Take a minute and picture your brand as a pie chart.
Each slice of the pie chart is a different aspect of your brand:
- Your visuals
- Your color palette
- Your font choices
- Customer experience
- Overall personality
- Long-term goals etc.
Now, you have the key to the pie chart, and you know what goes into creating your brand. But all your customers really see is the overall pie.
That pie chart, without the key to the individual portions, is the brand image. It represents all the components, little and big, that go into crafting your brand, and reflects what the public actually gets out of your branding efforts.
Brand Visuals: Conception to Execution
Many people, upon first hearing the idea of a “brand image,” may immediately think more along the lines of actual graphics for a brand. In advertising, logo design, shareable images on social media, PowerPoint presentation, and so on count a great deal.
As it turns out, though that isn’t what a brand image actually means, the visuals for your brand are an important part of your overall brand personality.
We are definitely visual creatures. As a whole, we process visual information faster and retain it longer than written or oral content. So creating branded visuals is an ideal way to promote your brand image.
Each of your visuals should follow the path laid out in the first step, that of outlining your brand personality. It’s okay to be different and innovative, but your visuals should still be readily identifiable with your brand.
Take logo design as an example. Marketer Rob Cohen gives this advice regarding logo design: “[T]he most important aspect is the research – discovering the character traits of the brand, the values, the positioning, and the tone.”
It’s only after you have those aspects dialed in that you can make sure to get the right impact and message for your logo.
And the same is true of any other visuals that you create for the brand.
The takeaway: Visual design is a prominent part of creating the brand image. Ensure that each and every visual promotes the values, tone, and personality that align with your brand.
Defining a Brand Image
Put simply, the act of branding is about putting a personality to a brand name. But the brand image is about what the audience actually sees and retains.
This means that what is promoted as a brand image isn’t always 100% what is remembered. If a brand sends conflicting messages, or changes goals abruptly rather than smoothly transitioning, it runs the risks of disrupting the brand image and alienating the public — but more on the importance of consistency, later.
A brand image can also be highly subjective. Let’s take Apple as an example. Overall, Apple has had a reputation as being on the cutting edge of technology, willing to take risks, and eager to satisfy its customers. That is generally the brand image that Apple users perceive.
On the other hand, those who don’t use Apple, or who used it and were dissatisfied with it, tend to focus on the higher price tag and the fact that Apple famously doesn’t “play well” with other operating systems. The brand image that these consumers have is more along the lines of “elitist and expensive.”
Is it possible to create a brand image that is universally perceived in the same way across all audiences?
Well, sadly, the odds of doing so are very slim. It’s very rare that any brand is able to appeal equally across all demographics.
However, there are keys to creating a brand image that maximizes the appeal of a brand, specifically to your target audience, while still reaching out to new customers as well.
Crafting a brand image is an art, so let’s take a look at some of the top tips from branding and design experts.
Before you start crafting your brand image, it’s absolutely vital that you know the ins and outs of your brand personality.
This means taking a lot of time to think deeply about your brand, its goals, the traits it exhibits, and how you personally perceive it. It’s only after you have the nitty-gritty clearly laid out for yourself that you can translate that into actionable content for others.
Susan Friesen of eVision Media advises, “Avoid creating your visual brand until you know exactly what your brand positioning should be.” Moving on to the next steps in branding without figuring out your brand position is essentially putting the cart before the horse.
The takeaway: Have a clear schematic laid out of your brand so you can align the rest of your image. This is an essential first step.
“Be unique” is classic advice across a wide range of areas, but it’s extra appropriate for branding purposes. Regardless of the market, you operate in, there will be a guaranteed amount of competition.
This is where outlining your brand personality and sticking to it really starts to come in handy.
Entrepreneur Jeet Banerjee advises, “Find out what makes you different and leverage that so people have something to remember you by.”
The takeaway: A unique quality translates to memorability. Focus on what you have to offer that others don’t, rather than following after the crowd.
…And Be Yourself
Author Oscar Wilde famously said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Of course, Wilde wasn’t focusing on branding, but the advice definitely holds true for creating your brand image.
People respond better to authentic content. Promoting an inauthentic image “will eventually ruin your brand,” says the marketing expert team behind EoFire.
On the other hand, they point out, authenticity and being yourself will, “invite opportunities for your audience to connect with you on a personal level.” And that is what builds trust in a brand.
The takeaway: Don’t be afraid of showing who you are through your brand interactions. Being true to yourself is a better way to build a brand than trying to be “perfect” and faking it.
Outline The Brand Story
Everybody loves a good story, right? And in terms of branding, it’s easier to promote and “sell” a comprehensive arc rather than individual facts about a brand.
That’s part of why your brand needs a “personality.” You can’t have a story without a character.
Your brand’s story revolves around its conception, through its creation, outline its goals, and looks to the future. Your clients and customers become major characters as the brand story continues.
It’s a good idea to have this story cohesively outlined from the beginning, ready to be marketed to potential clients.
Jeremy Durant of Bop Design says that stand-out branding “needs to be a balance of a company’s brand story” and other objectives, such as marketing details, with “brand story always being a higher priority.”
A motivational brand story that attracts attention and elicits emotion is a big part of what sets your brand apart from others.
The takeaway: Keep track of your brand’s evolution and turn it into a compelling copy. Let customers know where you’re coming from and where you intend to go.
Create An Official Website
With basics like personality schematics and visuals all in place, it’s time to start reaching out and creating a presence online. After all, your brand image is only really useful when it’s actually being seen by the public.
The company website is an ideal starting place, giving you a hub to link back to and a showcase for what you have to offer. Caleb Wojcik advises using your site as the “‘home base’ for everything you do.”
