Last updated on January 12th, 2023
Plenty of businesses boast of being a brand but only a few of them are well-perceived by their customers as authentic and trustworthy. It takes a lot of effort and strategic moves to create a purposeful and authentic brand. Most businesses end up closing down their shutter as people cannot tell precisely what they represent. Hence, Designhill conducted an online session where the branding expert Katherine S. O’Donnell shared a complete guide on how to create purposeful and authentic brands in a short span.
When people develop a certain perception about a product or service provider, then it becomes the identity of a brand. But it is never easy to create a brand that people trust for authenticity. Often, businesses take many years to build credibility amongst their target audience.
But how many businesses can turn their audience into loyal customers? The answer is that very few of them succeeded in winning their customers’ confidence. All because of the wrong or casual approach in running a company and its business.
So, to address this issue, Designhill, the leading creative marketplace conducted an online session with branding expert Katherine S. O’Donnell. The marketplace invited her to do a presentation on the topic – What It Takes To Create Purposeful And Authentic Brands. The online event was conducted on 22nd March 2021.
During the presentation and Q & A session, Katherine shared her experience and gave tips on how to correctly build a brand. She advised on how to build brand voice, tone, and values and how important it is to be consistent. Also, the demographics and content aspects of branding were discussed.
Katherine is a renowned brand marketing strategist who has helped many companies develop their data-driven branding plans. She carries a rich 15 years of experience in reputation management, media relations, and brand positioning. Also, she brings a diverse palette of skill sets for her global audience.
In this post, we have shared the session’s video and transcript in the form of Q and A where the speaker has shared an A to Z guide on how to create authentic brands
Transcript (Q/A): Consider These Fundamentals To Create Purposeful And Authentic Brands
What is a brand?
Katherine S. O’Donnell: Let’s go back to some of the basics. I think that a lot of people know what a brand is or what they know about branding.
‘A brand is an identifying symbol, logo, name, word, and/or sentence that companies use to distinguish their product from others, a combination of one or more of those elements can be utilized to create a brand identity.’
Now, after that definition of a brand, we will show the ways to develop a brand.
So, we all know about a few popular and identifiable brands that we all know by names such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola. All such brands contain information about the company. For instance, everybody knows that Jordan means Michael Jordan, and so it means a sports type of logo. Similarly, everybody knows the double arches stand for McDonald’s. Coca-Cola we know uses red and white.
Pick a name carefully
When you are coming up with your logo, it is important to come up with a name that means something to you. So, figure out how it is being perceived by others as well. For instance, think about some negative connotations in different parts of the world. When coming up with a name for your logo, think about how it can be perceived not in where you live, but think big. Think about how it can be perceived internationally as well.
I can give you a brief example. I was traveling around the world and I happened to be standing in line at a grocery store. And I saw right in front of me a product named Barf. And I was thinking, I’m not going to use this detergent to clean my items. It was called Barf. So, know that your name can affect others. Be cognizant of that.
Avoid using more than 3 colors
When thinking about your logo, for instance, and coming up with your brand colors, think about 123 different colors. That means something to your brand. You can always use the psychology color wheel to find colors that matter to you. Pick the colors that you think others will respond well to you. But I would highly recommend that you don’t come up with any more than three colors. Then it becomes so incredibly overwhelming, and people don’t want to see it. Some logos have a simple red and white or they went with yellow and red and white. They kept it very simple.
What is a logo?
Katherine S. O’Donnell: So, what is a logo and how is it different from an icon? A logo is a symbol name and a trademark of a company. Logos are used by companies because they represent a concise image of the company.
What is a trademark?
Now, let us talk about trademarks. When you are putting together a logo, you want to trademark or possibly trademark your logo. A trademark is words, phrases or symbols, which represent the company or product. They distinguish products or services of one company from what its competitors may provide. The examples include acronyms like IBM and NBC. Those are all trademarks.
When coming up with your logo, make sure that it doesn’t come anywhere close to other trademarked logos. When you are creating your logo, make sure that it’s not anything close to it. I think maybe 33% has to be far enough away from other types of logos. Keep that in mind when you are putting together your logo.
We are going to talk about some of the brand icons that we recognize. I mentioned Jordan before. We all recognize somebody sports-related. They are jumping, they’ve got a basketball in their hand, we all know that. That’s Jordan.
Similarly, the thumbs up for Facebook, and the double arches and swoosh of Nike.
Logo and Icons
What differentiates between logos and icons is the icon brands often come from authority. The concept of the logo is based on the company’s CT image. It is also based on values, goals, and even target audience. Unlike icons, logos are specific graphic representations that rely on the user. The brand is what the brand is all about. When creating your logo, think about how you can drop the name off your logo. It would still be identifiable.
