Better Branding

2015 May Whitepaper

The word brand actually originates from the Old Norse “brandr,” which means “to burn”. Like ranchers who brand their cattle with hot irons to denote ownership, branding an enterprise is also intended to differentiate and distinguish one’s property, intellectual or otherwise, from that of another.

Branding has its origins in ancient marketplaces where merchants solicited customers by yelling sales pitches for spices, wines, textiles and all manner of other goods and services. Additionally, due to extremely high illiteracy rates among the general public, many merchants created and hung pictorial signs around the marketplace to advertise their business. Evidence for these practices has been found as early as ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.

Many, however, view modern branding as getting its start around the time of the industrial revolution, a time when the push toward a more modern and industrialized society would impact branding and advertising. As the ability to mass produce goods in a cost-effective manner altered the business landscape, merchants needed methods for disseminating information about their goods to consumers. Merchants came up with unique ways to advertise, using men wearing primitive sandwich boards, banners suspended from handheld poles and umbrellas emblazoned with messages and pictures. It was this time of mass production that prompted retailers to develop visual identification systems and trademarks. It was also during this time that manufacturers began experimenting with packaging and visual identities, as well as when advertising tended toward ornate copywriting styles and overly dramatic headlines.

The power of modern brands have their origins in the 1950s and 60s and the flourishing of things like photography and typewriters, rising literacy rates, the evolution of mass media and communications and a better postal system all facilitated the success of individual brands. Companies like Proctor and Gamble, General Foods and Unilever developed brand management strategies in response to improving products from competitors and to make their products and product lines distinguishable. This required a greater understanding of consumers and brands. People wanted brands that weren’t just functional but offered emotional value. Consequently, this was the golden age of the brand mix, where all elements of a product, including packaging and pricing, would be of great influence on buyer habits.

Current trends show brands becoming all-inclusive offerings for their clients. Today’s most influential brands are positioning themselves as lifestyles, a complete package for  the ever-evolving consumer. Brands are using higher quality, better branded products and services to sell more, improve their reputation and bolster their public profiles.


As you undoubtedly are aware, branding is one of the most important aspects of any business. More than anything, your brand is a promise to your customers. A promise of what to expect from your products and services. It’s also what differentiates you from your competitors.

A brand is not simply a company name, logo or unique color scheme though. True brands encompass those things but also much more. A true brand delivers an experience to the customer and plays on the client’s self-esteem. In order to change how a client feels about an organization’s brand, all components of the brand, from operations and manufacturing to customer service and sales, must work in a cohesive manner to deliver on the brand promise.

One of the most important aspects of branding, devising a company’s logo, is one of the first steps in establishing a brand’s identity and, by extension, the overarching idea behind the company’s distinct personality.

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Your logo is the foundation of your brand. Your website, packaging and promotional collateral should always incorporate it—communicating your brand and message.

For the logo layman, there are countless resources available to someone looking to come up with a logo for the first time or those looking to revamp a tired, ineffective logo. There is everything from articles and design tutorials to YouTube advice from amateurs and professionals alike. But what’s paramount to understand is, designing an effective logo takes thought and creativity, a combination of numerous disparate but critical elements like typography and color psychology.

Logos, first and foremost, must be highly recognizable and should be instantly associated with what you do. They should imply thing like trust, loyalty and authority. It is your visual identity as a company. Apple, Nike, Google and McDonalds—what do all of these companies have in common? Their respective logos are iconic, a visual reminder of their international influence and recognition.

Logo Design

The process for designing a logo varies depending on designer. However, there are some basic steps that the majority of designers employ. When commissioning someone to design a logo, the process might look something like this:

  • Brief: This is the stage where preliminary preparation starts. Designers will brainstorm with clients, listening to their ideas and making suggestions based on the best industry and design practices.

  • Research: When designing an original logo, something truly unique for a client, it behooves designers to conduct some cursory background research. What do the logos of my client’s competitor’s look like? What’s the history of my client’s industry, and how can I use that to inform my work? This information can be very helpful in coming up with design concepts.

