What Makes Your Brand Stand Out and What Are the Most Important Brand Elements?

What goes into making a brand, and how do you make a brand successful? As a marketer, you need to know how to think and talk about the elements of branding, and how to manage a brand identity successfully. Both are topics that can often be quite vague, and nuanced. In this article we’re going to help you do just that by going beyond logos, color codes and fonts. Let’s talk about the elements that should form the core of your brand’s identity, how to define its success, and what you can do to manage your brand effectively.

“In branding, style is frequently confused with substance.” – Wally Olins

Table of Contents

Definition of a Brand

What springs to mind when you think or talk about brands? Many may think about online ads, and others may jump right into the visual elements of a brand. Picture Nike’s and Apple’s logos – and now think about each brand’s distinct tone of voice. Then, we encourage you to look at Apple’s product design and reflect on the overall experience of interacting with them.

These ideas you can see reflected in the various definitions about brands that exist out there, such as:

“A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers […]. Brands are used in business, marketing, and advertising for recognition and, importantly, to create and store value as brand equity for the object identified, to the benefit of the brand’s customers, its owners and shareholders”. – Wikipedia.

Heavy on the visuals and surface-level features, a brand helps set a seller apart from their competition. The creation of brand value is an aspect of paramount importance to branding – deserving of a separate article.

What Is Brand Identity?

Going hand-in-hand with your brand is the concept of brand identity. It too comes with a plethora of definitions flying about the internet and in conversation. So what is it?

Investopedia offers a fairly useful definition of brand identity:

‘Brand identity is the visible elements of a brand, such as color, design, and logo, that identify and distinguish the brand in consumers’ minds. Brand identity is distinct from brand image. The former corresponds to the intent behind the branding and the way a company does the following. All to cultivate a certain image in consumers’ minds:

  • Name choice
  • Logo design
  • Use of colors, shapes, and other visual elements in its products and promotions’

We can gather from the above that the general approach to brand identity is mostly focused on visuals. It is always about what sets one organization or seller apart from the rest. But how can you expand your overall knowledge on successful brand management?

Glad you asked – you can achieve this by setting up and following your own log book for your brand’s identity, called the brand guidelines. This is more than just a document that collects information about your brand; brand guidelines are key to brand alignment. Your stakeholders must have access to your brand guidelines. They should know what they are and how they apply to their specific role. That’s when you know you have achieved brand alignment. This is the most critical measure when it comes to customer attraction and satisfaction.

See more on what interactive, cloud-based Brand Centers have achieved for leading brands.

Wally Olins – The Brand Handbook

We think “The Brand Handbook by Wally Olins can be a great starting point in your journey to understanding brands better. The book will arm you with the vocabulary and tools necessary to better grasp brands, their identity, and management.

The Brand Handbook and the Idea Behind the Brand

In his seminal “The Brand Handbook” Olins uses his concise penmanship to shed light on what makes a brand, how to create one, how to make it work, and how to sustain it. At the core of the brand, he writes, should sit a clear identity and mission:

The fundamental idea behind the brand is that in everything the organization does, everything it owns, and everything it produces it should project a clear idea of what it is and what its aims are. The most significant way in which this can be done is by making everything in and around the organization – its products, environment, communication and behaviorconsistent in purpose and performance and, where this is appropriate, in appearance too.

Note how Olins places appearance at the end of his list.

The Importance of Purpose and Consistency in Branding

Olins underlines the importance of looking inward first. He suggests visiting and revisiting the core ideas and values that drive and govern your organization. Doing so will aid you in making the right decisions on externalizing your brand, its purpose, and consistency:

Outward consistency of this kind will only be achieved, and for that matter is only appropriate if it is the manifestation of an inward consistency – a consistency of purpose. This consistency of purpose derives from the core idea, and forms the base from which a successful branding program(me) can be developed.

The core idea drives the organization. It is what the organization is about, what it stands for, what it believes in. All organizations are unique even if their offering is more or less the same as those of their competitors. It is the company’s history, structure, strategy, and personalities who have created and driven it forward. Its successes and its failures shape it and make it what it is.

The Rightful Place of the Visual Elements of a Brand

We are now starting to see the picture. Visual brand elements are important, but they’re not at the core of what makes a brand. What is the correct placing in terms of importance, of the visual brand elements?

