Brand image… that unique mental space that a company occupies in the consumer’s mind. Alternatively, a brand can be defined as the sum total of all the perceptions and images a company cultivates regarding its products, services, goals and values. It is not just the logo, letterhead, or website — it’s the essence for which the product or service stands in the mind of the customer. From this perspective, a brand can be termed a promise made by the company to its customers.
Advertising and marketing gurus emphasize the need for professional brand identity development when launching a business. Why? Because buyers seek professionalism, confidence, and trust when making consumer decisions. It is certainly in the best interests of a company to work towards establishing a professional brand image in all its business activities. To that end, yes the logo and the corporate letterhead and other print design materials are essential elements in conveying your message. Clearly reflecting your brand image whether it’s price, product, promotion, place, people, process or physical environment is an important part of building consumer confidence.
Building a brand to the point where a company can effectively leverage what is known as its ‘brand value’ for economic advantages and strategic benefits is no easy undertaking. I think too many people get caught up in futzing over specific design components rather than focusing on the bigger picture — their businesses’ perceived image. Instead of focusing on a few design elements independently, entrepreneurs should be asking themselves, “what do I need to do to deliver my message effectively?” The message that a company delivers leads to the creation of the brand image.
What role do your logo and corporate stationery print assets play, and are they essential in reflecting brand image?
At the very least your logo plays a role in the internalization of your brand message by the individual consumer. A company should be clear in all forms of conveying their brand message, if that includes supplemental printed materials such as letterhead, envelopes, and business cards, then those elements should all be consistent in supporting the companys’ message. One may be able to argue that not all companies have the need for branded corporate stationery, but it would be pretty hard to argue that a logo doesn’t play a significant role in reflecting brand image. Usually, a logo is one of the most critical visual aids for brand recognition.
Here’s the deal; professional brand identity development has to be inclusive of both major and minor forms of corporate communication. A company communicates in a number of ways with its customers. Be it through official PR or simply a designated color scheme, every element of your message is essential in reflecting your brand image.
Businesses should focus on the bigger picture.
Lois Gellar wrote an article for Forbes about why brand identity matters. She states, “If you’re going to develop your brand, the last thing you want to do is follow the beaten path. You want to head down your own road.”
I think that this statement speaks to the heart of the matter; it’s not a few items that build or make the brand, it’s creating and defining a custom message, custom logo, and supporting materials tailored to support and convey your message.
If you work on building your brand image first, your printed materials will naturally reflect that image. So, to clarify: define your message and design your marketing and print materials around that message. The corporate letterhead is the official template on which the communication of a company occurs. Hence it is crucial to design it concordant with the message you wish to be received.
Is custom design essential to my brand image?
Unequivocally, yes. If you’re concerned about your image then one thing you’ll want to do is focus on creating a custom visual representation. Like Lois said, the last thing you want to do is follow in someone else’s footsteps.
Many people mistake a company logo and letterhead for brand identity — they are not. What we’re talking about here are components that reflect your image, it just so happens that your Logo and print assets say a lot about your brand whether it’s intentional or not. These elements can have a fairly impactful effect on the consumer, and successful entrepreneurs recognize this fact on the front side; which is why successful brands tend to be well thought out with attention to detail in every aspect of their visual representation.
A good example of a business that is successfully building a good brand presence on a local scale and without corporate letterhead and other printed materials is Mens Hangups.
Mens Hangups is a small local boutique focusing on interacting with their community through sponsored events, public events, and social media. Their business is gaining a solid reputation the old fashioned way, by actually interacting with their community. Now, that doesn’t mean that they’ve neglected design when it comes to their image — not a chance! Loren and Sheryl Clear are savvy business owners who have started more than one successful business and they know the importance of design and communication with an audience. They wanted to create a custom look and work with customers to grow and maintain a consistent message. You can see their brand message consistently reflected throughout every aspect of their physical store, in their printed marketing materials and on their website.
A perfect example of an entrepreneur who uses corporate stationery, business cards, labels, envelopes, and folders to carry through her brand identity is Elena Neitlich, founder of Etiquette Moms. Her business involves a massive amount of printed corporate communication materials and you better believe that she understands how important it is to send out materials that reflect and support the values of her brand. A consistent brand design makes it easy for her clients and customers to recognize her materials, courses and correspondence.
When we look at specific print materials and how they reflect brand image, we can’t forget to put the horse before the cart. Define your brand message, design to reinforce your message and put out materials that communicate your message.
Author: Chris London is the art director for Pixel Productions Inc., a strategic graphic and web design company where his focus is to continually find creative and innovative strategies to implement with businesses who need brand design and marketing with impact.