Branding Guidelines

10 Laws of Branding

When thinking about building a long-lasting and effective brand, you’ll need to have a clear view of what problem you are solving and who you are solving it for. You should also have a clear idea of your vision of success. Once you’ve figured out the basics, you can use the following guidelines to build your brand or refresh an existing brand.

  1. Go small. It may seem counterintuitive, but brands that are too broad often do not make a strong impression. By narrowing your focus, you can actually build a stronger brand. For instance, LaCroix built a successful brand around one product: sparkling water. The parent company produces many more products, but the brand is built around one.

  2. Reputation matters. Most successful brands promote themselves as a “leader” in some category. Branding is not about selling the specific benefits of a product or category, rather it is about establishing a reputation so that consumers know what they can expect when they see your brand.

  3. Communicate quality: The perception of quality is in the mind of the buyer, but you can help to build a perception of quality through your packaging, customer service, communication and your pricing. Higher prices will signal to some consumers that they can expect a quality product or service. So try start with a higher price than you are initially comfortable with. Then ask yourself, what can we add to our brand to justify the higher price?

  4. Be so focused you create a new category or own a word. Effective branding involves a singular idea or concept that you can own inside the mind of your potential customers. Customers don’t really care about new brands, they care about new categories. A leading brand will promote and existing category or create a new one. In other words, you can start something totally new! This is a great way to become the first brand in a new category and ultimately the leading brand in a (hopefully) rapidly growing new segment of the market. For example, Warby Parker disrupted the eyewear market by creating a new category of try-at-home glasses. Another way to focus your brand is to own a word or concept. For example, in the car market Tesla owns “green energy,” while Ford owns “tough.” Kleenex is tissue. Band-Aid owns adhesive bandage. Forget about the laundry list of wonderful qualities of your product. Can you reduce the essence of your brand to a single thought or attribute?

  5. Be strategic about your name: One of the most important branding decision you’ll make is what to name your company, product or service.  Using a generic name will make it harder for people to remember you and find you.  Much of brand communication takes place verbally and the mind responds to sounds, so the name needs an easily recognizable sound. But it should also be specific enough that you stand out in a Google Search. Google is a great example of a strategic brand name!

  6. The Law of Shape: A logo often combines both words and images into a single visual item, which can be tricky to achieve. Although logos are the product of many thoughtful decisions, often the strongest ones are quite simple. Some simple symbols make effective trademarks, like the Mercedes three-pointed star. Think also about where your logo will appear. On your website is a likely spot but it may also show up on product packaging or business cards, stickers, and other items that accompany the process of building brand awareness. Where your logo will live affects what shapes and colors it’ll use.

  7. The Law of Color: It is best to stick to one of the five basic colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue). Red is the color of energy and excitement, an “in-your-face” color. It attracts attention. Blue invokes peace and tranquility. It is also associated with leadership and stability. White brings to mind purity. Black means luxury. Purple is royalty. Green is good for environment and health. Focus on the mood you want. Research your competitors’ colors and make sure yours won’t be confused for someone else’s.

  8. The Law of Consistency: Success is measured in decades, not years. Brands shouldn’t change. They may be bent slightly or given a new slant, but their essential characteristics (once those characteristics are firmly established) should never be changed. Brands are used as personality statements. What did introducing a station wagon do for BMW? Nothing, except erode the sleek and sophisticated image in the mind of the consumer. You should limit your brand. That’s the essence of branding.

  9. The Law of Change: Brands can be changed, but only infrequently and only very carefully. It’s important to pay attention to trends in your industry and notice how your customers are reacting to your brand. If you start to suspect you need to tweak or reset your branding, do some research. Solicit feedback from existing and prospective customers.

  10. The Law of Publicity: The birth of a brand is achieved with publicity, not advertising. Starbucks doesn’t spend on traditional advertising. Today’s brands are born, not made. A new brand must be capable of generating positive publicity in the media or it won’t have a chance in the marketplace. The best way to generate publicity is by being first or unique. In other words, by being the first brand in a new category. This might not always be possible, so how your brand is interpreted by your customers is important. What others say about your brand is much more powerful than what you say about it yourself.