All about branding

BY Iwona Napierała

A strong brand is a coherent and distinctive brand. Both at the level of corporate identity, i.e. what defines its philosophy, and at the ‘external’ level: visual identity, corporate communications, corporate branding.

These are what build the brand experience in the minds of the audience. They include the name, the logo, the unique world of colours, shapes, fonts, images and words. Each of these elements determines the brand experience in the recipient’s mind and influences its memorability. So it pays to make sure they are as good as possible.

What is branding and why do we need it?

Branding (from brand) is the activity of designing a brand, defining its personality, its attributes and how it works in the minds of customers. The result of these activities is to create an emotional connection between the brand and the target audience.

This process is extremely complex, involves a number of activities and tools at marketing and management level. Let’s take a look at the role of the advertising agency.

The agency’s main task is to develop a logo and visual identity based on the brand’s values and philosophy. It is not enough to have a ‘pretty’ design, it must be in line with the company’s vision and appeal to the target audience. The aim is to develop a consistent image that is recognised, associated and liked.

The choice of partner is crucial in this process. It is worth checking whether the agency you are working with has experience of managing complex branding projects, what their portfolio looks like and what design system they have developed. Building a brand requires both a creative and a methodical approach.

Is branding necessary for a brand? At a certain stage of business maturity – definitely. It allows you to differentiate yourself, build an image of a reliable partner, attract new customers, increase market share and stay ahead of the competition. A strong brand is one of the most important competitive advantages.

Implementing branding step by step with an advertising agency

A large group of advertising agency clients are companies whose main objective is to build a comprehensive branding for their brand. There are usually two ways in which such clients approach the whole process.

Some clients come with a ready-made idea, as well as a vision for their brand and a ready-made brief, whereas what they expect is primarily graphic support. The experience of the agency’s staff allows them, on the basis of the brief and a discussion with the client, to define their expectations and dispel any doubts before starting the design work The main task of the agency is to focus on developing the visual identity of the brand.

However, sometimes the client comes to the agency without a clearly defined vision and idea for their brand, sometimes even without a specific brief. This is when the whole branding process needs to be carried out from the beginning, with an initial analysis and ideally a branding workshop.

Let’s see what working with an agency looks like in these two different cases.

When the client has an assumption and a strategy

We begin our branding work by gathering the client’s existing materials and assumptions, and outlining the process of collaboration. When we start the design work, we remember that the visual identity must be consistent with the defined foundations. It must stand out from the competition, be easy to use and memorable. Obviously, the first design stage is to develop a proposal for a logotype and then all the elements inseparable from it, such as colours or typography.

At this stage, a graphic designer with branding experience is essential. He or she will prepare a brand book containing all the main graphic and visual elements that will be used in subsequent communications. The book needs to be coherent and well thought out – so that it is a useful tool for everyone who will be working with it. All the elements should work together to create a unified story that the client can read.

In the identity manual we prepare for our clients at Neon Shake, you will find:

  • the design of the logo in its basic and alternative versions (vertical version, contra),
  • the protected areas of the logos and their unauthorised use,
  • brand colours,
  • typography for the different forms,
  • iconography,
  • definition of photographic tonality,
  • stationery designs (letterheads, business cards, email and sms footers, contract templates, invoices),
  • layout/templates for selected marketing materials – posters, web banners, presentations, folder covers and spreads, mailings.

We transfer copyright to the client along with the design.

Is that topic interesting for you?

When a client needs to create a brief and strategy

For clients who come to us without a brief and a detailed idea of what their brand should be, we start the whole process from scratch, with a baseline analysis and definition of the brand’s:

  • brand history,
  • the business environment,
  • competitive advantage,
  • the vision and nature of the brand,
  • the goals we want to achieve,
  • the values to which it will relate,
  • the target audience we want to communicate with,
  • the idea behind it.

At Neon Shake we often work out this information during the branding workshops we offer to our business partners. During such an event, we work with the client to establish the necessary foundations for further work on the brand design.

What’s next, the communication plan

With the vision and visual layer in place, the next step is to define the branding implementation strategy, i.e. the campaign and brand communication plan.

As part of this process, we offer to draw up a comprehensive plan, including duration, timing and channels to be used. With this comprehensive approach. A consistent and coherent approach to marketing and communication strategy holds significant importance. Having a well-designed brand manual and a thoroughly developed overall branding strategy can greatly contribute to achieving this goal.

Why is the agency’s involvement in branding so important?

Due to their design experience, an advertising agency knows what mistakes to avoid, what practices and methods work well and is able to plan the proces holistically. This comprehensive approach empowers the client to make informed decisions and derive satisfaction from the final outcome. Our Head of Design – Tomek Kurek – discusses about the most important aspects of branding to consider on both the client and agency side:

  • Precise brief – the brief should leave no room for guesswork, free hand and your own interpretation of the client’s expectations. Contrary to appearances, the situations in which we have complete freedom are sometimes the most problematic and time-consuming. Our vision ceases to be the client’s vision and, as a result, there is a high probability that our expectations will diverge and that the entire design process will be significantly prolonged. A comprehensive brief is therefore essential!
  • Less is better – from all the proposals we receive, we should select the most appropriate ones that meet the client’s expectations. Our role is to recommend the best solutions for further development, whereas inundating the client with proposals and sketches will leave them feeling lost in a maze of more or less successful concepts.
  • Branding is not just about the logo – it is important to remember that a logotype is only one element of a complex brand ecosystem, and its design itself is a multi-stage process. Determining the capabilities of the prepared logo, its strengths and weaknesses, its uniqueness, and most importantly, its potential to be developed with other brand elements should be the key to further work. In fact, a logotype alone does not guarantee the successful implementation of comprehensive branding.

Rebranding – what if we want to completely refresh a brand?

By definition, rebranding is the process of changing the visual communication and the communication of the brand itself. All the elements that make up the overall brand image can be changed. Changing them can improve the brand’s position in the market or change the image to a more positive one. The aim of the whole process is to reach existing customers with a new message and to attract new ones.

The rebranding process can vary in scope depending on the needs of the brand. It can be a simple facelift or a comprehensive change to the entire strategy and brand book.

Most often, the need for rebranding arises from:

  • a change in the target audience,
  • the need to improve the image following a crisis,
  • a response to changing trends,
  • changes in strategy.

We are no strangers to this topic. For example, we recently had the opportunity to work on a major rebranding for one of our key clients, the European Leasing Fund, part of the Crédit Agricole group.

Neon Shake – our experience

At Neon Shake we carry out branding and rebranding projects on a daily basis. In recent years we have been involved in creating or refreshing the visual and overall brand communication for companies such as:

  • AmRest – Global Brand Guidelines
  • InviMed – brand refresh, branding and imagery
  • Echo Investment – branding for Zebra (Wroclaw), Rydla 32 (Krakow)
  • Credit Agricole – EFL brand refresh
  • Sportano – visual language
  • Vantage Development – brand refresh, brand manual
  • Lundbeck – Brand manual

If you are planning branding activities or a brand refresh in the near future, we invite you to fill in the form and contact our strategist. During a free 30-minute video consultation, we will try to give you suggestions on how to structure the process to ensure the success of your project.

Iwona Napierała

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