Your own coat of arms (aka: branding means identification)

Welcome to a new #rainybrandingtuesday!

Sometimes, when I speak at events, I get asked what is branding and why should anyone care. And I say that the original function of branding – and I know it’ll sound obvious – is standing out. Or even better, to use the jargon: identification. If you are a fan of Game of Thrones (or any other period drama / series) you will know that already back then houses wanted to stand out and be identified, by friends and enemies alike. And they used heraldry.

Evolution of Alfa Romeo

Evolution of Alfa Romeo

Westeros coats of arms, odreamed up by Nike visual designer Darrin Crescenzi.

Westeros coats of arms, redesigned by Nike visual designer Darrin Crescenzi.

Everything has a price. But brands do help shape your perception.

Everything has a price, says the King. But brands do help shape your perception.

Individuals and families, towns, regions, countries: all adopted a coat of arms (some turned into brands, in recent times, just like Alfa Romeo). In history, Plutarch (c45-c125) referred to monograms (single line). In kingdoms, the sovereign’s monogram included ‘R’ for Rex or Regina – think of ER II (Elizabeth Regina the Second), still sported on post boxes all around the country, to mention but one examples.

The Queen knows a thing or two about personalisation

The Queen knows a thing or two about personalisation

But I’ll talk about history in another post (stay tuned!). Going back to the topic of identification, today I’ll talk about the types of identification, as read in the amazing book by Per Mollerup, Marks of Excellence:

1. uniqueness

I always vouch for the importance of being different and stand out. The main goal of your logo and branding identity to make sure you HAVE a clear identity. Like a business ID card, that makes others tell who’s who in the mass. So we could say the bottom line is be different from your competitors.

2. value

Being (or not) absolutely unique brings value (and remember, we talk about the perceived value rather than the actual value here – as David Airey mentions in his Logolove). The more a logo can be noticed, the more will be remembered, hence its value.

How many times you see a logo and know what it is without actually remembering the name? That’s already how valuable that design is in the minds of consumers.

3. holding power

Grabbing attention is key in branding and is essential to make sure you capture the consumers’ eyes and hold them right there. Graphically speaking, this can be achieved with twisted images that facilitate identification and enhance the retention power. FedEx is a good example.

The key is in the arrow.

The key is in the arrow.

4. description

Some brands can include in their aspect some hints or representation of what they do/sell, like Michelin. Yet, it’s not always like that! think of Jaguar.

Bibendum is not a fat kid after all.

Bibendum is not a fat kid after all.

5. association

Digital UK is a brand that was created for the UK digital switch to decoders across the country. In a process that took a few years to complete, with London just jumping in a couple of years ago, in time of the Olympics, this brand clearly is associated with what the company does.

Digital. For the UK. Simples.

Digital. For the UK. Simples.

6. tone of voice

A brand can use a ‘tone of voice’ to reassure, invite, clarify and communicate what they want their products to be. Bonne Maman has a specific tone that reminds me of artisanal, good, old jams, in the typical French way and possibly in a chalet over the Alps. See? I’ve gathered all that just from the branding.

I'm thinking of Provence already.

I’m thinking of Provence already.

7. graphic excellence

The symbolic value of a design should never be underestimated, as it can “explain a whole by showing a part”. Logos can be clever, can have a hidden message, can show how smart the company is just by graphically summing it up.

8. reputation

A brand can gain added value based on the reputation of its company or product, that can then be extended to other services. Sometimes, just like in the case of YSL or Chanel, cross-branding is adopted (lending a famous brand to a line of products that have little of nothing to with the initial field of operation).

9. discretion

Sometimes, just a small detail can make you think of a brand. Just picture the famous Nike swoosh or the drop shape of vodafone.

Power to you.

Power to you.

10. repetition

Recognition by repetition is a traditional rationale that helps remembering. Repetita iuvant and memory works by repetition, too.

Maybe a bit of Noughties's trend, but repetitions do help.

Maybe a bit of Noughties’s trend, but repetitions do help.

How do you make your brand identifiable then?

Sometimes it’s harder to do than say, but in general from a freelancer’s perspective you can be more identifiable by:

  • researching your market (for competitors and clients alike)
  • finding your “different”
  • crafting your tone: usually focus on opposites and pairs. Translation is considered by many, alas, a commodity. Turn upside down this conception
  • investing in good design: I will never get tired of this. More on the topic is found in my post on hiring a pro
  • highlighting the good elements of your business: this will lead to creating a good reputation and a better image
  • focusing on your USP: always be true and sell only what you can do. And make sure it shows in your brand.
Brand strength model

Brand strength model

Brand-Identity-Logo: not the same things

Brand-Identity-Logo: not the same things

Read more:

Copy and uniqueness


Brand uniqueness

Promote your brand uniqueness

Agencies and brand uniqueness

GoT’s redesigned coats of arms


One thought on “Your own coat of arms (aka: branding means identification)

  1. Pingback: What would you do with 60 seconds of the world silence aka: the power of the perceived value | Rainy London Branding

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