There has always been a lot of mystery and confusion surrounding the term ‘brand’ – what it means and how to create a successful one.
Since leaving big agency life in Melbourne to start Shorthand with my wife Amanda, we’ve been on a mission to demystify brand and simplify the process. If we define brand as what your business stands for in the mind of your audience, we have found that there is a simple formula to building a great one,
Brand = Style + Substance.
In this equation, ‘style’ is in reference to your visual brand identity. It’s what your business looks like. A brand identity typically begins with your logo, typefaces, colour palette, graphic and photography style and comes together in the way that it is applied to touchpoints such as your website, printed and digital communications, signage, social media pages and stationery.
The ‘substance’ is the things behind your business that make it unique or special. It’s the quality of your products, your customer service or processes and the motivation that drives it all. It’s what you do, how you do it, and why you do it.
A successful brand is born from the marriage between these two elements. Achieving this balance is crucial for any business – as a brand without substance is an empty promise, while a brand without style is underselling itself.
Have you ever visited a café that talked the talk with a tattooed barista and on-trend aesthetic, only to be served a milky, mediocre cup of coffee? This is a brand with style but no substance. Their fashionable brand identity might grab people’s attention initially, but they will ultimately leave disappointed when the experience doesn’t meet their expectations. Brands like this tend to have a short life-span – as in the world of social media, negative word-of-mouth spreads quickly.
On the other side of the coin, the café next door might have the best coffee in town, but if their signage and fit-out looks tacky or outdated, people will walk on by. This is a brand with substance, but no style. Their brand identity isn’t doing their offer justice and is sending their audience the wrong message. Brands like this may develop a small but loyal following over time through positive word-of–mouth, but often plateau and struggle to really grow their customer base.
Before undertaking any branding project, you first need to look inside and find the substance behind your brand. If you can’t find it, you may have deeper problems than a new brand identity can fix. If it is there, great! You can confidently begin to express it visually with a considered and consistent brand identity. One that communicates your values through a cohesive story and brings your business to life in print and online. Brand = Style + Substance is the foundation of building a strong brand. Where the ‘style’ gets customers in the door and the ‘substance’ keeps them coming back.
First published on Hunter Headline September 2016.