Hello, my name is Nicole and I’ve dedicated my career to helping organizations make meaning and live it everyday. Officially, I’m a planner for Critical Mass, a digital marketing agency, where we bring our clients’ brands to life through digital initiatives.
I was thrilled when Steve asked me to write something for Processed Identity, as I strongly believe in its purpose: To highlight the benefit of a structured creative process over stock solutions when developing brand identities. After all, a brand’s logo/identity is the visual representation of who you are as an organization!
A logo becomes the visual cue for an organization, and this will remain a part of your organization throughout the course of its history. Yes, it may be spruced up over the years to remain stylistically relevant — case in point UPS and AT&T:
UPS logo, left to right: Paul Rand, FutureBrand
AT&T logo, left to right: Saul Bass, Interbrand
But, your logo is not something you change over night. If it does change, there needs to be some pretty strong rationale behind it — like the organization is repositioning itself in the marketplace and is launching new innovations to back up the change.
So, my point is, a logo is something that should be well thought through and reflective of your organization’s brand essence.
Here are some of my thoughts around branding and how the logo fits in:
I’m continually amazed by how many people and/or organizations refer to their brand as a logo, when this is not the case! As I mentioned above, a logo is the visual representation of a brand.
In essence, a brand is the reputation of an organization/product/etc. It’s the emotions we feel towards the organization based on what we’ve heard about it, what we have experienced while engaging with it, and so on. A brand is our gut feeling about the organization, and the logo is our reference point for that feeling. I’m sure just looking at the UPS and AT&T logos, above, evoked some kind of thought or emotion.
To create a successful brand, which evokes consumer emotions parallel to how the organization wants to be perceived, it must be consistent in its actions, whether that be through product innovations, customer service, advertising, visual identity, etc., because the brand is not defined by the organization. Rather, the brand is defined by its consumers. Marty Neumeier said it best in his book The Brand Gap:
It’s not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.
However, the organization can influence its brand through consistency – if you say you’re going to do something, DO IT! If you say you’re going to be something, ACT LIKE IT!
I like to use this diagram, which I’ve named the Ripple Effect, to illustrate how great brands activate consistency:
All great brands are centered on a guiding purpose. This purpose is why you are in business — it is some crazy, hairy, audacious idea/dream/goal an organization is set on accomplishing. Often, organizations believe their purpose is to make money, however, that is not enough. Making money is what allows you to STAY in business — it’s not WHY you are in business!
Stemming from the organization’s purpose is its value proposition, or as I like to call it, the brand promise. This denotes how consumers will benefit from the organization’s crazy, hairy, audacious idea/dream/goal.
Then there are the reasons to believe. These are the actions an organization takes to deliver its promise. This may come in the form of products, services, employee actions, etc. It is through these actions that the perceptions of the brand begin to solidify.
Lastly, there is the brand’s personality. This is where the logo and visual identity live! These are the elements that give the organization/product/etc. a face ensuring a consistent presentation of the brand! The logo and visual identity tie all the before mentioned elements together stimulating sensory cues for the brand.
So, I recommend considering the ripple effect prior to developing a brand’s visual identity, and ask yourself:
- What’s the organization’s purpose — why are they in business?
This allows us to understand the underlying essence of the organization that will transcend throughout its history.
- What is the brand promising its customers?
From here we have an understanding of the brand’s industry and competitive set.
- How is the brand delivering on its promise & satisfying its audacious idea/dream/goal?
This gives us an idea of what the business is and is not in the eyes of the consumer.
- Lastly, how does this brand look, feel & sound when being presented to customers, employees, etc.?
At this point we have collected all the needed data to grasp what the brand is about to be able to interpret it visually.
When it’s all said and done, these 4 layers of the ripple effect work together to form a consistent brand execution, which influences the perceptions of the organization creating a strong brand within the marketplace.
Thanks for reading, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the Ripple Effect!
Nicole Armstrong is passionate about branding. Her goal is to continually help organizations make meaning & live it every day. Currently, she works for Critical Mass helping various brands leverage their purpose by creating digital reasons to believe. You can reach her through her More Than a Logo blog or on Twitter.