Why is our culture so fascinated with companies like Apple, Nike, and Starbucks? We are so devout as customers that we are willing to spend days and nights waiting in line on a storefront sidewalk, just to be the first person to lay hands on the newest iPhone model. Is it because these companies truly make their merchandise from the finest materials available? That their products are engineered to outperform any other competitor and are, by all measurable standards, the superior product? Or could it be that when we buy from Apple, Nike, or Starbucks, we are buying more than just a simple phone, sneaker, or latte; we are buying an idea. Two words can explain this phenomenon:
Starbucks and the Siren
Starbucks Coffee Company is an example of a company that has truly mastered the commercial use of brand identity. The logo for Starbucks Coffee is one of the most recognizable logos in the modern consumer age. Sleep deprived caffeine junkies around the world drive with one eye on the road, and the other feverishly scanning strip mall storefronts for any sign of that familiar green and white logo that means their next fix is just minutes away. Any coffee lover can tell you that there is nothing absolutely spectacular about a cup of coffee from Starbucks, but subconsciously, it’s more about that “feeling” you get from the “Starbucks Experience”. But what is it about that Starbucks Experience that elevates that cup of coffee, and breeds loyalty in their customers? The magic is in the brand identity.
From the circular green and white logo prominently displayed on the storefront window to the matching green aprons of the baristas furiously working away behind the counter. From the hand-sketched illustrations and menu board to the inspiring internal store print materials. Starbucks brand is literally being shoved down your throat from the moment you walk in the store, and yet, somehow, they manage to pull off their infectious branding without seeming forceful in any way. If anything, their brand is warm and inviting, sweetly coaxing you to come back again and again… and again (coincidentally, very much like the mythological Siren symbol which is the staple of their logo and brand).
Status Symbol Marketing
What’s even more subtle than their ironic mythological references, is how the Starbucks branding is used to attract customers. As a former Starbucks Barista myself, I can tell you that the Siren logo is being used for much more than the simple denotation of store locations. In training, baristas are instructed to hand out all drinks with logo-endowed sleeve facing the opposite direction from the lid opening. In layman’s terms, that means when the customer leaves the store, sipping on his or her fresh cup of coffee, Starbucks is cleverly using the customer as an advertisement to everyone who passes by.
People who walk by and see the iconic Siren logo are immediately flooded with mental pictures of hardwood floors, dimly lit environments, friendly baristas in green aprons, and most importantly, the narcissistic pleasure of having that logo proudly displayed on their beverage of choice. This advertising tactic isn’t just specific to Starbucks; it can be seen everywhere, one example being the Apple Logo. Apple’s logo is the glowing centerpiece on the back of all Macbook and iPhone models. As a customer, you never really spend time looking at the back of your devices, but everyone around you can see exactly what brand you are representing while creating a peculiar combination of admiration and envy.
The “Bandwagon” Effect
Although we are only scratching the surface on the psychology behind brand identity, we can see that when customers make a purchase from superpower companies such as Starbucks and Apple, they are buying into an idea of how they picture themselves among their peers. They love what these companies represent, who they represent, and they want to see themselves as a part of that exclusive community. While this “bandwagon” effect is much more pronounced once a company has already gained a large following, the same effect can be achieved in a relatively unknown, small to mid-sized business.
Regardless of size, any company can instantly gain a level of differentiation, credibility, and professionalism by developing their brand identity. In fact, the human brain can process images about 60,000 times faster than it processes words. That means by having an excellent brand identity, you can sell your company to the consumer not only faster but more efficiently, than any salesman or tri-fold brochure could ever attempt. For your brand identity to be successful, however, it has to stand out in a positive and dynamic way, much like making a good first impression.
Research shows that the average user spends a length of about 10 seconds on a website before deciding if they are interested in sticking around or not. These initial 10 seconds are made entirely of visual first impressions, and will have an enormous impact on how the customer feels about your business and remembers your company in the future. While your business may truly offer a better product than your competitors, and you may have a wealth of content on your website explaining why the truth is you will lose the sale to a company with better branding every time. Like it or not, your business exists in a modern visual culture. Expecting a customer to read through lines upon lines of text to determine value is no longer practical, which makes that initial first impression absolutely paramount. Brand identity importance become paramount in trying to seize these first seconds of attention.
Creating a Brand Identity
Now that you know why branding is such an essential component of any successful business, the importance of choosing the right agency to construct your brand identity could not be overstated. Your brand is the face of your company and should be just as unique and personalized as you are. It will set your business apart from your competitors, help customers visually and emotionally connect with your business, and instill faith in your product and follow-through ability.
You may already have an idea of the pieces that will come into play during this process. Logos and color schemes are often the first which come to mind. However, a brand identity is so much more than simply designing a decent logo and coming up with a color scheme. The team who handles your brand identity must be well versed in crafting not just one, but all aspects of your company’s brand identity.
From initial sketches and wireframes to finalized websites, print materials, and brand collateral — your design agency should cover it all. Jumping back and forth between agencies is not only tedious but will ultimately result in an inconsistent image, confusing your customers and losing their trust. Nuanced Media’s work with Beacon Senior Resources is a perfect example of a design agency who can handle it all, creating an entire brand identity from the ground up.
A successful brand identity is one which transcends the simple representation of your business, transforming your company image from pen and ink into powerful thoughts, emotions, and personal associations. A successful brand identity breathes life into your company, luring customers to discover exactly what they’ve been missing and inviting them to become a part of something both beautiful and valid. In our visual culture, a successful brand identity is increasingly vital to the success of your business.