Think these things through before you set up your logo because it’s a lot harder to go along. For years, for instance, where you have associated your brand, people recognize you. Then, you start making changes. Think about those things.
Create a tagline
You will also need to create a tagline. Something you can incorporate the tagline with your logo or it can be separate. Then you can have a logo and tagline, the two different things. But the tagline will best represent your business, your service, or your organization. And if your logo doesn’t quite share what your business does, your tagline can do the job. The tagline helps what you want to accomplish with your brand.
Establishing Your Brand Voice
Identify Your Audience
Katherine S. O’Donnell: We often talk about establishing a brand voice. You want to identify your audience and think about who they are. Find out if they are going to be older, younger, professionals, or women who are 40? You want to get specific with your audience.
Define Your Company’s Style
Help them define the style that best represents the company. Let’s talk about, for instance, an insurance company as an example. Their brand voice is that they are reliable and trustworthy. You want an insurance company that is going to be reliable and trustworthy in an emergency.
Another example is a beauty company that sells facial products, and they don’t test on animals. They are environmentally responsible. The company communicates that on its package in all of its marketing efforts, and advertising. They show that they are conscientious of animals and the environment. That is their style. I have to say that this is something that can change over time.
You should not think that you are pigeonholed into having a brand voice. But you need to tailor it as time goes on or certain situations come up. For instance, Chevy, the car company here in the United States, is known to have a tough brand. They have got tough trucks. And they’ve always had this type of tagline that says Chevy runs deep.
What they have done is they’ve recently changed their brand voice. Now, they want to accommodate people coming out of the pandemic. They know that people are stuck inside, and they want to get out. And they want to experience something new and have new adventures. They have come up with something new, where they are calling themselves Find New Roads, that is their tagline. So, their brand voice has changed from Chevy Runs Deep to Find New Roads.
Test Your Target Audience
Now, then you are going to test your target audience. A way to test your target audiences is by putting together a group on Facebook. You can target exactly who you want to talk to. It could be a group of 18 to 65 adults, professional women, or people 35 years of age and above. Just tailor that audience and you can put out your product or brand, and get feedback from it.
But make sure that you listen to what they have to say because they are going to be your consumer base. They may ask you to redirect, or you need to redirect. So, keep that in mind, because they will be using your services or purchasing from you.
Use 3-4 Descriptive Words
Then come up with three to four descriptive words that help communicate with the customer base. Pay attention to what your customers want. For instance, women want a facial product. Something way back might have worked for them. Therefore, you can say use a facial product that helps them with blemishes. Times have changed now and they want a product that makes them look young and vibrant, and glowing. They also care about the environment. And they also care about whether or not you are testing on animals.
When putting your product together, use descriptive words like radiant, glowing, and young. These words mean something to people, and that meets their needs. Then, they will be more willing to trust your company and product and be loyal to your brand. Because it matters to them. Your company will be showing them that you care about them. And they will be more willing to want to buy from you or use your services often.
Finding Your Voice
Establish Your Mission and Vision
You then want to figure out how to find your voice. Here are some ways to find your voice when you are putting together your brand. All you need to do is to establish your mission, vision, and values. You should find the aspects of your business that stand out from the rest. Don’t copy other businesses and do your thing because there is a need out there. You should come up with your mission, vision, and values. That is going to be one of the first important steps in finding your voice.
Decide On Your Descriptive Words
Then decide on your descriptor words that best define who you are, what you do, what kind of feelings your companies bring to people. To find descriptor words that work for you is to have branding sessions with your staff.
For instance, get input from your broad base of family members, friends, marketing people. Then, get a better sense of how they view you. And then add your viewpoints and see where there’s an overlap. After that, hone in on that overlap and build on what you now know.
Think About The Type of Mood
Then, think about the type of mood that you want your company to take on. This will help figure out your tone.
Developing Your Tone
Descriptor words will help
Katherine S. O’Donnell: You are going to come up with three to four descriptors when you discover your tone. To understand that, let’s use Tesla as an example. They are affordable, but they show wealth, that is their brand. Also, they are sleek and modern and help out the environment. That is because people can go hundreds of miles without recharging or they do not use gas. It is a worthwhile investment, especially if you care about the environment. Their tone is that they are smart, forward-thinking, and modern.
Understand who you are talking to
Then, you go to understand who you are talking to your current audience and future customers.
