Logos are important communication tools. As consumers, we immediately recognize the iconic logos that surround us: McDonald’s golden arches, Starbucks’ mermaid, Apple’s silver apple. They all create unique and instant associations in our minds. However the true power of a brand comes not just from a logo, but from the entire experience of interacting with that company.

Symbolism (aka your logo) helps brands occupy a space in the frenzied consciousness of consumers, which is no easy feat. Experiences are what really generate long-term brand awareness and engagement.

For instance, a symbol can’t do the tangible work of making an environmentally sustainable product or of providing truly great customer service. Only people can do that.

People are everything


Many brands become so caught up in the business of business they forget about people. Building websites and designing logos are, of course, extremely necessary and worthwhile activities, but brands must never lose their focus on people as the foundation on which the effectiveness of visual design rests—people as consumers, people as employees, people as the livelihood of the brand.

Employees who are poorly trained, disenchanted with their job, or appear to be unconcerned about the quality of their work can quickly and easily undermine the power of even the most beautiful logo or website design. In fact, no amount of marketing savvy or design genius can make an unqualified success out of brands that ignore people.

Brand values are gold


To achieve success over the long term, every brand needs to stand for something –whether that be the joy of luxury travel, the commitment to improving health through technology, or the desire to bring the benefits of organic food to every dinner table. Brands must represent a set of core values that guide every aspect of their “personality,” their employees’ work and their vision for the future.

Values are something people can relate to. Values represent an informal but powerful contract with consumers that a brand will behave according to its stated beliefs. That is, they can be trusted. And values executed faithfully over time have been shown to increase employee engagement, customer loyalty and sales. In fact, trusted brands, or those that use communications and design to demonstrate what they stand for, have a much better shot at becoming a part of our lives.

Dove’s recent #ChooseBeautiful marketing campaign, for instance, has resonated strongly with consumers because it activates a set of values that celebrate people’s internal beauty, which we all possess regardless of our physical appearance.

Patagonia also enjoys strong brand loyalty with consumers (despite its high price point), because the brand is an extension of the values of Yvon Chouinard, the founder, who strongly advocates an outdoor lifestyle that treasures simplicity and environmental sustainability.

When a company is focused on genuinely living out its brand values, things like logos, websites, ads, and even Facebook posts are able to assume greater importance because their symbolism becomes a shorthand that connects consumers with the more meaningful value the company is creating.

Remember the big picture


Brands are made up of many moving parts. From stylish logos and expressive fonts to customer service return policies and manufacturing processes, each brand must follow through on the identity it has developed for itself.

This requires a detailed understanding of what the brand stands for, all of the people and processes involved, and the available communications channels for getting the word out to consumers, including social media.

All of this makes managing any brand, big or small, a challenging endeavor. But if you empower talented and inspired employees and fans in a way that fosters your brand values, ensuring that they feel valuable and make customers feel valuable in return, your brand can earn respect, trust and, yes, more business.

Next steps

Before you embark on your next design project, give some thought to what you want your business to stand for. What are your brand’s values. Once you do that, you’ll be in a great position to direct your next creative project towards something that truly reflects those values.

What else do you consider when building out a brand? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Cover photo: Red Bull Lake Elsinore Nationals (via Flickr)