Thoughts on branding


My agency recently won a credentials pitch to rebrand an established tech company. There were a few puzzled faces around the table when I started to use simple terms such as ‘brand language’ etc.

To help the client understand some of the language we were likely to use more of as the project progressed, I put together a simple glossary of words and terms used during a typical rebrand process. The list is incomplete and only written from my own experience and point of view. These definitions aren’t meant to be definitive, as I believe there are no right or wrong ways to ‘do branding’.

Brand awareness – the level of clarity and memorability that your audience associates with your brand, logo, company, product or service.

Brand guidelines – a functional toolkit of assets and guidance that will be used to implement the brand in visual and written marketing communications, both on and off-line.

Brand personality – the feelings that your audience attribute to your brand, be it friendly, authoritative, inclusive, intelligent, sexy, powerful, dynamic, thoughtful etc.

Brand strategy – aligning the business plan for the company/product/service with the visual/written/verbal expression of the brand. This is where the company’s aspirations meet the visible face of the business.

Brand values – shared beliefs that are understood in and around the company by everyone. Brand values are the words that a company uses to guide their activities. More than just words, the values should be used as guiding principles for the decisions it makes. These are not to be confused with a list of marketing words. They’re more important than that.

Core essence – the brand in a nutshell. Summing up the essence of the brand in a very short sentence. The words should be compelling, valid, relevant and accurately express the brand in a very simple, yet emotive way. Consensus and agreement on the core essence is an essential stage in the rebrand process. These words will be used to guide the whole project.

Discovery workshop – a half-day workshop between the client team and the agency. During this workshop we will invite everyone to take part in several exercises designed to bring forth ideas and information relevant to the brand/product/service that can be used to inform and create the all-important core essence and the brand language/tone of voice.

Message map – a clear indication of the types and tone of marketing message(s) that an audience needs to hear at each stage of the sales/awareness building process.

Messaging workshop – a half-day workshop to discuss the audience and the types of marketing message they will need to hear at key stages of the sales/awareness building process.

Tone of voice (TOV) – the distinct way in which a brand expresses itself through words. Think of the simple and cute TOV used by Innocent Smoothies, versus the brash, no nonsense TOV used by Ryan Air, for example. Both distinct and memorable in their own way.

Verbal brand language – the style of writing that makes up the verbal tone of the brand.

Visual brand language – the distinct graphical elements that make up the visual face of the brand.