Know what excites your customers
Now, that you have a tone, you want to make sure that it messes with your audience. You want to find out from your target audience, what excites them about your company, products, or services. You can test your tone, by, say, doing progress updates. So, ask people what they think about your new safety measure for your vehicle. Find out if it is working for that group of people and does it excite them. But it is not about excitement only. It is about them buying from you again. You are creating something that they are excited about, but that they also believe in, like Tesla.
Examples of Brand Voice
Let us talk about some of the brands that we know and love. These are companies that utilize brand voice and tone in a great way. For instance, we all recognize Starbucks, but they never put coffee in their logo. It is a company that is marketed to people who want to get food. They want to come for coffee, but they also want to sit down and chat with their friends. These are also the people who want to sit and work, get out of the house, and relax. They put their tone out there and their voice to people that insinuates this.
Then, take the example of Apple. Their brand voice has always been very consistent. It conveys confidence, quality, and intimacy. They pride themselves on making everybody feel welcome. I have heard that people sometimes feel spoiled by owning their products. That is how they have conveyed their voice and tone.
LinkedIn is another great example of brand voice. With more than 500 million users. LinkedIn is encouraging people to network and make connections. Their voices in tune and tone are very inviting. It’s welcoming to everybody.
Here we can discuss Slack as well. In 2019, they changed their logo, and they got a lot of flack for it. But they smartly listened to their customers. And then they directed their communications to their customers and said, look, we hear you. We understand that you don’t like change, and this is what we’re doing to mitigate the issue. Or, that we are hearing you. That I think is a great way to utilize your brand voice and tone.
Consider The Demographics
Know who do you want to reach
You should also find out what are the demographics for current and future customers. Figure out who is your reach? Are they kids from, say age six to 12 or adults 18 to 65 of age? Are they older people? Who are those people that you want to reach? What demographics are they?
Figure out their pain points
Figure out what their pain point is and what your customers need and want. Does the product service only speak to younger or older people? But keep in mind that customers don’t always buy because of what’s being offered. People buy because of something that they need.
When you are putting together your brand product, think about what they need. Then advertise that they need it. A need is always introduced as a way of improving lives. And let’s take 5g, for example. 5g is a fifth-generation mobile network. This network enables a new kind of network. It is designed to connect to everyone and everything virtually including machines, objects, and devices.
And the question is, do we need 5g? The way technology is evolving, people need to be able to work more productively. The demands are high. We are always feeling that pressure to be on the top of a mountain. Also, we need to respond to work and try to keep it up as productive as possible.
There is always this buzz that has been created about it. And it is something that might have taken years, for instance. But advertising has explained how it works and why it works. And then this is what is kept consistent to show customers that they are going to need 5g.
So, when you come up with the demographics, figure out your pain point. Find out what your customers want. Know if the product or service that you are offering speaks to younger or older people. You should be very careful of that.
What do people want from your brand?
Katherine S. O’Donnell: Find out if your product or service is going to help them. That is ultimately what people want to know. Will it make them better if they use your brand? Does it have a purpose?
For instance, there is a lipstick product. It’s something that might last all day long. You could look radiant on your Zoom calls. During the pandemic, so many people are on Zoom. But what about when the pandemic ends, and you can start seeing people again? You can see your colleagues. You are meeting prospective clients or customers. So, is lipstick going to work for you when you are taking your mask on or off?
When you come up with all of this, you can provide that purpose and something that people need. Consider a lot of variables when deciding on your product and brand. And will it serve as a purpose?
Ensure that your brand is authentic
Also think about, um, is your brand authentic, and will people trust your brand and want to continue to buy from you or use your services. And that leads right into what makes your brand authentic. Customers will only trust your brand if you are consistent and authentic. You are you and no one else. It is about communicating your brand values through your product. If you make any changes to your product, ensure that you are being consistent in your values.
Also, don’t sound like another brand, be you and stand out from the rest of the crowd is what I would highly recommend. There’s so much competition out there. Know that you are being true to yourself and your company, and your brand. When you are putting it together, you are being yourself and you are wanting to be authentic as well.
Create A Branding Guide
Include your voice, tone, and descriptions
Katherine S. O’Donnell: You need to create your branding guide as well. So, when doing this, make sure that the guide includes your voice, your tone, and descriptors in a branding guide. I can’t stress this enough. You have put up all of the hard work into figuring out exactly your tone and your voice. Now it is time to write that in a guide. Write down what your three to four descriptors are, and put it into a branding guide.
Mention your colors and fonts
Then you can also choose your fonts. Like I mentioned the 123 colors that you will pick up for your brand should be in the guide. Include those Pantone colors so that they are always going to be the same for your branding.
