Defining the True Elements of Brand

By: Guest | July 30, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Brad Breininger.

A quick search for “buy logo” on the Internet will deliver a wide range of purveyors with prices such as $29, $38, and $59 – even some “starting at $5.”

Does anyone really believe that a $5 logo is the right solution for any business? Where do $5 logos even fit in the world of branding?

Startups and growing companies have a unique mandate – they must create an image, communicate their value proposition, and build awareness quickly.

With the rise in outsourced logo design, it seems as though branding has become simple, cost-effective, and nearly effortless. In these scenarios, companies can create a “brand” with little effort and minimal strain on capital. Why spend thousands if you can spend less than 60 bucks? 

Unfortunately, the enticement of “cheap and quick” and the monetization of the logo have blurred our perception of what a brand truly is. Many companies believe their brand is best represented by their catchy logo, witty tagline, and colour scheme. After all, it’s the first thing anyone sees, isn’t it?

Some organizations have become convinced a logo isn’t just part of their brand, it’s the foundation—everything after that is secondary. However, this can severely obstruct a company’s ability to establish a brand that is deeply integrated, meaningful, and malleable; moving it from an asset to a liability.

While the logo is extremely important to a brand, it can’t accomplish everything. It isn’t an indication of what an organization stands for, what it offers in value, or the promises it makes.

Most importantly, it doesn’t address the myriad of questions a potential customer or client might ask.

A brand’s true foundation includes:

  • Value
  • Experience
  • Vision
  • Trust

Together, they make up the brand story – which influences every decision, all content and positioning, and the company’s trajectory within the marketplace. But, how do you arrive at the brand story? How do you create a foundation that is strong and authentic – and resonates with all potential audiences? If it’s not a $5 logo, what is it?

There are three things we’ve defined everyone should rely on when delivering their brand:

  1. Defining intent;
  2. Identifying strong connections; and
  3. Creating a consistent experience.

We call this approach Business Creative™ because the mix of business objectives and creative thinking is at the heart of every brand. How a company creates that brand is remarkably important and it doesn’t start with the logo.

Brand covers everything from the attributes of the experience and the promise to customers to social media, PR, marketing, and messaging. Our worry is the monetization of the logo (and overall creative approach) will displace the importance of the brand and everything it represents – communicating value, helping the company stand out in the marketplace, and building trust to generate loyalty.

With market saturation and competition at an all-time high, there has never been a more important time to develop a strong, unique, and stable brand than now.

A great logo and creative can bring pizazz to your image and turn a few heads, but beyond that it doesn’t address the deeper, functional elements that will drive your personality, reputation, and bottom line. The temptation of a quick and inexpensive brand can place a company in an environment that has no clear direction or strategy. If that happens, it will be the worst $5 you’ve ever spent.

You owe it to your success to treat your brand as what it truly is: One of your most important business assets. And, invest accordingly.

Brad Breininger is principal and strategist at Zync in Toronto, an award-winning brand and marketing agency. Connect with him on TwitterLinkedInFacebook or on the Zync blog.

  • Brad, I love Marty Neumeier’s definition of ‘brand’ from “The Brand Gap.”  I’ll paraphrase here — your brand isn’t what you think it is; it’s what everyone else thinks it is. So it’s a combination of the quality and reach of your reputation. 
    So for some brands, a $5 logo fits the bill precisely! 

    • BradBreininger

       @barrettrossie exactly! (maybe $5 is even too much). Love Marty too, I’ve seen him speak a couple of times and he’s great. Brad

  • great…. i like the concept of the brand gap…

  • StorchMurphy

    Nice article. I remember my first job out of college I worked for a regional medical system that was rebranding. The company charged $100,000 and it was a mediocre effort at best. The logo was awful. Today, you can get the same awful logo for $5. How times change!
    No one is going to spend much time bringing the concept to life for $5. Rather, it’s a mass market strategy for the design shop. They don’t really take ownership in breathing life into the concept. It’s kind of like what happened when companies began shipping manufacturing and help desk overseas. Yes, you get a product or someone to help you, but in many cases, there’s no real quality or character behind the company doing the inexpensive servicing. Craftsmanship requires investment. If your company is worth its salt, then development of the brand should be well funded.

    • BradBreininger

       @StorchMurphy I agree, monetization leads to bland, ineffective solutions! Brad

  • Fantastic stuff, Brad.
    I teach people this often (in different language), and it reminds me very much of Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why”
    A quick story: I have a heavy design + creative background, and the other day someone in a cafe asked me what I charge for a logo. I told him I didn’t work that way, but he kept pushing me, so eventually i gave him my hourly rate for consulting.
    Now he doesn’t talk to me or look me in the eye when I go to the coffeeshop, lol.
    Anyway, I really enjoyed this, though what else would anyone expect from SpinSucks ? 🙂
    P.S. It’s great to see a wise, fellow Torontonian here 🙂

    • BradBreininger

       @Jason Fonceca Thanks Jason. Really respect Simon’s POV, thanks for the compliment! Yes, everyone’s interested until you start talking price…

  • lamiki

    @Stephenspower Interesting. I’ve never heard formal poetry related to a brand before. Could you tell me more?

    • Stephenspower

      @lamiki Brands and formal #poetry have 3 similarities: 1) Brands define intent; a poem’s first lines, its type & the reading experience tk.

      • BradBreininger

        @Stephenspower love the connections you’ve made — very interesting!

    • Stephenspower

      @lamiki 2)Brands identify strong connections; rhymes bind a poem together, resonate in the reader, and make the poem easily memorizable.

    • Stephenspower

      @lamiki 3)Brands create a consistent experience; formal structure creates expectations a poem must live up to. Breaking them ruins a poem.

    • Stephenspower

      @lamiki This is why formal work is more easily appreciated on 1st reading than free verse, which needs a 2nd once you’ve seen its structure

    • Stephenspower

      @lamiki And it’s why I’m disappointed by poems called “sonnets,” but which follow none of the rules. Yes, I’m looking at you, Gerald Stern.

      • lamiki

        @Stephenspower Oh, love that comparison. I love how much elements of creative writing relates to branding.

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