When studying strategies and concepts that form a brand, designers and marketing professionals must consider the future of a company/organization. The individuals who make the decision to rebrand or begin a new company most often do not plan on having to rebrand again anytime soon. They begin the process with the intention of the design system lasting for many years to come, despite changes in trends and markets. For this and many more reasons, branding is about more than just looking good. It is about longevity, strength, recognition and trust.
To have longevity, a brand must possess the ability to grow while still maintaining the original design. For example, since the creation of Apple Computer Co. in 1976, the shape of the apple has stayed the same, but the colors, fonts, and overall feel of the company have morphed the brand into what it is today. Similarly, Starbucks has maintained the same elements of its original branding, the green color and the mermaid image, but has simplified the visual throughout the years without losing the initial concept.
What is really difficult for brands to predict is the eventual creation of sub-brands, or a “brand within a brand.” This can become tricky because sub-brands cannot just be totally out of left field. They must be able to pair with the existing brand and fall within preset brand guidelines. Perhaps J.Crew creates a new line of clothing that is completely different from their normal items. This line is obviously separate from the regular clothing items the store sells, but is still a J.Crew clothing line. The owners want the line to be highly marketed and to have a special display within the stores. This calls for the line to have its own name, color scheme, font, and overall aesthetic. The marketing team must assess the clothing line and determine who it is being marketed to. They must refer to the pre-existing brand guidelines so that this new line will still be recognizable as a J.Crew brand.
The creation of a sub-brand can cause marketing teams to implode, but they don’t have to. The designers and marketing professionals just have to plan accordingly. When creating the core branding, it is imperative that any and all potential problems are addressed and given a solution. How can we ensure that we are still recognizable as a brand? Require the usage of certain colors and fonts. How do we know what colors and fonts to require? Think of the market you are trying to reach, how they look with the core brand, and what message you are trying to convey. By hashing out these potential problems, it will be easy to create a brand guidelines packet that can be kept for future reference. This packet will address all of the problems and solutions, as well as give requirements for the future sub-brands, advertisements, press releases, letterhead, or anything else with their logo on it.
Any branding requires an immense amount of thought and research. A company’s brand is a symbol of success and unity. It must stand the test of time. Sub-brands allow brands to be trendy and attract new markets, but should never take away from the identity of the company. It is important for guidelines to be set so that a brand can continue to be recognized and trusted for many years to come.
Graphic by Molly Wallace