Write about tagline
Mention your tagline also in the guide. You should specifically tell where you want that tagline to be placed. It could be at the bottom of your marketing materials every single time. Or, your logo is going to be placed up at the left-hand corner.
You want to be very constant when you are putting it out there. But this is not for yourself, it’s also to be able to share it with staff. When your staff gets that guide and they know exactly how to position your brand so that people will recognize it and they’ll understand it. You have then got everything that you need. All is written down in that branding guide.
You can change things over time and update that branding guide. Then this is not only for businesses it’s important for nonprofit organizations as well. If any of you are part of a nonprofit organization then put together a branding guide.
Give your mission statement and goals
And you might have to put more emphasis on your mission statement, and your summary of goals and objectives. But you need to have these three and hone in on what those three are. that you can start building your brand as a nonprofit organization.
What is branding?
Branding is different from the brand that you come up with, like your logo, symbol name, tagline, and fonts.
‘‘Branding is the process of creating a strong positive perception of your company. And it’s in your customer’s minds.’’
Branding is where you have incorporated the entire package. If your branding works, and it’s successful, then your package has been delivered.
How will your brand be communicated?
There are multiple platforms where your brand can be communicated. These platforms include advertising, social media marketing, signage (traditional & digital), word-of-mouth, etc. Digital signage is new-age electronic signage that rotates through several messages or ads instead of
just a single advertisement as traditional signage does.
Keep a consistent voice and tone
That is why your voice and tone are going to be important. It is going to be there at events, in collateral materials, digital, and social media pages. And you are going to want that tone and voice to be consistent in what you are putting out there.
But in social media, you might need to tailor your tone as per the types of platforms. Maybe your voice is a little different when you are putting your message out to Facebook. It would be a professional voice and tone on LinkedIn.
Similarly, on Twitter, you’ve only got a certain number of characters. So, you will put it out there very succinctly. But whatever platform that you use, be consistent in how you do it, and people will notice.
Designhill: How does a brand identity if they need to build an emotional connection?
Depends on the business type
Katherine S. O’Donnell: I would look at the types of products and services that you are offering. And for instance, I can incorporate an emotional factor. But highlight emotional factors to connect with people. I agree that certain brands and companies do emotionally connect with others. They do need to keep that in mind when they are putting together their logo.
For instance, the Air Jordan logo is very dynamic. It is something that is having somebody jump up into the air. Or, there is McDonald’s logo, which is very stationary. That is because it is showing that you are going to get something that is reliable. It is going to be the same anywhere, and everywhere you go around the world.
I stood in line in Moscow to get a hamburger at a McDonald’s, it was very similar to what I’ve had here out of curiosity, I was interested in that. Yes, I fully agree that there are times where you do have that emotional factor that you want to take into account.
Designhill: How long should a brand logo last, and how often should it evolve?
Katherine S. O’Donnell: I would say that you should set up a logo that you are comfortable with having for a long period. You can make changes to it. But know that when you renew your logo design, some people are not going to be happy with that.
So, when coming up with a change, make it small and incremental over time. Or, wait quite a while and then make changes like Starbucks made changes in its logo. They had their product or their brand and their logo for quite some time. And then they dropped the Starbucks lettering, and they had that mermaid-looking icon.
That is something that you can do, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it right away from when you’ve launched the product. People are already starting to get to see you and get to know you.
Designhill: How do customers understand the purpose of the brand?
Katherine S. O’Donnell: If you are selling a product, are your sales going well? if they are not going well then maybe try and tailor them to an audience. Then, request their feedback. You can put together a Facebook group.
But I think one of the important things is to put something out there to people right at the third to fifth-grade level. And I know it sounds ridiculous, but you don’t know where they are at. You do not know how they understand something. In a way, by writing at a third to fifth-grade level, you help to educate them simply about your product. That is what it ultimately does for the consumer.
Designhill: Do you recommend using archetypes for branding, tone definitions?
Katherine S. O’Donnell: I would recommend that there are different types of things that you could do to read more about branding. There are websites that you can use to find out more information. I would do a quick search for specifics to create a logo. Or, search for information to create your brand. I would say there are multiple websites that I’ve used before.
Designhill: When branding for educational institutions, how can we intensify our branding without overstepping or commodifying education?
Katherine S. O’Donnell: There is so much that you can do now with social media in terms of reaching different types of audiences. When you are putting out your voice and tone, be very direct. Invite people to come into a program. For instance, tell about the benefits and values they will get from using that type of educational service.
You can highlight how it will positively affect them. Keep your tone welcoming and inviting. That is what people want to see and that is what they want to hear.