  • Conceptualize: This stage of the process simply boils down to putting ideas on paper. Sketching helps many designers to conceptualize easily and quickly, but the primary goal is simply to experiment with different visual elements. Not all designers utilize this step, some preferring trial and error within design programs.

  • Design: During the design phase, designers predominantly use computer programs to actually create the client’s logo. Designers can experiment with different effects and positioning of the logo, as well as various color combinations to find the perfect solution to fit the organization’s needs.

  • Evaluation: When the design has been finalized, the logo is revealed and the design discussed with the client. Revisions are made at this point if needed, although in-process communication with clients should mitigate the necessity of this. Designers may also consult clients on the best deployment and use of the logo.

A timeless logo isn’t the only element to creating a memorable and progressive brand. Some logos serve as indicators of a company’s values, to speak to who they are and what they do. The three circles in Toyota’s logo are intended to stand for three hearts, those of the customer, the product and of technological progress. Adidas’s slanted stripes are intended to evoke images of a mountain, a metaphor for obstacles that people must overcome. The Mercedes Benz tri-star logo represents quality and dominance over all things land, sea and air. However, designing the perfect logo is more difficult than it initially sounds.

Following a few basic design principles will ensure that your logo captures its intended meaning and is effective in conveying your message to potential clients. Here are a few design principles that can be helpful in rendering the perfect logo:

  • Simple: Helps to catch the attention of someone viewing signage as they travel by at a high rate of speed, on crowded store shelves or anywhere else that you deploy marketing initiatives.

  • Memorable: Achieved in large part by keeping a logo simple and easy to understand, but also affected by repeat exposure.

  • Timeless: Longevity is a critical concern for all brands. By designing a logo that will stand the test of time, you can avoid having to redesign ineffective logos down the line. This also prevents customers from disassociating your brand image from the service or products that you provide.

  • Versatile: Logos must work well across a variety of media and applications. Using vector format will ensure that visuals scale to any size. Some design experts even recommend designing logos in black and white initially; this allows the designer to focus on concept and shape rather than color, as this can involve personal bias, emotion and impact the overall design.

  • Appropriate: Everything from color to font to positioning affects the appropriateness of a logo. Whimsical fonts and colors are great for a store geared to children’s needs but may not work well for a manufacturing organization.

When you’re ready to tackle the task of developing a logo, or even if you simply want to begin exploring your options, the following considerations will help in the task.

  • Style: When you’re brainstorming, don’t throw anything out. Allow your imagination to run wild and entertain all of the crazy visuals that you come up with. Then begin looking for overarching themes in your ideas; you can’t include everything. Focus on the one idea that speaks to the key personality of your brand.

  • Font: Stick with classic, well-crafted fonts. As trends change, which they always do and sometimes pretty quickly, decorative and embellished fonts can appear outmoded and inappropriate.

  • Orientation: Determine how you would like the visual and/or text to be situated within the logo. Generally, this creates the overall shape of a logo. There are countless options at this stage, split text, visual above or below, text surrounding the visual, just an image, to name a few. This can also impact how the logo is used. Readability and versatility are most important when determining orientation of a logo.

  • Color: It’s wise to stick with a small palette of colors. Try deciding on one primary color and then choose one or two secondary, complimentary colors. Experiment with saturation and different hues.

Branding Style Guides

Many organizations create brand style guides in an effort to establish distinct guidelines for all aspects of a company’s branding. Branding guidelines and logo manuals help businesses to maintain a consistent identity even when the business landscape around them changes.

A brand style guide should govern every aspect of a company’s communications, from personal and social media postings to public relations and advertising efforts. It’s very important to include examples of proper and improper visual usage within the style guide. In addition to images that are meant to clarify, a brand’s Style Guide typically includes guidelines for:

  • Logo usage: The logo, as it’s one of the most important elements to your branding, must be used properly. A proper style guide provides rules for everything from the logo’s placement to any acceptable alterations. This may also include the amount of clearance or white space that must surround the logo. The logo must remain consistent since it’s one of the simplest ways for potential clients to identify your business.

