Brand health check: the 4 golden rules

Jason Sew Hoy

Jason Sew Hoy
Chief operating officer and GM Asia at 99designs

From retail to technology, great brands make great businesses. But what makes a great brand, and how can you build one that stays front of mind? Give yours a health check with the following golden rules:

1. Great brands represent values

Brands that work well usually express a value. This could be quality, value for money, a green or ethical approach, or fun.

To ensure that yours is working effectively, make sure that your ‘visual language’ (your logo’s design and colour scheme) says the right things.

From font to colour palette, match your branding with the key value you want customers to perceive. JB Hi-Fi for example is about ‘bargain prices’, and they use a strong visual signature with bold colours and a lot of handwriting to emphasise the bargain basement persona. If you’re a consultancy, consider calmer tones and rounded shapes.

The better your visual language corresponds to your values as a business, the stronger your brand will be.

Remember also that brands are never instant – while first impressions count, brands take a while to develop. They’re as much about reputation as they are appearance.

2. Great brands offer connection

From Electrolux to Apple, people make judgements on and emotional connections with brands.

To help them, your brand must work to differentiate your products from your competitors. A useful exercise can be to imagine your brand as a car. Mercedes, for example, says ‘class’, Volva says ‘safety’ while Toyota says ‘reliability’.

The ultimate goal is a single overarching value: just one word or attribute. Of course your products or services will have many positive attributes, but brands often do their best work by focusing on just one, especially at the outset.

Focus group testing can help to ensure that your message matches your intent.

3. Great brands are memorable

If you can build a unique brand, you’ll be also building one that’s remembered.

What makes a memorable brand? Again, simplicity helps. Often, it’s simply a colour or a scheme (think Cadbury’s purple or NAB’s red and black). Sometimes it’s a slogan (‘Lowest prices are just the beginning’ or ‘Eat Fresh’).

Consistency is key. Make sure that you pick the strongest element of your brand and promote that across all your advertising and marketing materials.

4. Great brands evolve

The best brands, like the best businesses, adapt over time. Once your brand is established, continue to ask whether it reflects how your business is currently positioned. Is it a hangover from when your business was something else?

Social media is highlighting how fluid brands are and how audiences control and shape them. So in addition to design, it’s important to invest in an online presence for your brand: one that matches your brand values.

Summing up

The best brands are a combination of design, differentiation and connection. Building one requires a solid foundation of smart design, followed by determination and persistence.

It can be hard work, but the more you invest, the more your brand will begin to do the work for you, putting your business top-of-mind for customers in any marketplace.