20 May 2024, 09:17
By Jeremy Stein May 16, 2016

Building a brand #3 – Physique

Since it was established in 1970, the BCFA has observed the impact of multiple brand tactics on its members’ value – both that perceived by the public and stakeholders, and that evidenced financially through sales and profit. In the third of a series of articles exploring brand building, Jeremy Stein examines how important it is to get the tangible attributes of a brand right …

The previous articles in our brand-building series have explored the positive impact a strong personality and values can have on a company’s profile. Once these have been identified, planning of the physical elements – the brand’s physique – can begin.

These tangible attributes are, like the material world itself, almost infinite, but every element, from the logo to company name, website to social media presence, must encapsulate the essence of a brand’s identity and successfully impart this to the customer.

Giep Franzen and Sandra E Moriarty noted in The Science and Art of Branding that “all the possible ways in which a brand manifests itself to consumers play a role in the development of the mental brand in their memory”, and the elements which make up a brand’s physique do indeed dictate how customers experience, perceive and remember a company.

Astrong company identity and personality can be deemed almost pointless if the physical elements do not convey these to customers.

What’s in a name?
In the context of branding, the answer to this question cannot be overestimated. The name will appear on almost – if not all – brand material, and act as the means by which a company identifies and differentiates itself from its competition. Shakespeare may have said that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, but the impact of a company’s signature brand value cannot be prized too highly.

The inspiration behind brand names are multiple and varied, and each is equally valid. What is imperative if the name is to add value to a company is that it successfully embodies the brand’s values and personality and communicates these effectively to customers. Whether inspired by the name of a founder, the story behind a company’s inception or simply the sound of the word, it should contain and evoke the essence of the brand.  

Tech giant Samsung tapped into word association and meaning when selecting its title. Based in Seoul, the company’s title comprises the word ‘Sam’, which means ‘three’, and ‘Sung’, which means ‘stars’. This is a Korean symbol referred to as ‘hanja’, which connotes notions of size and power. 

The web effect
A company’s website is another element of its brand physique which can successfully add to, or detract from, brand value. Sales-driver, customer relationship builder and source of information, inspiration and knowledge, the benefits of an effective online presence cannot be underestimated.

In our digital age, this is often one of the first ways customers experience companies, and today it is almost a given that any brand has some kind of web presence. The fact that the UK Government launched a campaign encouraging companies to get on the web is an indicator of the growing importance of online business. Although aimed solely at small companies, it evidences the way the world – in interiors and in general – is becoming increasingly digitised.

“Whether inspired by the name of a founder, the story behind a company’s inception or simply the sound of the word, the name should contain and evoke the essence of the brand”

Aesthetics and functionality are both integral to a successful online presence. Colours, images and fonts create an appropriate look, feel and experience for customers, but – perhaps especially in the design industry – functionality is a growing concern. Extra features add value to the customer experience, and making visitors’ interactions with a brand easy and pleasurable in this way has a positive effect on their relationship with the company – much like our interactions in life.

Leveraging the logo
The logo is another strand of a company’s physical form which strongly impacts on brand value. Perhaps the most widely seen and used insignia after the brand name, and appearing on all tangible company elements, it is important the logo embodies and imparts the brand’s values and personality to customers through the right mix of typographical elements, colour and imagery.

When it meets these criteria, a logo can drive instant sales upon recognition, as well as foster a connection between company and customer.

Like a name and website, logos can also be updated and altered as values and identities are tweaked. Google recently launched a new version of its own. The new insignia reflected not an overhaul of identity, but an update. Reflecting the multiple new ways the brand works across strands such as Search, Maps, Gmail and Chrome, a blog post explained how it took “the best of Google (simple, uncluttered, colorful, friendly), and recast it not just for the Google of today, but for the Google of the future”.

At the BCFA we too have seen the positive effect a well-designed logo can have. Our most recent logo grew from a desire for a modern, recognisable and distinctive marker. We approached a number of specialist design agencies, but then decided to utilise the links we had to universities and colleges through our Beyond Education initiative and held a logo competition.

The winner was designed by University of Derby graduate Steven Titchener, and was selected by unanimous vote. The image is distinctive and memorable, and has helped promote the association as modern and forward-thinking. We saw an instant uptake in its use amongst our members upon its introduction – an incredibly important endorsement for us as an association. 

On form
Numerous other elements make up a brand’s physique in addition to its name, logo and website. Anything which contributes to the customer’s experience with the company falls into this category – including social media activity, advertising, packaging, events, press coverage and interiors. 

What is important in each and every aspect is that it effectively embodies and evokes the company’s brand values and personality. The latter will need to be strongly defined before creation of the physical elements can even be contemplated, as every physical facet needs to be coherent and constant for brand success. If the physical elements are successful, they will build customer recognition and trust, and – perhaps most importantly – add value.  

A guide to style
Creating a set of style guidelines is a useful way to ensure every aspect of a brand’s physique is coherent. These include voice – the tone of company communication plays an important role in the way a brand is perceived. Selecting key words which denote the desired personality; such as ‘direct’, ‘friendly’ or ‘authoritative’, can help keep communication on track.

Colour is also important. The exact shades utilised in the company colour scheme should be detailed. Sometimes this will include bespoke shades, so full and complete information is essential. Finally, the font should be indicated. This may change depending on the audience or medium, and should be clearly outlined.

Jeremy Stein is MD of the British Contract Furnishing Association (BCFA), which boasts over 250 members including manufacturers, suppliers and designers. The next article, exploring value, will be posted next week.

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