Your brand is more than just a logo, name or color scheme. It’s who you are as a company at a very fundamental level.
Branding dictates how customers feel about your business and, when done right, can elicit an emotional response at every touch point. Businesses with strong brands reap the benefits of brand loyalty and have an easier time appealing to new audiences because they already know what those companies stand for.
This is all to say that if you aren’t effectively branding your business online and elsewhere, you’re putting some major barriers in the way of your marketing efforts.
Branding services can help companies fix any facet they might be struggling with, whether they need to create a brand identity from scratch or simply find a better way to communicate their core messaging and company values through compelling graphic design.
What Does a Brand Agency Do?
Dedicated brand agencies can provide various services depending on their clients’ particular needs, ranging from brand strategy and brand design to brand development and brand management. Anything and everything related to elevating your business is on the table.
Common branding agency offerings can include:
- Building a brand identity from the ground up.
- Rebranding established businesses.
- Creating brand positioning and messaging.
- Developing a branding strategy.
- Designing company logos.
- Formulating brand guidelines for design, style and tone.
- Mapping out a social media strategy that aligns with the company’s brand identity.
- Writing copy for websites and other digital assets that accurately reflect the brand voice.
It’s a lot of ground to cover, and the only way that branding agencies can get the job done is to fully immerse themselves in every aspect of their clients’ brand identities. That includes their central principles, mission statements and more.
Not all organizations have a firm grasp on who they are as a brand or even where to begin figuring that out. Branding agencies need to define the key standards and intangible qualities that set them apart from the competition. What makes them different and special? How can they sell that vision to their target audience? Those are the questions a brand agency can help answer.
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Top Branding Services That Support Marketing Efforts
Branding agencies approach branding services from numerous angles, helping companies establish, maintain or expand their brand in every possible way. These 6 (in particular) can elevate your marketing strategy with a clearer focus on who you are and what you have to offer.
1. Logo Design
First impressions are crucial, and your logo will provide an initial glimpse of your brand for many potential customers. It’s essentially the face of the organization — a visual identity — and it should tell prospective consumers everything they need to know about your business right up front. These emblems set the stage for large-scale brand identity design.
A well-designed logo supports advertising efforts in a variety of ways:
Think of virtually any consumer brand – what immediately pops into your mind? It’s most likely their symbol. For the top brands, logos cross cultural boundaries and international borders, becoming readily recognizable around the globe.
Take Coca-Cola, for instance. By all accounts, it’s one of the most identifiable brands in the world. It doesn’t matter that the logo is written in English, or that it uses a cursive script that reached peak popularity 150 years ago: 90% of people know it when they see it.
That may be an extreme example, but it shows how essential a good logo is to catching the eye of customers in crowded markets.
Logos can tell budding buyers a great deal about your business without having to say anything. Coca-Cola’s Spencerian Script reflects the company’s long history and a core product that has remained virtually unchanged for over 100 years. People choose Coca-Cola because it’s a dependable product. They know what they’re getting from it. Past attempts to mess with the formula have become cautionary tales about brand mismanagement.
Sticking with an old-fashioned logo year after year helps sell the message that the commodity has stood the test of time and that there’s no need to fix what isn’t broken.
FedEx is another great example of a logo that subtly tells customers quite a bit about the brand. It famously hides an arrow within its second syllable suggesting speed, accuracy and reliability in delivering packages to their destinations.
Shortening the company’s original name – Federal Express – to simply FedEx was also a deliberate move to appeal more to consumers rather than government agencies and organizations.
Branding agencies can help design logos that do more than just catch someone’s eye – they establish a clear identity and demonstrate core business values. Whether a company wants to emphasize its historic legacy, cutting-edge and disruptive ideas or no-nonsense professionalism, logo design services can craft a perfect visual representation of those concepts.
2. Brand Messaging
What can you offer customers? How do your services or brand experience compare with the competition’s? What do customers get from your business that they can’t get anywhere else?
Your brand message should answer all these questions and more. It defines what your company is, permeating everything from marketing materials to tag lines to product descriptions.
There are a lot of factors that are wrapped up in brand messaging, including:
- Value proposition.
- Key differentiators.
- Brand principles.
- Organizational culture.
- Target audience.
- Product positioning.
- Brand equity.
Everything your company says should have meaning, and that meaning should always reflect your brand messaging.
