Identity and Visualize: Explore Key Uses and Applications
STRATEGY IS ALWAYS NEEDED
This article continues examining, in depth, the parts of the branding process that I introduced in my e-book, 17 Mistakes that Can Harm Your Brand. In the book, I outline five phases of the branding process:
In part 3of the Identity and Visualization phase, you started to design your brand’s identity system. As you begin to flush out the parts of your identity it is imperative that you focus on the top key uses and applications, where your brand identity will be used. As you work on developing your identity you need to keep in mind that as people we are visual, and as a result it is hard for some to conceptualize how something might look or how it will function.
Several years ago, while working with a company on a website refresh, we had a review meeting with the goal of obtaining signoffs from some key stakeholders. As we were simply changing the functionality of how the website functioned, we developed black and white wireframes to show how the website would work. At the beginning of the meeting we explained that the stakeholders would be seeing black and white wireframes because we wanted them to focus and give input on the functionality. Half-way through the meeting one person who had been in the meeting since the beginning asked if the brand’s colors were changing to black and white. Even with an explanation beforehand, she could not conceptualize how the site would work with the existing brand.
You cannot expect, even with clear direction beforehand, that a person will be able to visualize beyond what they are shown. As a result, you need to plan on never showing the brand on a blank, open space. This is a major mistake made by brands, agencies, and freelancers all over the world. When compared to the nothingness of white, almost any logo will look good.
What Are My Key Uses?
At this stage in the branding process you should be able to identify the key areas in which your brand is going to interact with customers. If you are unsure of the key areas, I suggest you read through the article on Touchpoints. In the article, I outline over 90 touchpoints at which a brand might interact with a customer; these areas might be tangible or intangible.
After you work through the list, identify the top ten touchpoints that impact your customers’ interaction with your brand. For example, if your brand is a communication company that offers monthly services, you might identify your top ten touchpoints as Collateral, Billboards, Direct Mail, Website, Invoices, Social Networks, Emails, Receipts, Sales Team, and Show Rooms. As you go through working out your brand, use these as the basis for your brand in real-world use examples.
With each iteration and use example, test the use in the same manner in which the person would actually interact with the touchpoint. If the touchpoint is a Website, create an example highlighting the UX and UI the person would experience. If you selected Invoice, print out a full example to see how it feels in a person’s hand. Test mailing it to see how it travels and might look at the final destination and if it maintains the quality you expect. With each test, focus on answering the following questions to see if what you’re creating works:
- Does the brand mark work at this size?
- Does it need to be this size, or should it be larger or smaller?
- Will this design work with sub-brands?
- Does it stand out from your competition?
- Is it a better perceived quality than your competitors?
- Does the user clearly understand what they are seeing?
- Does this hinder the user in anyway?
- If it’s packaging, will the design scale effectively?
- Can it be reproduced effectively while maintaining brand quality standards?
- What would you change?
- How will this expand or change in 5, 10, or 15 years?
As you go through each question and apply it to the designs you’ve created that there will be changes upon changes. Each of the changes or revisions allow you to rework, massage, and finesse your designs to ensure your brand is creating the best output possible. While it can seem monotonous and cause the project to go on for a long time, remember that your brand will only grow strong because of the work you put into it. Think for a moment about the notoriously famous example where Marissa Mayer, while employed at Google, had the design team test 41 shades of blue to determine the best color to use. While to some brands this kind of testing and tweaking might seem wasteful or obsessive, remember the ones who are saying it’s a waste of time probably didn’t make 110.8 billion dollars last year, in part due to the importance they place on their branding.
As you change and modify your designs, keep track of the versions to allow for reference and to look back at where you were and which direction you were moving. As you keep track of your versions it is imperative that you keep accurate records of the changes that were made and why the changes were important. Doing all of this will help make your brand better.
Ideas To Make Your Brand Better Now:
- Identify the top ten touchpoints for your brand.
- Create real-world examples of your brand’s key uses and applications.
TERMS click to expand or collapse
Brand Touchpoints: The various methods in which a brand interacts with others. Touchpoints include the people, places, or items that enable communication between your brand and customers and potential customers.
Tangibles: Items capable of being able to be touched. Tangible assets may include: packaging, buildings, business cards, or invoices, and more.
UX: Short for user experience, relates to the overall experience a user has through a touchpoint. UX is typically used when referring to online touchpoints, such as a website or a mobile app.
UI: Short for User Interface, relates to the means by which the user and a computer system interact.
Brand Identity: What a brand looks like including the logo, typography, colors, packaging and more.