Principles of Effective Branding that are Often Overlooked

A lot of companies think putting an eye-catching logo on everything they publish is enough to have effective branding. This is a waste of money. A logo without an underlying support structure is worthless. 

Getting it right involves looking at the underlying foundation of your business and using them to guide everything you do.

  1. Elements of effective branding
  2. Brand Identity
  3. Branding vs Marketing
  4. Maintaining your brand

Elements of effective branding

Your brand is the perceived functional & emotional value in your audience’s eyes. You can’t build a brand overnight, you can only facilitate it through actions & communication. These elements of branding serve as a pyramid. At the top is your Brand Essence, your name, logo and tagline. Easy for people to recognize and to mention at a dinner party.

In the middle is your Brand Identity, this contains any visual, vocal and written communication put out by you. All content, such as your logo, and how they are communicated fall under this section.

If you already have some branding strategies in place you can start from there, as a lot of my clients already had some branding elements in place. Where you start is less important than having all elements in place. But from my experience starting from the foundation, which is your brand values, is the easiest as it informs all your other decisions and makes them consistent with each other. 

The foundation: your brand values 

It’s not your brand itself, but what people associate your brand with that returns them to you. Ask yourself “What message do I want to send to people?”. Nike’s core value, for example, is challenging yourself. This translates into their famous slogan: “Just Do It.” Their message is to get you to stop thinking and just start doing. 

When working with my clients I normally recommend them to stick with 2-5 words that describe the core of what your business stands for. A good follow up question to ask here is “if my business was a person, which advice would she give people?”.

Looking at pop culture or history to find an iconic figure that portrays the beliefs you want people to know about your brand works as well.

It is no coincidence that Red Bull has the highest market share in energy drinks. They do a great job associating their brand with high intensity sports and pushing the limits through their event sponsoring such as Red Bull Ice Cross or skydiving from the stratosphere by Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner. 

Your audience: Know who you want to attract

In order to be effective in branding, your brand needs to resonate with your audience. How do you do that? Force yourself to be selective. 

A clear example is Apple vs Android. Apple targets consumers who value simplicity and ease of use. With Android, Google targets consumers who prefer to have more flexibility in device options and customization. Both target the same mass market but selected a different audience.

The rest of their marketing strategy is tailored to their audience, and that’s what results in effective branding. People don’t often switch brands once they’ve found the one they like.

Apple also had a great marketing campaign targeting PC users’ most common problems with their 2006 Get a Mac’ campaign. It clearly showed they understood their customers and their problems, and therefore could create very effective campaigns that resonated with people.

Be where your audience is. If they tend to be active on Instagram, make sure you post there. Are they on Facebook? Move to Facebook. 

Your audience can be on multiple platforms, or even transition from one medium to another. The key here is to stay in close connection and to be present wherever they are.

You have defined the message, the receiver, and the channels, now it’s a matter of how to get the message across. This is where your brand identity comes into play.

You want your brand identity to reflect your message. Does the message fit best in long and informative podcasts or short and inspiring blog articles? Do I want to communicate “calmness” by using soft and minimal visuals, or should I communicate “speed” by using dynamic shapes and eye-catching colors?

Nike uses athletes in high production media to communicate their message whereas Muji, a Japanese brand, keeps their marketing to a minimum and lets their products speak for them. The medium is the message.

There’s the common misconception about branding & marketing being the same thing. Simply said, marketing makes people notice you, and branding makes them stay with you.

From my experience, when it comes to marketing, a lot of clients would simply start with advertising what they do or sell. Often these types of marketing messages drown in the sea of other brands competing for attention. 

Marketing works best when it shows what value it brings your customers and how you accomplish it by grabbing attention and driving sales.

An excellent example of good marketing that draws attention and is aligned with the brand is Spotify’s 2019 Wrapped advertising campaign.

It leverages nicely with cultural moments, memes and listening trends and led people to a website where they could get and share their own Year in Review from Spotify. It immediately showed the brand value and tied people to the streaming service. 

Branding builds trust with your audience. It is result-oriented, and it drives recognition, trust & loyalty. It’s a long-term investment, and it differentiates you from competitors.

With Ikea, you don’t even need to see the name to recognize one of their manuals. Those big blue buildings with yellow lettering are immediately recognizable when you’re approaching from the highway.

Both are things which they don’t promote, but are ingrained and aligned with their business model of self-servicing. It all breathes Ikea.

Allow your brand to evolve over time, especially when first starting out, and you begin to attract more and more people. Your relationship with customers changes as your brand grows. Let your brand be fluid. If you don’t have all the answers right now they will come later. 

Just make sure you fill in the gaps along the way and everything you do and say is consistent with your brand’s core values.

At we use our design system, Orbit, to capture our brand identity and help our many internal teams to be aligned and follow the same principles by using clear use case examples and do’s and don’ts.

Since we’re still growing, our brand elements are bound to change, and we’ll update our system accordingly. It’s open source so feel free to check it out.

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