What is a brand?

To fully understand branding, marketing and advertising strategies, it is crucial to understand what a brand is. People often associate a brand with a company’s logo, its name or a packaging and while that is partially true, it leaves out many other components of a healthy brand.

In the academic literature, we can find several different definitions of a brand, some go more into detail and some are broader. At blckeye, we like to go with the saying “Everything you do creates your brand.”

To make this easier to understand, let’s break down the term brand into a few different facets.

Brand Values

Brand values are basically what makes the personality of your brand. In branding theory, brands are often described by using adjectives normally attributed to human behaviour. Examples are funny, light-hearted, active, adventurous and so on. Brand values are one of the first things that you should figure out when creating your brand; There are a few creative and strategic exercises out there that help you to figure out your brand values, which we will explain later this year on our blog, so stay tuned.

Why is it important to figure out your brand values? Because they will influence all other aspects of your branding. A classy brand will rather use black and white than pink, sustainability-focused companies often use green (even though that’s really really overused). A cheeky brand will probably crack more jokes on social media than a classy 2-star Michelin restaurant and the logo of an adventurous brand will surely look different than the one of an insurance.

Visual Identity

The first and most obvious part of your brand is its visual identity; th way your brand looks, the colours it uses or is displayed in, its logo, packaging and other visual cues like the images you use and the way you design graphics.

This part of the concept brand is by far the easiest to grasp as its well in line with what most people mean when they use the term.

While you are probably well aware of the colour choices you made, the way your logo looks and how you designed the sign of your restaurant or your product’s package, there are several smaller things you should consider when designing your visual identity.

Everything you do creates your brand. So, everything visual you use in your establishment contributes to how your brand is perceived (more on brand image vs. brand identity in a future blog post).

A few good examples of less obvious visual cues are the type of plates you use, the way your food is arranged on the plate or the employees you choose.

An authentic Thai restaurant will benefit more from employees with a clear visual Thai (or at least Southeast Asian) origin than it does from waiters with blond or red hair and obvious European heritage.  This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t hire people who don’t fit the ethnicity of your cuisine but to pay attention to details. If authenticity and “the real feeling of Thai street food” is at the core of your brand, make sure that everything is in line with that. If the core of your brand is “Traditional Thai food reinvented”, having Thai employees, while still being a plus, becomes less important.

When we look at plates and cutlery, it is easy to fall for the very standard white or black plates and normal silver cutlery found in every Ikea. But consider you are selling different sandwiches and bread dishes resembling Austrian and South-German dinner traditions, wouldn’t it be cooler to serve it on a nice wooden board with the knife sticking in the wood, your logo brand marked into it?

There are several small details in a restaurant that will contribute and shape your brand, far too many to name them all, but feel free to comment your most overlooked visual cue in the comments below!

Brand Voice

Not only does it matter how you look, it also matters how you sound. The way you communicate on social media, how your employees talk to guests (generally how they behave) and how your website texts are written influences how guests and visitors perceive you and how clear your brand values shine through.
An area often overlooked in terms of branding are recipes or invoices. While you are bound to include certain information in a specific format (depending on your country’s regulations), no one is keeping you from adding a second sheet of paper or a small thank you card to your recipes. You can also add a single line of text at the end of the guest’s copy. Use this extra space to crack a joke, thank your guests for coming or inform them about something unique to your brand. If your brand is very edgy and young, you might add the simple line “Tip or I flip”, if you are informal and community-oriented you might want to end the payment experience with “Thanks for dropping by, it’s been a blast.”

There are many choices to be made in regards to brand voice and the choices of words you use. When constructing this part of your brand, make sure to not only include words you like but also words you dislike and don’t want to use for your brand.

Additionally, your brand voice not only includes what you say but also where you say it. When creating your brand, it is also worth to look at different communication channels like social media platforms, out of home advertising, radio or outdoor signs. A very traditional brand doesn’t necessarily have to be on Instagram and a hipster café shouldn’t use classic out of the home advertisement. Of course, like with every other rule, there are exceptions to the rule and a creative out-of-home campaign can also deliver interesting results for an underground bar; it all comes down to the how, the what and the fit between brand and idea. And this is one of the most important things about branding: everything contributes to your brand. Branding is internal as it is external: the way you talk and treat your suppliers and employees effects your brand image in the same way the plates, your logo and your slogan do. Starbucks is a great example of the combination of external and internal branding and I highly recommend you to read Howard Schulz’ book “Onwards” (which, by the way, is another great example of branding. Read the book and you will understand what I mean).

It is really crucial to keep the internal part of branding in mind and to treat suppliers, employees and customers all in a way that is on brand. If your core value is fun and playful, don’t have your employees sit in a grey room to study your menu but gamify the experience. If you are caring, care for the people who work for you and invest in their future, if you are reliable pay your suppliers on time and if you are sustainable, be as sustainable in your back office as you are in your restaurant.

Brand strategy and branding are very complex topics that we will explore in-depth in future blog and newsletter articles more and more. There is no holy grail of branding and no given set of rules to follow, but we will explore techniques and guidelines that will help you to come up a brand strategy and rules to follow specifically to your brand, so that your business can strive and grow with even the smallest detail in mind.

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