  • Fonts and typography: This section of the guide should include anything and everything related to any text that your company uses in its branding. Usually, guidelines for permissible typefaces, as well as the appropriate sizes, line heights, spacing, colors, as well as other typographical elements. This should remain consistent across all print and digital applications. Another option is to use different variations of the same font family. For example, the North Carolina State University Brand Book specifies that no brand should utilize more than five different typefaces in their messaging.

  • Colors: Include appropriate color palettes and guidelines for how they should be used. Also, specify which colors are primary, which are secondary and how each should be applied. In addition to appropriate color usage for logos, the guide should also include methods for using color in backgrounds, text and other design elements.

  • Images: This section should include information on imagery that is used to represent the company. Methods for gathering, editing and using images must be included. The guide must also include tips for whether photography, public domain images, illustrations or clip art will be used.

  • Text and tone: By knowing the audience that you are writing for, you have tackled the first aspect of creating the tone of your messaging. These guidelines should include tips for writing anything from ad headlines and social media posts to more involved communications such as blogs and press releases. Depending on a business’s industry, a brand’s tone will vary between formal language and a more conversational tone. 

Keep in mind, a great deal of meaning is derived not just from what you say but how it’s said. Don’t overcomplicate meaning by using unnecessary technical jargon or specialized language. Get to the point by being direct and eliminating extraneous information, and find the simplest way to say what you want.

When creating a brand manual for any organization, consider how it will be used. It is intended to be a reference guide for how your brand should be presented to the general public and is helpful in any organization in communicating the brand message.


In a rebranding that cost many millions of dollars for a worldwide campaign and the creation of a new logo that cost $1 million on its own, Pepsi’s 2008 brand overhaul was an extreme example. Arnell Associates, the branding company hired to engineer the revamp, even created a 27-page document entitled “Breathtaking Design Strategy.” Essentially, the Pepsi logo was turned onto its side, made to look vaguely like smiling faces and intended to vary on different Pepsi products. As a result of the completely baffling and ineffectual campaign, Pepsi spent a total of $1.2 billion to rebrand everything.

In some cases, a company will rebrand itself proactively, which is the case with Pepsi and many other brands that enter new markets, want to appeal to a new audience or merely want to update their brand image to remain relevant in the face of a changing business landscape. On the other hand, companies also rebrand reactively, responding to an event that upsets the normal balance and operations of the organization. This sometimes occurs in cases of mergers and acquisitions, legal issues or competitive influence.

When a company rebrands, the entire organization must rebrand. This means every department, employee, and stakeholder of the brand must adopt and deliver the brand promise. This also means that all of the business’s property, holdings and promotional materials need to be updated or replaced to coincide with the company’s new visual identity.

One rebranding element that companies should enlist an expert in is creating new signage for the organization.

Branding Your Signage

Signage overhauls or upgrades are a great rebranding tool for businesses of any size or industry. That’s because they are one of the least expensive but most effective forms of advertising. By adding more signs to your mix, giving a facelift to existing signage, revivifying the business’s colors and message or upgrading to more technologically advanced signage, you can have a dramatic effect on your bottom line.

All branding-related signage should reflect your business’s true personality in a way that is both familiar and valuable to your desired target audience. Displaying your company logo in public locations maximizes the brands exposure, while serving such primary functions as identifying retail and office buildings and directing vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Logos must be treated respectfully in regards to sizing, placement, materials and colors to preserve their value and positively reinforce your companys public image. This knowledge allows the visual experts at Image360 to effectively extend your brand to custom signage solutions you would have never thought possible. From ADA signage and parking signs, to exterior monument signs and window lettering, we can assist you for all your branded signage.

And when you’re ready to unveil your new brand, don’t forget the importance of a grand opening or celebratory event. And to make the event as memorable as your new vision and identity, create unforgettable signage.  

To download a .pdf of this case study please fill out the form to the right and a copy will be emailed to you.


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