perceptions, emotions, connections, and ideas about your organization and brand.
In other words, a brand isn’t something that’s built overnight, and it doesn’t just depend on your logo.
If you think about your brand in this larger sense, as something that’s built through every communication and interaction your business or product has with your audience, then you can’t simply pay attention to your logo and brand colors. You have to ensure that every experience your audience has with you and your brand is pleasurable, memorable, and most importantly, consistent.
But for your brand to be consistent and compelling, there must be some underlying foundation that guides each interaction and communication you have with your audience.
And that’s where brand messaging comes in, which is at the core of what we do at West River Studios.
Below we discuss every component of the overall brand (as we define it) and how they work together.
Brand essence: Your brand essence encompasses the reason and meaning behind your brand. It’s your why, as Simon Sinek explains. We begin every project by helping a client investigate their brand essence by identifying the purpose of their specific business, the value they bring to their customers, and why it matters—not only to the audience, but to the business owner, too. The brand essence is the unseen, internal aspects of the brand that no one would know unless they’re investigated deeply, reflected upon, and then communicated, which we believe is the most important part of building a meaningful brand. When you identify this essence and build from this foundation, you can achieve an authentic and aligned brand that feels true to you and your audience.
Brand messaging: Brand messaging is the actual language you use to translate the essence of your brand into a story that your audience can understand and relate to. Developing your brand message involves taking what’s internal and unseen, that core essence, and allowing the foundational purpose to be spoken to your audience. And defining your messaging in a strategic, detailed way allows you to speak that story consistently, which is the key to building a strong and recognizable brand. Helping clients develop their unique and true brand messaging is at the heart of everything we do, but it starts with helping our clients excavate their essence so that their message is based on something foundational. This then allows the brand messaging to serve as a guiding North Star. Our brand message framework includes the development of a mission, vision, core values, critical actions, and overall brand story.
Brand personality: Identifying your brand’s personality involves personifying your brand and identifying what it would look and sound like, if it were a person. This is a vital step in building an authentic and meaningful brand because it helps you create a consistent voice in all of your communications, and enables you to communicate in a way that actually resonates with your intended audience. The development of your brand personality is based on your brand essence and the intended audience, and includes the overall style and tone of voice. When helping clients develop their brand personality, we utilize brand archetypes, which identify the universal character your brand embodies and helps guide the development of a unique, but recognizable personality. When working with clients, we combine the identification of the brand’s overall personality as part of the process of developing the brand messaging.
Brand identity: Your brand identity includes all outward-facing aspects of your brand, including visual and textual, such as your logo, brand colors and photography, overall visual style, and all written communications. Anything that contributes to the look and feel of your brand, and can be directly seen and experienced by your audience, can contribute to your brand identity. So, each component needs to be consistent and purposeful by contributing to your larger, defined brand story. That’s why we believe it’s crucial to have defined your essence and brand messaging first, so that your brand identity can be fully aligned with your brand essence and intentionally communicating your overall brand story.
Brand image: A brand image is the perception that your intended audience holds about your brand. You can think of it as the image they conjure up in their minds when they’re thinking about your brand and whether they have a connection to it. This perception is influenced by all of the other components, discussed above, and whether every communication and interaction your intended audience had with your brand was consistent and compelling enough to remember. If you’re telling your story consistently and in a way your audience can emotionally connect to, then they will hold an impression about your brand that’s in line with your true purpose. And when someone feels a strong connection to a brand, they share it—which contributes to your brand’s perceptions in the mind of others. So, it’s important to be actively shaping your brand, which you do by sharing a clearly defined brand message, told consistently across multiple channels.
So, as we can see, brands are a complex and ever-evolving story that originates from an internal essence. That essence is translated into your brand messaging, which is communicated in a variety of ways on a variety of channels; this is what forms your brand identity. Your audience—based on every interaction they have with your brand and your overall brand identity—develops an overall perception, or image of your brand.
When your audience begins sharing their perceptions to their inner circle, your audience begins contributing to the story that people hear about you and your business. So, the more consistently you’re telling a compelling story and guiding the brand narrative, the more you influence you have over your audience’s perceptions of your brand.
Because the truth is, every business has a brand. The only choice you have is how actively you want to shape and manage that brand. And the only way to do that is to share a consistent, compelling story through consistent and strategic efforts.
But without an authentic and clearly defined brand messaging framework, your story might as well be a hodgepodge of thoughts with no main character, plot, or conclusion.
So, if you haven’t guessed, developing your brand messaging needs to come first, before you can build a strong, recognizable brand identity or a memorable brand image in the mind of your customers.
But you don’t have to do it alone. If you’re ready to build your brand and develop the messaging that will help you consistently communicate what you do and why it matters, we can help.
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While you're here, grab our 6-step guide to developing your own unique brand message framework so you can be on your way to sharing what you do and why it matters.