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Graphic Design & Marketing

What is Branding?


Branding is what you probably think it is... yes, think about the poor grazing cattle that ranchers want to claim as their own. So they burn a mark into their hide so anyone looking at their cattle knows it is theirs. To take the thought a little further, if the rancher had a reputation of being a loving, caring rancher, people finding his or her lost cattle would return them—knowing they would be cared for. On the other hand, if the rancher had a reputation as a mean, nasty, lowdown (you get the point) cowpoke who treated his or her cattle poorly, someone finding their cattle might set them free or hide them in a barn. People will react to each rancher's reputation.

Get the point? The brand mark on the cattle carried with it the reputation of the rancher. The reputation became synonymous with the brand mark. Every company has a brand mark (logo) that consumers assign a reputation to—the reputation that we assign to it becomes the company's brand (in our mind). Each person has their own perception of different companies, but many of us tend to think alike, and share our opinions with others. Word-of-mouth advertising is one of the most powerful marketing and branding strategy a company has. If we trust a person, we will listen to their opinions—and we tend to but products and services that trusted friends and family recommend.

There is a flip side to the cattle/rancher example. Companies also try to assign a reputation to themselves. That is, they try to define their own brand (reputation) BEFORE customers do. In the business and marketing world this is called branding. Companies use marketing strategies, advertising, and graphic design to communicate their brand to their customers (target market).

Branding is simply: What people think and feel when they interact with your company.

"Interact" could mean seeing your logo, web site, packaging, print ad, etc. It could be trying your product or service. Or it could be interacting with your products or services in a retail store setting. When I taste your coffee, eat your sandwich, use your web site, call on your phone, get my car fixed at your garage, etc., I am forming brand opinions about your company. It is this brand reputation that I remember when I go shopping again, or when I tell a friend which products of services I like.

Consider your own experiences with branding… What brands are you loyal to right now? Phone, Music, restaurants, clothes, cereal, beverages, cars, TV channels, radio channels, coffee, toothpaste, college, sports teams, computers, software, fast food, etc. What “brand words” do they own in your mind? Where did your brand loyalties come from? When?

Building Brand Identity

Graphic designers work with companies and marketing people to design an identity that people can grow to like and get to know.

A brand identity includes a logo, packaging, web site, advertisements, vehicle graphics, posters, signage, brochures, business cards, letterhead, apps, etc. Everything that visually represents the company or organization.

Designers use color, shape, words, typography, art, photos, layout, and repeatable design elements to create a brand identity.

Like this:


Let's identify the elements this designer used to design the Windhill Books brand above:

  1. Color: c40 m10 y80 k0 Green, c5 m40 y80 k0 Orange
  2. Shape: Rolling hill
  3. Words: Tagline--Children's books and gifts to inspire…
  4. Typography: Source Sans Pro family
  5. Art & Photos: Rolling hills, b/w photos cropped close
  6. Layout: White space, single large image, light & airy mood
  7. Repeatable design elements: Color, logo, white space, b/w photos featuring real customers - up close, rolling hills, transparent areas, dragonfly brandmark, and limited gradients - mostly solid, flat colors.

It takes time, but once people begin to recognize your logo, packaging, web site, etc., you begin to achieve brand recognition. Brand recognition, with a quality, in-demand product, then leads to brand loyalty.

How is Brand Loyalty Built?

First, and foremost, you have to have a product, service, or idea that people want or need on a consistent and ongoing basis. No amount of marketing, sales, or amazing graphic design work will keep a product successful if the product isn't liked by consumers.

However, if you do have a good product, service or idea, three things can help your visual branding campaign build brand loyalty in your customers.

  1. A Good Product
    No amount of advertising, branding, cool logo design, celebrity endorsement, etc., will make a product or service successful if the people don't like it. Period. To be successful a business needs repeat customers, and customers need to like something to buy it more than once.
  2. Consistency
    Always use the same brand elements: type, color, art, layout, photos, etc. ALWAYS! This is why brand style guides and brand standards manuals are created.
  3. Exposure
    Get your brand message to your customers using appropriate and differing types of media: the Web, email, newspaper ads, TV, radio, billboards, trade shows, brochures, posters, direct mail, etc.
  4. Repetition
    Find and clarify your brand message, then keep it in front of your customers as often as possible. Don't over-saturate their lifestyle, but keep your brand message in front of them and fit it into their lifestyle often. For example: If your customers like baseball, and your product is a sporting goods retail store, get your name in front of them by buying advertising space at a ball park, or on the local team's printed schedule.

