Just when I think it has finally become common knowledge that a brand is not a logo and that branding is more than putting a logo on everything, someone asks me to brand his or her business by providing a logo: the logo trap.
The metaphor that seems to finally make things clear in these situations is a simple one: a brand is like a person.
While there is a relationship between who a person is and his or her identity, there are also very important distinctions. Each of us has a particular set of character traits and values. Are you genuine, playful, ambitious, diligent, trustworthy, fun, creative? (You get the idea.) Then there is your identity, the way in which you present and express yourself. How do you dress? How do you choose to cut your hair? How do you speak? How do you use your given name — formally (John Smith III) or casually (Johnny Smith)?
What it is within you as an individual that defines who and what you are is separate from your outward identity. Your being inspires your identity. Your identity reflects and represents your being.
In the case of a business venture, the brand is the being. The logo is part of the brand’s identity. Consequently, if a business owner recognizes that creating value in a brand will create value in his or her business, then that owner must also understand this important basic distinction.
What does this means in the process of branding? Put the logo on hold until you have engaged in the activity of proper brand positioning. The result will provide, first of all, the necessary clarity for defining the brand — the idea upon which the business can forge a lasting relationship with the consumers it depends upon for success. Then, if done correctly, the brand platform will inspire the best possible logo, one that is not arbitrary but rather infused with meaning.
A brand’s identity also has other components. Perhaps the most important is the brand voice. This incorporates two vocabularies: verbal and visual. A literal vocabulary of well-chosen words, terms and phrases can accurately bring a brand to life in written communications (advertising, public relations, collateral/sales materials, presentations, etc.) and also equip the people within the organization to speak in a consistent brand voice. The visual vocabulary is guided by an overall conceptual look for all communications, from stationery and signage to photography and graphic art. Additionally, the brand’s identity should, of course, be reflected in the design of architecture and interiors.
Another frequently neglected component of brand identity is typography and color palette, two areas that can be easily addressed and managed.
One of the best examples of brand identity management as an extension of the brand is Ojai Valley Inn & Spa in California. After engaging in a thorough brand repositioning exercise, this 75-plus-year-old resort developed a comprehensive brand stewardship program across the property. The logo was updated and modernized as a more effective expression of the brand. A color palette of five colors was adopted. Each of the five key revenue centers was assigned a color and given instructions for usage of the entire palette. A pair of type fonts was selected for all communications and a single font installed in every computer on property to assure consistency between all internal and external messaging. The brand platform — along with a list of words, phrases and statements — was created and distributed to HR for training purposes and to all managers responsible for communications with each of the property’s consumer groups. A library was created in which off-brand images were deleted and for which new imagery was created. A manual with brand identity usage guidelines was published and used when creating any message exposed to any audience.
If addressed in a thorough, proactive fashion, a hotel, resort or tourism destination can develop a powerful brand platform, an inspired brand identity, a meaningful logo and an effective brand stewardship program. Then, a few years down the road, the property or destination won’t find itself surrounded by a brand identity that leaves it feeling trapped.