Branding & Strategy
Victoria Kuhn
by Victoria Kuhn
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What is branding and why is it critical to your organization

08/27/2010
What is branding and why is it critical to your organization

Many of our clients ask: What is branding? What is a logo? Do we need a tagline? Is a tag different from a slogan? Let's dig into the terms and shed some light.

Recently we began a partnership with an extremely strong brand that enjoys a very positive word of mouth reputation, yet this organization needs a brand boost. So... what is branding? There are many terms of art: logo, typography, symbols, tagline, slogan... all of these terms comprise an organization's brand. We'll include a set of definitions, definitions that we use inside of our organization, including:

  • Logo—the visual combination of words, typography, fonts, symbols, and color combinations; it may also include a tagline
  • Typography—the arranging of words (name of organization, tagline, and/or other words); also how font, color, and symbols interact with each other
  • Font(s)—all words within a logo are comprised of a font type (could be a serif, sans serif, and/or combination of both)
  • Color—the color(s) used within the logo (or in the background) of the company to support the logo
  • Symbols—the signs, photos, images, and/or art associated with the name of the company
  • Tagline—one or more words, intended to create an emotional response, create a memory of the company name (it remains constant or is changed very infrequently; some companies include a tagline within the logo, others do not)
  • Slogan—one or more words that vary based on a specific marketing campaign, segmentation/target marketing, etc. (sometimes people interchange tagline with slogan though they are different)

The sum total of an organization is its brand, tangible and non-tangible. How customers and prospects interact with the brand is the brand experience. To some marketers, branding is the logo: name, typography, color(s), symbols, and tagline. We consider the brand experience broadly to include: the logo plus your company's culture, the customer service attributes of front-line staff, logowear (uniforms) staff wears, brand identity on sides of vehicles, Web site, social media presence (including blog), attitude of the leadership team, giving to community, belonging to local Chamber and/or other relevant organizations, geographical reach of your organization, brochures/collateral, radio, TV and print ads, staff response to telephone and e-mail queries, and the like. We consider an organization's vision, mission, and its guiding principles (or lack thereof) to be a part of its brand identity. Your brand identity is super critical to your organization, especially in these fast times of viral phenomena, where both good and bad messaging of an organization can be infinitely replicated on traditional broadcast and/or cable television, radio, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, texting, or anyone of a number of other grassroots manners.

How do people within an organization's shape its brand? It just happens (without effort) and it happens through deliberate action (with effort) though it is important to note that there are factors beyond the control of the people who work in an organization that can impact a brand identity. Take for example, an organization with an excellent safety record (including a statement of safety that all employees are required to sign on Day 1 and annually, at review time). Even an organization that follows all state and federal safety requirements and has a set of written safety rules may experience a terribly tragic accident. It is at this point, that how, when, and who associated with the organization responds, to its employees and the family of the injured as well as communicating with external organizations (e.g. media, legislators, other thought leaders), can help or hinder an organization's brand identity.

When it is time to visit branding? Some clients review their identity when they review the organization's business plan for the coming 12 month period, others decide it's when Dirigo helps them launch a new Web property, and still others experience a crisis and find that they have a poor or no crisis management plan.

When we work with clients, we ask lots of questions like: Does the X brand identity still fit? Do you have a crisis management plan? Do you have an internal or contract company spokesperson? We engage the client in strategy to determine if the identity needs tinkering or an entire face-lift. We also work with many clients who have never invested in anything but a logo and who ask us out loud: Do I really need to invest in a brand identity? We generally say yes, especially if the organization has entered a new market, retreated from a market, added key staff, is under new ownership, isn't meeting company goals, and/or has otherwise reinvested itself.

The investment of an organization is dependent upon many, many factors which may include the existing brand identity (or lack thereof), the financial health of the organization, a myriad of external factors, and the goals of the organization. Dirigo staff is both adept and enjoys partnering with clients to help them fully develop their organization's identity.

Has your organization found its brand identity? Dirigo can help 207-347-7360.

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