Brands are an undisputed part of the modern life. Everywhere we go, whenever we buy or use something, more than likely, there is a brand somewhere nearby. However, out of the millions of brands around the world, only a handful have what it takes to stand out from the rest. These are the brands that come to our mind when we buy groceries, getting a takeout meal, and even when just browsing the web.
How did these brands become cemented in our minds? What makes you think of Starbucks when someone takes you for a coffee? What immediately Turns out, what these brands have that lesser-known ones don’t is the right “brand experience”.
Every strong brand starts with a strong visual language. A brand’s visuals are likely to be the first point of contact between the brand and the consumer. Therefore, visuals need to be unique, memorable, and most importantly – reflect the brand characteristics. A brand’s visuals are not set in stone. Since it reflects the brand characteristics, it makes perfect sense to update the visuals as the brand grows and evolves.
What does a good visual language look like? From many of the most recognizable brands today, we can see that they have a consistent, modern, and striking visual elements, from logos and icons to photography, art style, and typography. Consistency is the key to making the brand’s visual elements easily identifiable by its customers. When you go to a Taco Bell, you see the color purple everywhere from their logo, outlet exterior and interior, marketing materials, and menu – this purple aesthetic is unmistakably Taco Bell – whenever you see a picture of food on a purple background, you think of Taco Bell.
Modernization is also vital in designing a brand’s visual language for the competitive market. Whether it’s a new or established brand, a modern visual language indicates a more dynamic, up-to-date, and adaptive brand. This is why so many brands redesigned their logos - to deliver a fresher aesthetic, to convey changes in their ever-evolving missions and values, and to reach newer audiences.
This is the brand’s voice and tone – It is the personality with which the brand talks to its customers. In essence, the brand’s verbal language embodies the spirit of the people working for the brand when talking with you. You would expect a construction company to sound like a construction foreman: masculine and authoritative, while an ad for a beauty product to sound like a supermodel: soft and elegant. Deciding how the brand expresses itself verbally is a complex and calculated process, but the results speak for themselves, as exemplified by these brands:
Upon hearing or reading the first sentence uttered in their advertising, you instantly recognize the brand’s personality: Old Spice is masculine and witty, Dove is feminine and empowering, and Apple is young, smart and dynamic.
The relationship between a brand and its customer is bidirectional: the brand communicates how the customers should think about the brand, and the customers see the brand as a reflection of their true selves. This form of “self-expression” is even more important in the age of social media, where consumers freely share their experiences and are exposed to a huge number of brands. In a saturated market, brands rarely have a truly unique selling proposition, therefore, brand expression often becomes the sole distinguishing feature of the brand and the reason why a potential customer would choose a brand over another.
A great example of brand expression can be seen in a Starbucks outlet, where the multitude of options for beverages, along with customization options, completed by a small touch of naming each cup of beverage, creates a brand experience that is personal, fun, and customizable. For young and hip customers, a cup of coffee from Starbucks is an opportunity to express how they like their coffee best, made by a dynamic and fun brand, and to show off their cup of their venti double-shot caramel frappuccino with extra whipped cream and caramel on Instagram to boot. Compared to a cup of joe sold in a convenience store, there is no comparison – Starbucks wins the brand expression contest every time.