"A brand is a living entity—and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures." - Michael Eisner, Former Walt Disney CEO

How to Tell Companies Apart

Nike. McDonald’s. Starbucks. Google. Calvin Klein.
These companies are household names. They established themselves not only because of the products/services they offer but also through a strong brand. What exactly is that?
The American Marketing Association defines a brand as, “A name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s products or services as distinct from those of other sellers.Additionally, it includes specific values, messages, imagery and more that convey a company’s story: What do they do and why do they do it? How do they want their customers to perceive them? When used in conjunction with a name, a brand helps consumers identify a company and separate it from its competitors.
When a brand is first established, it doesn’t have any value. There is no history or action to convince a company’s audience that the company is what they say they are (e.g. sustainable or innovative). Through reinforcing imagery and messaging over time, a brand will convey a company’s core beliefs and trustworthiness—or lack thereof.

Defining Your Brand

Before the world can know your brand, you need to know it. You should be able to answer these questions:

    • Does your company fill a need? If so, how? 
    • What products or services do you offer?
    • How do you want your audience to perceive your company?
    • What is your company’s vision? What does it value?
  • Why are you in business?
While not an exhaustive list, these questions can serve as a starting point in developing your brand’s foundation.

Branding: What to Know

When it comes to creating or maintaining your brand, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Everything you do affects your brand

A press release, social media update, new acquisition, or product launch affect how an audience perceives a company. That’s why you need effective messaging and imagery that supports your brand.
We’ve seen a lot of good examples of poor decisions that have negatively reflected on a company. How companies handle disasters (such as BP’s oil spill in 2010), their response to negative press (Smucker’s deleting Facebook comments) or attempts to market in real time (Cheerio’s Prince tweet and American Apparel’s insensitive post) can make or break a company, their identity and their reputation. Some make faux pas while others experience full-on PR nightmares.
Mistakes happen, but the goal is to avoid them from occurring as much as possible. Ensure employees across all departments and levels understand the brand inside and out.

Make sure your messaging is consistent

If there’s one key takeaway, it’s that you need to be consistent. There are ways to address popular culture and world events that stay true to your company and its values. When you understand your brand, you can apply it to various conversations that your audience are having.
Every company should have a guideline. The guideline includes everything from logo to company voice and tone to primary and secondary colors to how to treat product names. Employees will use this guideline to make decisions for the company, including collateral pieces, social postings and other messaging.
Twitter has an excellent guideline that details the proper use of the Twitter icon. This guideline includes a summary of how not to use the logo, logo misuse examples, fonts, colors, and more. You should make this information public so third parties can adhere to your guidelines as well.
Page 2 of Twitter’s brand guidelines details the basic overview of what not to do to their logo.
Examples of logo misuse from page 7 of Twitter’s brand guidelines.
Twitter’s primary and secondary brand colors are laid out in page 8 of the brand guidelines.

Any variation—such as a different shade of green in your logo—no matter how slight, can be confusing for your customers. Foster familiarity to help your audience perceive your company for the aspects important to you.

Your logo is not your brand

Your logo is not your brand, but it’s a vital part of it. A brand is the feeling your audience has about your products, services and company. It differentiates you from like-companies and explains your company’s values and mission.

A logo is the visual representation of your brand. Wherever your audience sees this logo, they will know that it is part of your brand.  So, if they see your company’s product or ad, they will associate their feelings about your company toward it.

Your brand may need to change

A company may need to change its brand, logo or both due to acquisitions, mergers, and time. For instance, Office Depot had acquired rival OfficeMax. So when Office Depot and OfficeMax merged, the company combined logos and websites instead of creating a new identity.

In 2011, Starbucks marked their 40th year in business by introducing a crisp, minimalist version of their siren logo. Established in 1971, Starbucks has seen 4 variations of its logo. Each variation meant to mark a milestone or a change in business and celebrate their growth as a company.
Another reason for changing a brand is to distance a company from negative views (take Academi/Xe/Blackwater, for example). Changes can be as “simple” as a logo redesign, but other situations may call for a new identity. A new identity would means a name change, new logo, different color palette, and etcetera. Whether you need a re-brand or are on the fence about needing one, you should call in a professional branding agency.

Branding Offerings

Here is a comprehensive list of some of the services we offer at Paragraphs.

Brand Guidelines

A guideline helps you design websites, marketing collateral, advertisements, promotional giveaways and more. It includes all elements of your brand and how designers should treat it. These elements include:


    • Logo, including recommended sizes; spacing; adaptations; examples of incorrect usage
    • Color palettes: Corporate (main colors) and extended (complementary)
    • Typography: Corporate and extended
    • Photography: Rules for product shots, acceptable/unacceptable modifications and stock photo use
  • Illustrations, acceptable/ unacceptable style rules


    • Tagline/slogan
    • Print collateral: Rules for Corporate, franchises and products
    • Advertising: Logo/wordmark treatment and advertising for corporate, franchises and products
    • Trade show booth, exhibit or display designs
  • Promotional items: Wordmark treatment and acceptable giveaway items
As your brand voice evolves, you need to update this guide so everyone involved in creating collateral is on the same page.

Brand Platforms

Maintaining a brand requires constant, consistent effort. A focused strategy can help your company keep on-brand across all mediums. We ensure that every campaign helps support your messaging.
We’ve seen marketers get “tunnel-vision.” This means constant brand interaction gives them in-depth knowledge but stifles creativity. Internal marketing departments may feel constrained by whereas others are not sure how much liberty they can take. So if you’re unsure of what to do, you’ll want to call in an expert.

Corporate Identity/Logos

What visual best represents your brand? Some companies choose to use a wordmark (logotype) for their visuals. Recognizable examples are Google, Sony, CNN and 3M. Others opt for an image—Nike’s famous swoosh, McDonald’s Golden arches and Starbuck’s siren—that accompanies their name. As the brand becomes more recognizable, visuals often stand as company’s sole representation.

Launch Programs

Launching a new product or service is as exciting is it is nerve-wracking. How do you ensure it becomes a hit and stays one?
    • Make sure your product or service fulfills a need: Does it fill a niche or create efficacy? If not, you may doom the launch from the start.
    • Reiterate the benefits and effects this product or service will have. How will it impact the user?
    • Get people excited. Give enough information to stir hype, but not enough to flat line your launch before it gets a chance to live.
  • Host an event to get individuals involved. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, but a launch event can set the moment for the new product or service.
Companies whose launches align will their brands will see more success than those who don’t.


What’s in a name? A whole identity! For the same reasons parents scour through baby naming books, companies take their time in thinking up the ideal name. What name best represents what this company is—or what we want it to be?

Like your logo, your company’s name will evoke the feelings your audience has for your brand. It also needs to make sense. Let’s look back at popular social media platform Twitter. Twitter means “a series of short, high-pitched calls or sounds,” as of a bird. The logo is a blue bird and the action of posting on the platform is “tweeting.” Thus, Twitter makes sense as a name, as Twitter only allows users to post content in 140 characters or less.

Who is your company?

It’s a question that companies define each day through messaging, new products, acquisitions and more. A company’s brand tells customers who they are, what they aim to achieve and how. And when customers are on-board with your brand, they trust you and they believe you will do what you say you will do. They’ll go back to use your services every time.

For all forms of brand consultation, B2B marketing strategies or general business advice, say hello to Paragraphs today.

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