Your brand is more than a name: 5 overlooked brand elements to invest in
A name is a vital part of your brand: It’s the first word of your story, a hook, an emotional connection between you and your customers. We always advise our clients to choose a name that will have longevity. New visual identities and logos come and go. You can frequently reinvent your brand with campaigns, new websites and an updated user experience. But a name is what people remember most. It needs to last.
This may sound surprising coming from a branding professional who creates names for companies, products and services, but your name is not your entire brand.
Nine times out of 10, our clients focus on naming first. But there are other pieces of the brand puzzle you should focus on first, or at least concurrently, as you develop a new name, including brand strategy, positioning/brand story, messaging, visual identity and logo, digital customer experience and the employee brand experience.
Brand strategy, positioning and story
Why do you exist in the world? What differentiates you from competitors? What should customers believe or feel about your brand? A carefully crafted brand strategy that answers these questions is the foundation for your brand expression. A brand strategy or positioning statement serves as the guiding principle for your brand.
A brand story turns this language into a narrative that connects the dots and paints a picture of what you do, why you do it and how. Some of the strongest brands have built their strategy around a purpose-led positioning -- something employees can aspire to and customers can connect with.
For example, CVS Health, a past client of ours, repositioned itself from being just a local pharmacy to a company focused on “helping people on their path to better health.” In so doing, it gave customers and employees a reason to believe and a North Star for the company to aim for. This supported the decision to stop selling cigarettes and eventually purchase the health insurance company Aetna -- all consistent with the brand's new purpose.
Messaging, sometimes known as a messaging framework or brand communications, is a set of key pillars that support your brand strategy and the written elements to explain it. With a brand messaging framework in place, you’ll be able to consistently tell your story in all formats.
Whether it’s on your website, your press releases, a banner ad or packaging copy, it’s important to reiterate the same ideas. By doing this, you elevate the story from the feature and function of your products or services to something larger: your purpose and the benefit you offer your customers.
And major brand changes can come from just shifting your messaging. For example, IBM needed to shift away from its legacy of “machines” embedded in its name. But instead of changing the company's name, it focused its efforts on clear messaging and put a stake in the ground as the premiere cloud and services company.
Visual identity and logo
We advise clients to never underestimate the value of great design. A company’s logo and its accompanying visual identity are extremely important. A well-crafted visual identity doesn’t just repeat the same theme the name expresses; it expands the communication and tells more of the brand story.
For example, the name "Amazon" suggests a vast array of experiences and choices. The company's visual identity and logo (the swoosh smile) communicate the effortlessness, ease and satisfaction customers will experience. In the case of CVS Health, the heart logo communicates a sense of warmth and care, which reflects the goal to help people on the path to better health.
A memorable visual identity has nuances and can amplify the depth of the brand story. And in some rare and iconic cases, a designed symbol like the Nike swoosh or the golden arches can embody the brand without the need to even show the name at all.
Digital customer experience
In today’s digital-first world, a brand’s digital expression is equally as important as its name and visual identity. What’s more, it should be considered an integral part of the brand, not an additional element to be created at the end.
Your brand strategy should influence and be amplified in your digital experiences. If your brand strategy includes “ease of use,” your app or web experience should be built to reflect that. If your brand stands for depth of knowledge and trust, your digital experiences might take on a very different look and feel, such as providing customers the chance to dive deeper and learn more.
Regardless, you should integrate the development of your digital experiences into the development of your brand, not treat it as something separate to be dealt with when “the brand work” is done.
Employee brand experience
A brand is only as good as the employees who deliver the brand experience. As such, it’s fundamentally important to launch your brand internally through smart employee engagement activities. This includes a launch announcement from executives, internal campaigns, education, implementation training and more.
This is especially important for brands that have established a purpose-led brand strategy. Internal programs should help employees understand how they play a part in that purpose, helping engage their hearts and minds and inspiring them to play a part in the brand expression.
For example, launch programs at CVS Health helped employees realize they didn’t work for a pharmacy anymore. Instead, they were empowered to innovate new ways to help people on their path to better health.
As businesses grow and evolve, a name change for your existing company or product may be the solution for your path forward. While the name you choose matters, it’s important to invest time and energy in developing other brand elements that will support the name and serve as a stronger overall foundation for your brand and the customer experience.