So, where does a Graphic Designer Fit into this Picture?

Graphic designers help companies communicate their brands to target markets using their expertise as visual communicators. We create the "look" that customers see when they interact with the company's brand—this is know as the Brand Identity.


What do Clients Sell or Market?

Most businesses and organizations sell one of four things:

  1. Products. These are tangible products that we can touch and feel like food, toys, tools, radios, computers, cars, cosmetics, books, furniture, etc.
  2. Services. These are usually intangible things that we purchase like health care, financial advise, web site hosting, cable television, phone service, an auto mechanic's knowledge, education, home cleaning services, a caterer serving food at your wedding, etc.
  3. Ideas. Or sometimes ideals. These are usually intangible things like ideas promised by a politician, or a new concept taught by a teacher, or a new theory marketed by a researcher to prove themselves worthy of government or private funding.
  4. A combination of product, service and idea. This includes many things listed in 1, 2 and 3. When you hire a wedding photographer you buy their service (their knowledge, training and expertise as a photographer) and their product (usually printed wedding photos). A college professor may have a new idea that he or she wants to sell, but they can only tell a limited number of students face-to-face. So they put their ideas on the Web in an eBook, or in a printed book, and sell it as a product.
What is Marketing?

Marketing is when something valued is exchanged with each party benefiting afterward.

It is important that each party benefit, or there will be negative, long-term effects. For example, if gas suddenly cost 5¢ per gallon, there would be plenty of demand and customers to buy it. But the gas stations wouldn't last very long because they wouldn't make enough profit to pay their bills and stay in business—they would have to raise their prices. On the other hand, if gas suddenly cost $15 per gallon, the gas stations would make a bundle, but soon there wouldn't be anyone who could afford to buy gas. We would begin to ride bikes, motorcycles, public transportation, car-pool, etc. Soon the gas stations would have to reduce the price of gas, or risk going out-of-business. So, both parties must benefit from the exchange.

There are two ways to "go to market" with a product, service or idea.

  1. Finding out what a buyer needs and wants and satisfying them with a product or service.
    Example: I work in a furniture store and customers frequently come in and ask for red dining chairs. Our store doesn't sell red dining chairs because we can't find a manufacturer that makes them. So, I take this information from our customers' requests and start a business making and selling red dining chairs.
  2. Presenting a product or service to potential consumers—hopefully resulting in a purchase

Why Use Marketing ?

  1. To inform and educate your potential customer
  2. To build brand identification and brand loyalty
  3. To influence, persuade, and comfort consumers before a purchase
  4. To comfort consumers after a purchase

The Four P’s of Marketing

These are "controllable marketing mix factors " that marketers consider when launching and managing a brand for a product, service, or idea.

  1. Product. A good, service,or idea to satisfy the consumer’s needs
  2. Price. What is exchanged for a product.
  3. Promotion. A means of communicating between the buyer and seller. (Advertising)
  4. Placement. A means of getting the product into the customer's hands.

Strong brands "own" a few words in our hearts and minds

What do you want people to think about when they see your client’s new logo, direct mail piece, web site or advertisement? When customers think of strong brands, they usually think of short phrases or single words.

The stronger and clearer the brand, usually the more focused the message (brand) is in the minds of consumers. Your brand words should be a benefit that your customers will want.

Here are strong brands and the words people associate with them:

The list of strong brands goes on and on. Your goal with the brand section of this page is to write down 2-3 words that you want people to think of whenever they see your logo, colors, packaging, web site, retail store, products, etc. You must choose 2-3 words that your customers will think of consistently when they interact with your brand. These words will set the direction for your entire brand identity. Everything you design will reflect your client’s brand and message.




Know Client's Message