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What makes a successful brand? A guest post from Jennifer Henderson

Today's guest post comes from Jennifer Henderson, who aside from running her stationery label Jennifer Kate, has a professional background in corporate brand development and also runs the boutique branding consultancy Brandegg. Read on as Jennifer breaks down the basic elements of a company brand and identifies how these elements work together to help a business succeed.

Hello! I'm Jennifer, a fellow CWC lady, designer, maker, brand consultant and entrepreneur (but I think some of you might know me as the maker of the fudge last year!).

In today's post I am going to give you some insights into what a brand actually is. When you think of a brand, what do you think of? A logo? An icon? Or the burning of a mark on a cow's bum? The first two are elements of what makes up a brand... and well I think it’s best if I leave the branding of a cows bum to the farmers!
Broadly speaking a brand is a set of ideals, images, impressions that represent a company. So what makes up a brand is not only the visual (logo, symbol, style of photography, typeface) and the choice of name, but it's also how a company interacts with customers and employees, the retail experience, and the style of marketing a company uses. Essentially a brand is everything the company is. A brilliant brand creates an emotional connection with the customer. Customers will choose that brand because they love it... even if there is a product of equal quality and price, they will choose the brand they love over one they don't.

So in order to understand a little more about what a brand is, let's take one of the most famous brands in the world and dissect it: IKEA.

I'm sure we all have a bit of a love hate relationship with this iconic Swedish brand... yes it has saved our lives when looking for inexpensive designer home furnishings, but my goodness putting some of those pieces of furniture together can leave you tearing your hair out and calling upon your nearest and dearest and crying out Help!

So why do we do it to ourselves? We know that entering an Ikea store can be like being sucked into a crazy vortex where you emerge several hours later dazed, confused and wondering how you ended up spending a couple of hundred dollars when all you went in there for, was a lamp. Well the short answer is, it's the power of the Ikea brand.

Let's break it down:

Their logo

The Ikea logotype is set in a thick blocky font in the quintessential Swedish yellow. Being set in all capital letters makes a strong visual impact, making it easily remembered. The tagline "Love your home", being set in upper and lowercase text, is a more friendly piece of communication and those three simple words really target Ikea customers. Love is such an emotive word, full of so much positive meaning. Your personalises the communication. And home is a place of safety and comfort. Notice that they don't use the word 'house' here, as this would seem too impersonal. Home makes you think of somewhere warm, cosy and welcoming.

Finally, one very important element which often gets overlooked (included by yours truly... more on that later!) is the registered trademark. Trademarking can be an expensive exercise, but my goodness it's worth it. It's not just something that the big corporate folks do, it's something that all business owners should do. Why? Because this protects you from other people from coming into your space and creating business names, logos, or taglines which look and/or sound very similar to yours.

After all, if you have invested so much of your time, money, creativity, heart and soul into your business, there is nothing worse than finding out that someone else has used your business name in a way which is detrimental to your image. If you would like to find out more about it, then take a read of what IP Australia has to say on the matter.

Their printed communication

Ikea 2011 Catalogue © Ikea 2011

Ikea 2011 Catalogue © Ikea 2011

I don't know about you, but whenever the Ikea catalogue gets delivered in the mail, I get all excited, make myself a cup of tea and sit down for a half hour of guilty page flicking. Looking at the catalogue I visualise myself in those rooms, finding the ones which best represent my style and thinking about what I would buy. This is exactly how Ikea want me to react. How do they do this so effectively? Quite simply, their images show people living in the space and the photographs seem natural, as though we, the viewer, are taking a little sneaky peek into the subjects' real lives.

On a more basic information level, they provide clear descriptions and costs for the items shown, to make it easy for us to take notes and help to recreate the lifestyle that they have laid out before us. The copy is engaging and personal, further empahsising that Ikea is for us and our home.
Their online communication

Ikea Website

The Ikea website provides an excellent extension of their brand. It is easy-to-use and provides consistent messaging about the Ikea brand. Maintaining a consistent brand message is key to a brand's success. Ikea use the same fonts, colours, style of photography and tone of voice in their writing. It provides lots of examples of inspirational interiors and links on how to achieve the look.
The retail experience

The way that Ikea have planned their stores is, from a retailer’s perspective, genius. You enter the store and are taken on a retail journey that Ikea want you to take. You are guided through a series of fully kitted-out rooms and furniture displays. It is only after you have been through their whole gamut of rooms and displays that you actually get to the marketplace where you can select the smaller items.

The visual communication used in-store is consistent with what is used online and in their printed materials. They use large photographs of people who look like you and me, living in the space they have created in the display. You are encouraged to enter into the individual ‘rooms’ and imagine it as being yours.

In summary...

Ikea is an iconic brand for many reasons; they have inexpensive design oriented products that look good (though they may not last your lifetime), consistent and strong communication, use high quality and engaging photography and they certainly know how to get you into their stores and in a buying mood!

…So there you have it, branding is one HUGE topic! And I could rabbit on for hours about it. There is so much more that contributes to a brand. In addition to what I have already described, there is also how staff treat customers, even the order responses when you purchase anything online. Ikea consider every element of their communication incredibly carefully to ensure that their customers want to create their home using Ikea products.

In next week's post I will talk about one of my favourite local brands and analyse how and why they are such an inspirational success story.

Enjoy your week ladies!

Jennifer xx

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