Look at Subway: It ran a fairly popular – if unremarkable – fast-food business for decades. Today, it’s the largest fast-food chain in the country, with over 20,000 stores in the United States alone. A big reason for Subway’s success has been its shift in marketing to appeal to health-conscious consumers.
Every branding change and development that has come about over the past couple of years has stressed fresh food and healthy eating. The brand’s tagline, “Eat fresh,” is an obvious example. Even redefining employees as “sandwich artists” shows a commitment to food quality.
By working with a brand agency, businesses can receive expert guidance on how to craft the right message for their audience, industry and organization. In some cases, an existing approach may only need a slight tweak, whereas a full-scale rebranding is necessary in others.
Subway essentially rebranded itself as the nutritious alternative to the most popular fast-food franchises, such as McDonald’s and Wendy’s. Those same brands are now trying to follow Subway’s lead, pushing healthier food items in their marketing.
3. Brand Positioning
This element could easily be considered a subset of brand messaging, but it’s important enough to warrant its own discussion.
In short, it’s how you set yourself apart from industry rivals. What do you bring to the table that’s wholly distinct from other players in your market? If you don’t have a clear answer to that question, it’s going to be difficult to convince potential customers to choose your company over another one.
Branding agencies can help with that, though. Through market research and organizational analysis, they can determine what customers want, what your business can realistically provide and how those offerings compare with your competitors. Your positioning in the marketplace and in customers’ minds is essentially a proxy for your total brand value — It’s the ROI of being who you are.
Creating an effective branding strategy is all about matching your capabilities with your customers’ expectations and desires. Brand agencies aren’t looking to exaggerate or overpromise. They simply want to drill down into what makes your organization unique and find an effective way to showcase those strong points.
4. Brand Voice
Brands are like people in that each one has its own particular way of expressing itself. Some are friendly, some are irreverent, some are strictly professional and some are aspirational. Establishing a brand voice and adhering to it across all touch points, marketing campaigns and customer interactions is vital. Having a robust brand voice solidifies your company’s identity, and any deviation could negatively impact the perception of your organization.
Many companies need help pinpointing what exactly their brand voice should be and how to create it. Again, digital branding agencies thoroughly analyze your industry, customer base and company culture to determine the right strategy. For instance, a playful, conversational brand voice probably wouldn’t be appropriate for the financial services market where customers are looking for expert support and guidance.
5. Brand Style Guide
Once you’ve defined your brand voice, you need to codify it so every employee and stakeholder knows how to follow your branding guidelines. That’s where a style guide comes into play.
Style guides can lay out your brand voice, messaging, design principles and more in precise detail. They instruct your staff members and business partners on the exact language to use in different scenarios, what color schemes to incorporate into design layouts and how to communicate with your core audience most effectively.
In short, it’s your branding bible. Brand agencies will help create in-depth style guides so there’s never any confusion about how to best represent your business.
Embracing your unique brand voice relative to your industry and audience can inform everything from your business card to your go-to-market strategy. A brand voice informs all elements of marketing.
6. Social Media Branding
Many companies struggle with social media branding. On the one hand, you want to have the same consistent branding across all digital marketing channels. On the other, social media platforms like Twitter often lend themselves to more cheeky and playful content.
Businesses need to find a way to stay true to their brand messaging, voice and values while still taking advantage of social media’s inherent strengths. It’s a tricky balancing act, and a lot of organizations wind up falling flat on their faces.
That’s why working with an expert branding agency can be so helpful. They have a keen understanding of what content works on different social media networks and how to effectively use those platforms without sacrificing brand consistency.
Reaching Beyond Products and Services With Employer Branding
Now, when most people hear the word “branding,” they think of how products and services are marketed. That’s valid, but there’s another aspect organizations need to consider: their employer brand. This is how a company sells itself to and is perceived by its employees and other stakeholders in the relevant industry.
In essence, it’s your reputation within the applicable workforce. It also includes your business’ employee value proposition — that is, why someone should or would want to work for you. It’s most important in the context of prospective employees, but it’s also pertinent to current staff members because they’re the ones who write company reviews on job search sites like Glassdoor.
The esteem your organization is held in by employees can make or break your brand. Why? Because as much as you want people to buy from you, you need people to create, deliver and sell your products and services to them.
You are your brand. If you can’t clearly articulate what your brand stands for, then you’re probably going to struggle to convince prospective customers to buy from your business over the competition. Branding services can help you identify your core principles and package those values in a message that resonates with your audience.
Editor’s note: Updated July 2023.