Successful brands aren’t built by chance.
Patterns are repeated from one successful brand to the next which is evident in the branding elements used by the world’s most loved brands.
Effective brands are first constructed by a series of elements, which each have a job to do.
When one or more brand elements are absent, so are its function and its contribution to the brand’s growth.
In this article, you’ll learn 26 branding elements to consider in your brand strategy development.
26 Branding Elements For An Effective Brand Strategy
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What Are Branding Elements?
Brands are designed to grow. That is their purpose and the reason they’re initially developed. But how they’re developed wades into the realm of brand strategy and the world every strategist lives in.
A branding element, or a brand element, is an essential part of a functioning brand.
There are many elements within a brand — each of which performs a specific function.
When these elements all function as they should, they combine to influence the reputation of the brand, which lives in the mind of the audience
Are Branding Elements Visual Or Strategic?
The term “branding” has become synonymous with the visual design of a brand, yet the brand identity represents a small fraction of the functioning elements within a brand.
The elements of the brand ecosystem that aren’t visual represent upwards of 90% of the entire brand. Even the branding elements that are designed into the visual world are born from the work within the strategy.
In other words, all branding elements are strategic.
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What Are The Key Elements Of Branding?
So now that we know that a strategic brand is developed from many functioning brand elements, let’s take a closer look at these components and the categories they fall under.
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Brand Substance Elements
Your brand substance is the essence behind your brand. It provides the brand leadership team with an internal compass for making decisions.
Though many businesses create these elements and use them as marketing or website copy, their function is to provide guidance and direction for internal decision-making.
#1 Brand Purpose
The brand purpose is the reason the brand exists beyond the business function, which is, of course, to generate revenue and ultimately a profit.
Defining the purpose of the brand provides meaning to the work of the business and the broader contribution the brand makes to the audience and the wider world.
#2 Brand Vision
The brand vision is the image of the future brand. What will the brand look like in the coming years and what impact will it have on its audience and industry.
The vision is the north star of the brand and provides clear direction as to where it is going and what it intends to become.
#3 Brand Mission
The brand mission is the commitment the brand makes to achieve its vision for the future.
Every brand is build on a reputation. The reputation it builds becomes what it is known for. The brand mission provides that internal clarity to the commitment it has made and the reputation it aims to develop.
#4 Brand Values
Brand values are often misused as a noble piece of website copy designed to impress the audience. But that’s not their function.
Just as people have internal values, they develop to act as a guiding compass for decisions and actions based on what we hold dear.
Therefore, brand values guide the way a brand behaves in the market.
Brand Positioning Elements
Brand positioning elements provide the key components that form the brand’s position.
The position represents the core reason the audience would choose one brand over another.
This differentiating reason is formulated from understanding who the audience is, what options they already have in the market through their competitors, and how the brand aims to provide something different through outcome or experience.
#5 Audience Persona
Brands exist to serve the needs of a given audience. Without that audience there is no need to exist. Everything the brand does has an end goal of appealing to that audience to ultimately influence their buying decisions.
The more that’s understood about a brand’s audience, the better the brand is positioned to appeal to who they are and what they want.
#6 Competitor Research
Second to understanding the audience is understanding the options that the audience already has in the market.
Every market is made up of a set of competitors all vying for the attention and ultimately the money of a certain market segment.
Understanding who these competitors are, what they offer and how the target consumer perceives these options is critical to defining an effective position.
#7 Differentiation Strategy
Only with an intimate understanding of who the audience is and the competitive landscape can you effectively define a difference your brand offers and ultimately a position it wants to own.
This difference represents the core reason you give your audience for choosing your brand over your competitors.
#8 Positioning Statement
With clarity on the market landscape from the audience to the competitors and the defining difference, the brands can develop an effective positioning statement.
Much like the internal statements of the brand substance, this statement is not designed as a piece of marketing.
Again, it’s a clarity statement to provide direction for the rest of the brand development, from brand personality to messaging and beyond.
Brand Persona Elements
Today, we live in the world of the human brand. The brands we do business with are the ones that have learned how to appeal to who we are as people and align themselves with the characteristics we’re drawn to.
The brand persona is the set of components that represent how to brand will resonate with it’s intended customers from the way it speaks to the personality traits it leverages.
#9 Brand Archetype
Archetypes were introduced by psychiatrist Carl Jung in the early 20th century as a model for categorizing all personalities into 12 core categories.
Archetypes we’re then adopted into the realm of branding and marketing as a means to connect with audiences on a human level through the traits they’re attracted to.
#11 Brand Language
A brand’s language plays a significant role in appealing to the right audience. For example, a formal language profile aimed at the wrong audience can make a brand feel disconnected.
On the flip side, an informal language profile aimed at the wrong audience can make the brand seem unprofessional. Finding the right balance for the right audience is key.
#12 Tone Of Voice
The brand voice can help to strike the right chord with the intended audience.
Leveraging the direction from the archetypes and personality development, the tone of voice should provide the brand with a tool of influence for brand expression from messaging to visual identity.
Brand Communication Elements
The brand position and the brand persona provide the brand with something to talk about and the way to deliver it, but knowing what to say is developed in the communication strategy.
#13 Brand Name
The brand name is one of the most influential elements of the entire brand.