Firstly, what visual elements are we talking about? Visual elements can be construed as the visible and/or tangible things like colors, typefaces or fonts, taglines or slogans – the ‘look and feel’. This can also incorporate what a product or store smells like, or how a brand experience might sound – as in Gary Vaynerchuk’s “Sonic Branding”.

According to Olins out of all the visual elements, the logo or symbol is the prime identifier for almost all brands, its purpose being to “present the core idea of the organization with impact, brevity and immediacy.”

“The logo encapsulates the brand.”

Together with the core idea, the visual elements mark out the brand territory. Olins expands on these two core elements and clarifying the relation between them. He further introduces the four vectors through which a brand makes itself tangible.

The Four Brand Vectors

In his book, Olins describes the fundamental idea of four vectors through which a brand manifests itself:

Product – stands for the products and services the organization sells, how they look and feel, and what the User Experience is like for these.

Environment – describes the physical and digital environment of the brand, how it “lays out its stall”. What does your store or your LinkedIn company page look like?

Communication – how a brand talks about itself to its own people and target audience(s), and what it’s doing – think, internal and external communications, storytelling, content strategy, copywriting and general tone of voice.

Behavior – how its people behave to each other and the rest of the world – think HR policy and processes, leadership and organizational culture, but also recruitment, sales professionals, marketers, and customer service representatives.

The Six Elements of a Successful Brand

At the epicenter of your brand sits its primary and quintessential element; its core idea – i.e. your organization’s purpose, mission, and vision.

The second element would be the visual brand, which is an element that should be ideally derived from the “core idea”, and mixed in with the four vectors through which a brand makes itself tangible.

Think about the colors and maybe a logo used in the design of a Product; the brick-and-mortar storefront or, conversely, the website (Environment). Other elements such as taglines and slogans. Which colors and layouts are used consistently in e-mails and campaigns (Communication)? And what about your company logo on the shirt of the customer service representative who just made your customer’s day (Behavior).

The main goal is to keep finding ways to communicate the core idea of the brand in everything you do. And conversely, to decide on everything you do in alignment with the core idea of your company.

We find that these two core elements and four vectors – for a total of six brand elements – make it infinitely easier to think and talk about brand and brand identity, because they help us do it in a structured way. They can also be used as a basis for brand strategy, and they are the six elements that you need to keep in mind when thinking about how to create and manage a successful brand.

How to Manage a Brand Successfully

Brand management is best executed when there’s a strategic long-term plan behind it, which may be comprised of an article – or an entire book. In this article we focused on the elements that shape the core of brand identity and that should be taken into consideration when talking or thinking about brand management.

The Right Tools for Managing Your Brand Assets – DAM Platforms

Finally, when you have all of the elements in place necessary to creating and managing a successful brand, along with a fitting strategy to do so, a tool for managing your brand – and most notably and visually your brand assets – can be very helpful.

A Digital Asset Management platform can add a lot of value to remote marketing teams, as well as their internal and external marketing ecosystem, and other internal and external stakeholders. You are sure to get the most value out of your brand and its related assets by strategically applying a DAM system.

A few things a Digital Asset Management system can help you achieve are:

  • Using one source for all content
    Instead of scattering your content over different tools, a DAM gathers all your marketing content in one place.
  • Creating your own designs
    With a DAM that incorporates ‘Create & Publish’ functionalities, everyone is a designer. Predefined templates make it easy to create advertorials, websites or brochures within your content hub – and always on-brand.
  • Saving up to 70% of your time
    Advanced search options and easier feedback processes within DAM systems such as Lytho allow you to spend time on what matters.

Recommended readings:

Corporate Brand Management: What Is It and How to Master It

What Are Brand Management Tools and Who Are They For?

Do you want to store all your brand guidelines and other elements in one place? Lytho helps you streamline your entire workflow and harmonize all brand collateral under a single, uniform platform. Feel free to reach out to us by scheduling a demo and learning how our creative solutions can boost the effectiveness of your creative projects. We look forward to speaking with you!

Do you want to give yourself and your creative team more room for creative stimulation by automating the boring stuff? Lytho helps you streamline your entire workflow and harmonize all brand collateral under a single, uniform platform. Feel free to reach out to us by scheduling a demo and learning how our creative solutions can boost the effectiveness of your creative projects. We look forward to speaking with you!

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