What is a Brand?

By Martin Steinhobel
Brands, like reputations, live in the heads of people, but are built and driven mostly by visual elements that are associated with the brand. These visual elements – the brand identity – are not the brand itself but are an important part of it.

That said, brand identity elements are totally meaningless on their own. While the Apple logo has meaning in San Francisco, that same logo will have absolutely no meaning to someone living in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, who has no experience with it. Brand Identity elements derive meaning from the factors that impact brand (which we will get into in some detail later) initially. Once a brand becomes established, brand identity elements impart meaning. This is why brand name products acquire the status they do in the market place.

For this reason, companies spend vast amounts of money developing their brands, which become valuable in and of themselves; brands are powerful business development engines and are well worth the effort and investment they require.

These same principles apply to your technology consulting brand, so your company’s brand identity will have an impact on how your company is perceived. Therefore, it is important that you take the time to develop a clear message for your business, and that you pay attention to what your target market thinks about your company.

Your message should be based on your company’s vision and developed with a clear understanding of who your target market is and what value you can provide them with. (More on this later.)

A brand identity developed based on this clear message will be far more powerful than one that is not. Your brand identity should communicate who you are, what you stand for – and get that message out there!

Brand Example: Google
Google is easily one of the most recognizable brands in the world. Since their start, they’ve managed to create an identity for themselves that works in every facet of their business, and that exemplifies their brand’s characteristics.

What makes a good brand?

Good brands are always deliberate. While a business might set out without much thought related to brand, as soon as success starts to mount, savvy entrepreneurs invest in developing their brand as a way to differentiate and grow.

Here’s an overview of good brands’ key characteristics:

They’re based on solid products & services.

Of course, it doesn’t matter how much you invest in your brand identity if what you’re selling isn’t great to begin with. Solid service offerings and excellent execution are a must. No amount of money or investment in brand identity can make up for underlying quality issues or sub-standard service delivery.

They present a clear and well-thought-through message

If you look at the big guys, you’ll notice they have a very clear brand message. For Accenture, “New isn’t on its way. We [they] are applying it right now.” BearingPoint wants you to know that “We know how” to transform your industry, and, interestingly, accelerate your career – a message clearly focused on would-be employees. These messages are front and center and very big picture. You too need to have a clear message for your brand that can be boiled down to just a few words.

Their visual brand elements are clear & understandable

This one cannot be overemphasized. Good design amplifies your message and clears away the clutter. Simplicity is key – but getting this right is often difficult when you have a lot to say about yourself. This is why basing your brand elements on a well thought-through message is so important.

They’re authentic

People can smell a phony from a mile away, so your brand elements need to tell your story authentically. Don’t try to be something you are not. Make sure your brand identity is authentic to avoid the risk of tarnishing your brand later. A damaged brand can be almost impossible to redeem.

They’re coherent

Because the message they are based on is well thought-through and the target market is well understood, the brand can be articulated clearly, and as a result is well understood. There are no inconsistencies in message or any confusion created by the design elements. This takes discipline and attention to detail but pays off well. Customers and would-be customers are not left trying to figure out the brand or having to reconcile disconnects.

They’re different

Good companies can clearly differentiate themselves from the pack and are capable of highlighting their remarkable difference: that thing that they are known for, and known for being better at, than anyone else. Their brand identity supports and accentuates this difference to great effect.

Bottom line:

Do the visual elements you are using today do a good job of representing your company and services?

Do they support your message? Is what your brand stands for clear? Are you proud of what your brand looks like?

About Valens Point

We help early-stage tech companies accelerate growth by building brand credibility, establishing repeatable lead generation, and supporting sales and partner teams. The result — effective marketing up and running in a fraction of the time it would take to recruit, hire, and train an internal marketing team.