It acts as the front-line of the brand and the first opportunity to plant a seed in the mind of the audience as to why it should be remembered.
The primary role of the name is to be remembered. Only when it’s memorable can it perform it’s secondary role which is to align the brand with the position it intends to own.
The tagline can become on of the most memorable elements of the entire brand. It reflects the brand personality and secures a position for it in people’s minds.
Much like the brand name, the tagline is simply a set of words that the brand aims to embed in the mind of the audience to create a memory link back to the brand, it’s experience and it’s difference.
An effective tagline can go a long way to solidifying a brand’s position in the market
#15 Key Messages
Much is said and written about a “core message” which supposedly represents the message that brand aims to communicate to the audience.
While a core message can distil what the brand aims to communicate, it’s not a very effective tool of communication.
You can’t simply repeat the same message over an over across all channels.
Instead, effective brands require a set of key messages designed to influence how the brand is perceived. These key messages act as a framework and a guiding tool for all brand communication across all channels.
#16 Storytelling Framework
Every brand has an origin story, though this story is not always the one that should be told.
Many people use a storytelling framework as the foundation of their marketing strategy. But beware, as in your audience’s perspective, they are the hero — not you. Only a story that resonates with who they are, the journey they’re on, the challenges they encounter and the goals they have will resonate.
A brand story, therefore, is a story from the brand, not about the brand.
Brand Identity Elements
The brand identity elements represent the most widely recognized elements of branding.
These design elements are the ones people typically think of when they think of a strong brand. They’re the ones reflected in marketing materials and saved as templates for creating collateral.
Misrepresentation aside, the visual identity remains integral to the brand and how it influences the audience’s perceptions.
We are visual creatures and the visual identity can align the brand with an idea, a mood, a look and a feel.
The logo is without a doubt the most broadly understood branding element. In fact, it has become synonymous with the term “brand,” so much so that many people use both terms interchangeably, which causes obvious confusion.
Much like the brand name and tagline, the logo represents a significant opportunity to plant a seed in the mind of the audience and sear the brand image to memory. Most consumers would be able to spot Apple’s logo anywhere, for example.
Logo design is one of the most complex skills a designer can master as any logo has mere seconds to create a lasting impression.
Typography represents a major influence of the overall brand identity an the image it creates.
Every typeface holds its own distinct characteristics, which can be used to corner a specific image of how the brand intends to be known.
The right or wrong choice of type can make or break a brand identity system.
#19 Colour Palette
As people, we have a primitive relationship with color, which can influence how we feel.
Strategists and designers need to understand this relationship and the impact it can have on perceptions and align the color palette of the brand with the emotions it wants to evoke.
Brand colors are one of the most effective and influential tools in the entire brand element arsenal.
#20 Image Style
Images style can be designed to become one of the most recognized if not the most recognized element of an entire brand identity system.
Images have the ability to capture a mood or a tone, a style or an emotion, an idea or a belief.
Designing an effective image style that aligns with the strategy of the brand and the personality it wants to display is entirely down to the characteristics and traits that flow from the strategy.
Only when an image style communicates the strategy traits is the element performing its function.
Iconography can enhance the overall brand experience and create cohesion from one brand presence to another.
The main function of iconography is the demonstrate a cohesive and visual brand experience whether its through the brand’s website, it’s packaging or it’s physical store.
#22 Graphics / Illustration
Much like the image style, graphics and illustration represent an opportunity to provide a distinctive and memorable cue that the audience can recall.
The more distinct and unique the graphics, the easier it is for the audience to store this experience to memory but as with all elements, it can ony be as unique as the strategy allows.
Brand Presence Elements
The brand presence is how the brand comes together in the digital and physical world. Whether through an engaging podcast, an informative blog, and in-store experience or a tangible booklet, every brand presence element is the fusion of strategy and expression.
The website represents the brand’s digital home and has become essential for digital or physical businesses.
The website’s design, from the visual interface to the functioning user experience, is often the front lines of the brand and where the audience gets the first opportunity to understand how it fits into their lives.
An effective website should provide enough information for the visitor to understand and enough incentive for the target audience to take action.
#24 Social Channels
This is a social world and social media have become a tool for brand expression.
Branded social channels should not only look and feel like the brand, they should sound like the brand.
Without a doubt, branded social channels are one of the most effective ways for brands to demonstrate their personality and raise brand awareness through engagement and content distribution.
#25 Content & Advertisements
Knowing the target audience provides the brand with insights to make strategic marketing decisions for the placement of messages in the market.
Whether through branded content helping the audience to understand, choose or overcome a channel, or a well-placed advertisement inviting them to take action, these strategic messages are what will help to make connections and raise awareness.
#26 Physical Store
Though many modern businesses live online, physical stores represent a unique tangible experience that is being lost.
Brands with the advantage of physical traffic and the expense of a physical store had better be making the most of their tangible environment by creating an experience that aligned with the brand’s intended position.
Over To You
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, successful brands don’t just happen by chance.
They are meticulously built through a series of elements designed to function like cogs in a machine.
Only when all the cogs are in place performing their intended function can the brand achieve the traction it desires to move the business forward.
How many of these elements have you included in your brand building processes?
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