Designhill: Does it take time to gain brand loyalty following?
Katherine S. O’Donnell: I would say before you reevaluate your approach, putting information out there consistently is helpful. However, millions of other people are putting it out there on social media pages. If you are, for instance, using Facebook, you can target who it is that you are trying to reach. You can do an advertisement that you are only focusing on that specific area where you provide services. Boost it for 510 dollars and see what kind of response that you get.
Make sure that you always have a call to action. For instance, if you advertise for a home, say you have an open home. Say that you will be showing it at four o’clock in the afternoon, come join us today at that time.
Or, we look forward to seeing you today. Ensure that you have that call to action, but boost it before you do anything else. Then, see what kind of responses that you get.
Designhill: What is the best way to get feedback from customers on branding?
Katherine S. O’Donnell: Everybody loves to give their opinion on everything. You should make your customer feel like you care about what they have to say to you. You value their opinion. Say that you want to hear from them because you want to bring the best brand or the best product possible. And people respond to that.
I mean, how often are you asked for your feedback on something. And I think in a way it helps you stand out from the rest of the crowd. You are showing straight away that you care about your customer base and that you value their opinions.
Designhill: Which computer software would you recommend us to use to illustrate or get the best graphics of branding?
Katherine S. O’Donnell: Designhill is one such site that you can depend on to illustrate and get the best graphics. If you are looking to create a website maybe WordPress isn’t for you, for instance. But maybe another platform is going to be more user-friendly for you that works. Or, if you are putting together a logo, the right Designhill offers that.
If you also want to do it, you can do it simply say if you want to put together a banner for LinkedIn. You could do that in Canva. There are so many different platforms. And it’s hard for me to say that there’s only one specific one because you have to find what works for you.
Designhill: How to use the perfect elements for the identity of a brand for it to be recognized?
Start from descriptive words
Katherine S. O’Donnell: I think that you must have a starting point. Come up with those descriptive words or identifiers that you care about. And that is your starting point. Then, you can position it by putting it out there to your friends and your family members. Put together a Facebook group. Ask them what they think and what their feedback is.
That kind of a bit of help to tailor which direction you should go. And it gives you direction because I think it can be very daunting when you are putting it together. I mean, I felt the same way when I put my company information out there.
But, for instance, I came up with two colors of blues, because blues are something that matters to me. People resonate with it as it’s calming. I started with those two colors. And then you continue to keep going, and then ask for people’s feedback.
Designhill: How to ask an audience the right questions while promoting a brand on a social media channel? how to ask the right questions?
Katherine S. O’Donnell: It is about that starting point. You can put it out there in your focus group and say, what do you think about this brand? What does this brand make you feel when you see it? Using those descriptive words, let them give you that feedback.
Designhill: As a designer, how can I better determine who is the actual target or client for my brand?
Katherine S. O’Donnell: That is where you also look at who your demographics are. Find out what they are looking for? Is it going to be helping older people or younger people? When you are putting it out there, it’s helpful to know who is your target audience? What are the demographics that you are trying to target? It will help you hone in on what it is that you are trying to accomplish and reach people more successfully?
Designhill: What are the common mistakes that you have seen brand managers make?
Not being consistent
Katherine S. O’Donnell: I would say that a big part of those mistakes is not being consistent. It’s not being constant with what you are putting out there. When you are putting together your brand, a lot of times people will say put together a logo with so many colors because they love colors. That is great. However, somebody might look at that and say, what, I can’t look at that because it’s too overwhelming for me. Being you can be to start simple.
I think that this is where people find it incredibly daunting. They are like, I need to do X, Y, and Z to be able to build my brand. No, you start with one step and put one foot in front of the other. Start with figuring out what colors you like. That’s one step, then, the second step may be to choose one of three colors. It could be two primary colors and one secondary color. But they are, you’ve started that. You are coming up with your name, that is another step.
Not defining who you are
I think that a lot of times when people put their brands out there, they haven’t defined who they are. And so they are putting it out there. So, they are missing the audience. Or, it might not be the right audience for whom they are putting their information out there. I think that a lot of the information that I share today is a good starting point for people who are looking to start their brands.
So, stick to the advice from branding expert Katherine when you are planning to create a purposeful authentic brand. Follow her tips but make necessary improvements with the timekeeping of those basics in mind.
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To create purposeful and authentic brands, you need to come up with a strategy to target your audience. You must know what your audience or potential customers want. Make sure that you know your brand’s voice and tone. Then, consider the demography of your audience. Then, create your branding guide, write down your branding elements such as colors, fonts, taglines, etc.