How to build your emotive brand

Are logos heroes or villains? If you work in internal comms, at some point, someone has likely asked you for a logo or to change or update your branding. 

What do you say? I have frequently conversations about branding with my clients, from encouraging them to say no to additional logos, to plotting revised branding following mergers or acquisitions.

Today I have a guest post for you by Joanna Goodwin, Engagement and Outreach lead for Digital Services and Technology at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) here in the UK. ONS uses leading edge technology in a mature and agile environment.

Jo says: “My team and I ensure we are seen as a great place to work, attracting the most talented people to the right jobs as well as building relationships externally to build awareness of the work we do at ONS.” You can contact Jo on Twitter @JoannaGoodwin3 or LinkedIn.

I’ll hand you over…

How to build your emotive brand

Somehow, somewhere, people started to associate a visual identity with the value of the work or team. 

Logos on their own are useless, colours don’t actually matter, and a beautiful piece of design work tells people absolutely nothing about what you are trying to achieve or what you care about. 

Despite their demanding presence, a logo is not your brand. What people think or feel about you is your brand. It is how you are experienced and how others talk about you that defines your brand. When discussing identity, think about the overall experience and not just the logo in isolation. 

A quick game 

Below are the names of some well-known companies. Please pause for a moment on each to notice what you think, feel and associate with that company.  

  • Aldi
  • Marks and Spencer
  •  Haribo
  • Werther’s Original
  • Microsoft
  • Apple

What makes these different? Did you think of the logo? Did you think of a colour? 

Did you think of specific words? Did you visualise people? Did you remember a specific experience? 

What you thought is the emotive brand.

How can you build a brand?

It is important to understand why a request has been made to create, redefine or change a visual identity through a rebranding exercise or through the creation of a new logo. 

Some questions to ask may be:

  • Who is this for?
  • Who are you trying to engage?
  • What are you trying to achieve? 
  • What are your objectives?
  • What is your current identity? 
  • Why do you want this?
  • Where will this visual brand live (please don’t reply with “on stationery”!)?
  • When is a good time to review?
  • How do you relate to your current brand?

If you can clearly define responses to these, it may be a good time to invest in a visual identity. Your organisation may have changed significantly, or your market/audience/users have changed significantly, and you need to move with them. 

If it is the right thing to do, my advice here is to avoid beauty parades.

Remember that logos are usually abstract expressions of an idea so focus on how the visual identity relates to other brand expressions and how an idea works in different situations. 

How do you build your emotive brand?
How people think and feel about you, and how they respond to you as a brand is through every experience they have: through how you communicate, when you communicate and even what you communicate.

As internal comms professionals, how staff connect with your organisation and reflect this to other people (internally and externally) is what builds your brand. You may consider the overall narrative and experiences that happen inside your business. Your internal brand should be consistent with your external brand.

Sub brands
I’ve witnessed individual teams, projects or groups that are part of an organisation want to create a bespoke brand. 

If you have a clear separation from the rest of your organisation, such as a very different audience, separate purpose or conflicting values, you may want a different identity. Be careful to demonstrate the relationship with the primary organisation. 

Too often, entirely unnecessary brands or logos pop up in an organisation, wasting time and damaging the actual brand (and they are very difficult to get rid of once created).

There may be a cool project, silo team or innovative initiative that has spun up some beautiful designs that visually define them and separate them from the rest of the organisation. If you can stop this before it happens, you are a hero!

Often we only know about these too late, so my advice is to recognise how cool, innovative or different it is and then show how it fits with the wider organisation; it fits into the bigger picture and we are proud of their contribution. A good way to demonstrate this is to use the corporate branding and therefore stay part of the organisation’s story, because that story is great and can be amplified through your organisation. 

In short…

Give your logo a break and focus on delivering experiences that will build your brand and gather a deeper understanding of what you are about.

Post author: Jo Goodwin.

First published on the All Things IC blog 25 July 2019. 

Further reading on the All Things IC blog:

Thank you for stopping by, I hope you have a great weekend.


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