“Think about everything you’d want someone to know about you within the first five minutes of Googling you and put that on [your site],” he says.
The takeaway: Create a home for your brand, and ensure that it reflects the image you want to convey. People should visit your site and say, “Yes, this makes sense for what I know about the brand.”
Reach Out: Blogging And Social Media
The main brand website is the starting point for an online presence, but it is by no means the extent of it. Once you’ve got the site up and running and are able to link back to it, it’s time to push the brand agenda into new horizons.
Social media accounts are a good starting point to promote your brand image. Remember to reflect brand personality in both posts and interactions. “Treat social media platforms and new connections just as you would in real life,” advises Jeet Banerjee. “Be human.”
Another, equally useful aspect of your online presence is the creation of a blog. Blogs are acknowledged to be one of the most immediately beneficial methods of establishing your brand as an expert in your field. It’s also possibly the single best way to identify yourself as a provider of useful, actionable, and even entertaining content.
The takeaway: Spread yourself out. Create social media profiles and a blog to send your brand image echoing around the internet and start establishing yourself as a useful, actionable provider of expert content.
Overall, marketing can seem like a very intimidating prospect. But it’s an important part of making sure your brand image gets out there to your audience.
So the advice from experts is to break the pieces of marketing down, and consider each one individually. From that perspective, it can be a little easier to get in the groove of marketing in accord with initial branding efforts.
Marketing expert David Ogilvy says, “Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol which is the brand image.”
This means not only creating branded content in the sense of using your logo and company name, but also ensuring that each piece of advertising reflects the goals, values, and personality of the brand.
It is literally about making sure that each and every piece is worthy of receiving your brand mark.
The takeaway: Approach marketing in the same way that you approach your branding efforts. Go by the same branding playbook and standards, and keep your tone consistent throughout.
Build Awareness Of Your Brand
Marketing is one thing, but building brand awareness may be something entirely different. There are plenty of non-traditional ways to promote your brand image outside of straightforward marketing and advertising.
If you want to promote your brand image as that of an expert, create and spread actionable content through avenues like guest posts on other blogs.
Want to promote your brand image as caring and compassionate? Spread the word that a portion of proceeds will be donated to charity — and then follow through on that, obviously.
What about promoting your brand image as involved in the community? No better way to do it than to actually get involved in the community. Sponsor local events. Put in the time. Make an appearance. Wear your community pride on your sleeve — and on your website.
The takeaway: Look for outside avenues to promote your brand image. Don’t forget the value of local community support and perception.
User Experience: Elevating Customer Service
As your brand starts to evolve from a new company into something that has a place in the public eye, it’s inevitable that you will deal with a variety of consumer reactions.
There will be good. There will be bad. And there will be ugly.
It’s just as important to stick to the brand message in customer relations as it is in any other aspect of branding. Perhaps even more, because while satisfied customers may tell others about their experiences, unhappy customers will almost definitely sound a warning if they don’t like how they were treated.
That starts with following through with your brand promise: the services you’ve offered, at the highest level of skill you can provide, and at the rate you’ve advertised. Tell your customers what to expect, and then give it to them.
Best selling author Chris Brogan puts it this way. “Deliver on the commitment you’ve made. It’s the best way to brand.”
The takeaway: Don’t offer something you can’t deliver. Treat each customer as you would want to be treated, whether they have a complaint or a compliment. Strive to take customer service to the next level with each and every interaction.
Collect And Display Social Proof
Social proof is a trend-making aspect of creating a brand image. This proof is a reflection of how well your branding is working and how your brand image is actually perceived. And it can be hugely influential to promoting your brand with new customers.
There is no time too early to start garnering this social proof.
Branding expert Selena Soo suggests going after endorsements from influencers and collecting social proof right from the launch of your brand. These should have a place of honor and pride on your website and social media. “This immediately puts you in a category with those influencers,” she notes.
How can you do that?
Take note of visits to your website, follows and likes to your social media posts, and comments on your blog. Use tracking algorithms to keep accurate records. Offer your services pro bono or at a discounted rate to get expert or celebrity feedback.
Social proof can be collected from several sources, including certifications and licenses, awards, expert reviews, user feedback, celebrity endorsements, and friends who can vouch for your brand.
The takeaway: Keep track of social proof and use it to reinforce your brand image by acknowledging it on your website, blog, and social media. Consumers are conditioned to look to others in order to know how to react.
Consistency Is Key
We’ve mentioned several times over the course of this article that a big part of creating and maintaining a good brand image is consistency when it comes to each and every aspect of branding.
And we’re going to mention it one last time, just to drive it home. Because this article is all about consistency of message.
Says Angela Ahrents of Apple, “You have to create a consistent brand experience however and wherever a customer touches your brand, online or offline. The lines are forever blurred.”
Brand definition is what outlines a brand image. But brand consistency is what makes that brand image indelible in the public eye.
The takeaway: Stick to your brand. You’ve put a lot of work into creating the brand image; changing it abruptly or doing something out of character can and will alienate your customer base.
Catching The Eye Of The Consumer
Stop and think about that pie chart we outlined at the beginning of this article. Every part of what goes into creating an overall brand image necessitates a great deal of forethought, intellectual dedication, and effort.
So, is it worth it?
Think about brands you like and are loyal to. What draws you to them? Is it just a piece of marketing? Is it a product? Is it exceptional customer service?
The odds are that it’s the overall brand as a whole, rather than just one aspect.
That alone tells you that designing a brand image that draws consumers is not only possible, but it is also absolutely worthwhile. An enduring, iconic, positive brand image is a vital concern for any brand.
It’s more than just another piece of the pie.