What is a brand? It isn’t just your logo!

What is a brand picture

A brand isn’t just a logo? So what is a brand? Have you ever played one of those board games, “Logo What am I?” or “The Logo Board Game”? Players have to guess the company or product from their pictures, packaging, flavours, advertising, characters or catchphrases. So not just the little logos then? Nope.

Do you think you could recognise brands by the colours they use or the type of advertising they employ? I bet you could. These games are for ages 12+ but I bet my 6 year old boy could give me a run for my money. (If I have to hear him whistling the annoying whistly tune from TSB banks again I may have to scream) He may not know it is for TSB or even a bank but he recognises the distinctive animated characters they use, the homely helpy slightly childish welcoming voice on the ad and, of course, the simple and annoyingly catchy whistly tune. It’s all there to build an image of helpful, local, just like you, personal service. And the little TSB logo barely features until the end.

Check one of them out (if you can bear it!) >> TSB ad

When I talk about branding, I don’t mean creating a logo.
In fact, when I help my clients with their branding, the logo is often the very last thing I design.
If my company didn’t have a logo, which considering how little I use it is a possibility, my brand would still be very distinctive and very recognisable.

There are sooooo many parts to a brand that are more than the little logo that might sit on the top bar of your website. And these other elements to your brand are far more important to get right too.


So what is a brand then?

I thought I’d do you a list of all the elements of your brand that can come together to create something very powerful.

The way you approach things

This is all about your ‘mission’. Ah, I do hate that word, it reminds me of long pointless corporate meetings about the company mission statement that gets published on the website and ignored by everybody in the company.

But this is your business. This is all about the passion that you bring into the business. This is your mission. This is what you love to do and the heart of your business. Keeping the real reason you set out on this journey at the centre of everything that you do, and everything that your employees do with you is key to powering up your brand.

And yes, I do have a mission and it is pinned up on my wall above my pc in coloured felt tip. It is there for ME to remember exactly why I do what I do, who I am here to help and how I want them to feel. It’s powerful stuff and informs everything I do and will do in my business. It keeps me focused, gives me energy and makes me giggle 😀

My mission is…

to use my fun, visual, imaginative design and tech super powers to empower passionate rebel entrepreneurs to move beyond stale and grow a gorgeous online business they love with confidence, pride and possibility.

… and this needs to feed through everything I put out there.

Your name

What’s in a name? Turns out quite a lot! I have an exciting project in the pipeline for The Business Beautician and I was trying to think of a good name for it. I have two options – do I choose something that does ‘what it says on the tin’ or do I make up something that I can make completely mine, like etsy, skype or google.

There’s no right answer, but the choice will effect the way I brand it in the future.

The words you use

This is one of the most important elements of branding because not only is it the way we communicate with our customers, but it can also help us to visualise what our brand needs to look like (ah yes, you knew I’d get to the visual stuff didn’t you). I have a list of Business Beautician words that perfectly sums my brand up. Here are a few of mine…. [rebel, possibility, imagination, whimsy, silly, fun, playful, effervescent, illuminating, shiny, quirky, colour]

Both my writing and my visuals draw from these words. If it ain’t silly, playful, rebellious or quirky, it ain’t getting in.

This is such an easy way to work out what your brand could look like. Jot a few down, search for similar words in the thesaurus, type them into google images or pinterest and see what pics you get.

The way you write or speak

Closely related to the word thing above (obviously) but more about the character of your writing or the way that you talk. Are you formal, nervous, corporate, funny, short and snappy, sweary, full of buzzy energy or laid back loo?

Where you communicate

Brands bounce off each other. So if you are mainly communicating through Facebook then you are a Facebook kinda business. If you are mainly communicating through LinkedIn then you are a LinkedIn kinda business. If you advertise on sports grounds then you will adopt some of the characteristics of that sort of sport.

Of course you can mix and match but to keep consistent (and consistency is key with branding) be picky about where you are.

The way you deal with customers

That sounds very customer servicey doesn’t it? But there is more to it than just how you react when handing your product over the counter or talking with clients day to day. It is the way you think about the customers in your business and where they sit in your mission (it’s that word again, sigh).

If they are just a wallet, or a sale, then that is a part of your brand.
If you seek to help them feel something different, then that is a part of your brand too.

The emotions your business creates

The warm fuzzy feeling you get when John Lewis releases its new Christmas ad.
The slightly rebellious, down to earth goodness you feel when you see those little knitted hats on bottles of Innocent Smoothies.
The safe and cozy feeling you get when comparing Cbeebies with Nick Jr (for those of you with kids)

Creating that feeling is one of the most powerful ways to get people to buy and probably one of the hardest to achieve. It is tied up with everything that brand stands for, does, its seen to do, how it looks, how it reacts, the product itself … and I could go on and on.

But knowing what emotions you are trying to get your customers to feel is a really good step in the right direction. Asking yourself if your new marketing piece, your new ad, your new blog, your new meme makes you feel that way too is a great way to build that emotional connection with your brand.

Ah! Now we get to the visual stuff…..

There’s no getting away from it, our world is increasingly visual. We don’t read, we scan. We are surrounded by images, colours, signs all the time. Everything needs to have a visual. Social media posts needs pictures, blogs need illustrating, video is king, gotta have a website? that all needs to look beautiful. Everything needs to work together to create a consistent look, all of the time (no pressure then!!)

It is so important for your brand to stand out in all this visual noise and make an impact. This is your visual brand and it combines all those wonderful brand elements I have just listed above.

We’re back to that logo board game where you are given clues for the brand, the colours, the shapes, the characters, the catchphrases or even the packaging. Instant recognition!

Your visual brand needs to shout out who you are and what you are here to do. Take your mission and splash it around. Send it up into the sky with fireworks!

Your visual brand

Your colours

This is one of the most powerful elements in your brand. Instant recognition!

McDonalds is instantly recognisable with their bright yellows and reds.
Facebook owns that dull navy blue
Guinness IS the black, white and gold in all of its advertising, even down to the dark filters over their videos.
Orange? A mobile phone company named after its own brand colour.
I can’t see a purple car without thinking of Cadburys chocolate.

But colour can effect the way we feel and judge a brand.
McDonalds are now using more organic looking colours in their branding, the colour of corn, burlap sacks and rustic farm green. All to make us feel good about their food. To make us feel trust in the quality of their food. To make even the fast food burger feel more homemade, locally produced and unadulterated.

what is a brand for mcdonalds

Colours are powerful things.

Your fonts

We are surrounded by so many signs and symbols that we are all experts in recognising fonts. So each font type comes with baggage. Past associations. Past uses. Other similar brands that have used it. Our feelings about those brands.

A swirly font may say old fashioned, traditional, romantic, Jane Austen, old books, staid Victorians
A handwritten font may say light hearted, childish, girl next door, local, trustworthy, simple, easy
A simple serif font (the ones with the little kicks at the top and bottom of the letters) may say classic, authoritative, quality or it may simply say old news.

Picking out a couple of fonts that say the right things about your brand and using them consistently throughout your marketing can say a whole lot more than the words you write with them.

The images you use

Not all images are equal. Get it wrong and it can really throw your branding out of whack. One of the best places to see good and bad imagery in action is on Instagram. As a primarily visual platform you can see how brands match similar sorts of images to build a picture of their brand, often without using a single word.

Use a picture that doesn’t fit and it sticks out like a sore thumb. Use a range of pictures with the same feel, the same filters, the same sorts of stories and you start to be able to build up a brand that says something, that communicates your juicy mission and lights up your business.

The layout

I’m not saying you should start to compile a tome of instructions that tell you EXACTLY how many cm your logo should be set away from the edge of a document. Noooo! That sort of thing belongs firmly in corporate land. But having a few good templates for posts, memes, web pics and printables like leaflets and postcards, can save you a BIG amount of time and stress. AND make your marketing more consistent and more recognisable.

Whether you always use a certain shape background behind your text, or a combination of your fonts aligned to the right, or your important info is always displayed in a circle. It all helps to build recognition (and save you time fiddling around with different things).

Graphic elements

Such as illustrations, characters, twiddles and twirls.

I have a growing collection of these that I use in all my marketing. I know that adding these little graphics can turn something anonymous into something belonging to The Business Beautician. Mine are all watercolour backgrounds, watercolour patterns and splashes and, of course, my little illustrated fairy. I have a folder full of these things and it really saves me time when popping some visuals together for a post or a blog, because I know they will do the trick, I know they say the right thing about my brand and I know that it’s a quick and easy way of Business Beauticianifying (so a word!) it.

The packaging materials
For those real life touchy feely moments. You want your packaging to feel like your brand.
Glossy and shiny, organic and rustic, simple and clean, minimal and recyclable – it should all shout your brand mission.

Your logo

Ah, it IS in there!
But I view the logo as more of a stamp of approval. It is the sign off of your business name. The little confirmation that this is yours. But, in the end, it is just another tool to building up your brand character.

It will very rarely be seen on its own without the rest of your branding to back it up. It will never have to say everything your brand needs to say, which is just as well because it is only one tiny weeny ickle logo.

So give your logo a chance. Don’t lump it with the job of hefting the weight of your entire brand. Create a logo that is supported by the rest of your visual brand and it will be far better for it. Simple is best.

In all this … consistency is key

It may seem a lot to think about and no doubt that branding guide has grown to enormous proportions in your head. But keeping it all as simple as possible means that you can start to build a brand character that says all the right things all of the time with ease.

My brand guide is one side of A4. Yes really!
I have my mission. My 5 colours. My 2 fonts. One example of my watercolours. One example of my little fairy. And a list of useful words to use when collecting together images.

That is it. But that saves me oodles of time every time I have to create something new. That means that all my marketing is consistent. And everything I produce now shouts my message loud and proudly.


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