Brand Communications

Brand communications are the combination of activities that are used by a brand to communicate and interact with potential customers and the world in general.

The channels are probably much broader than you think.

The brand identity (which is a manifestation of the brand personality) is probably one of the first items that springs to mind. Logo’s, symbols and typography etc. are among the basic elements, and we’ll discuss these later.

Just a decade ago, businesses were relying heavily on paid-for advertising and PR to communicate their brand values and offering. Today we find that people, consumers and employees are vital communication channels as they talk and contribute to brands’ reputations. Social media has been a major influence here, but everyday conversations have been recognised as creating critical touch points, 24-7.

The term brand communications suggests that there is some function, a person or a process, consciously sending out messages to the world. In part this is true when we look at advertising social publishing, but there’s also a tide of unconscious communication being received by consumers.

Think about toxic messages such as untidy or unclean premises, poorly trained staff, calls not returned, late deliveries. Also consider positive signals – well designed documents, helpful customer contacts, rapid complaints resolutions. All of these represent touch points where the customer interacts with the organisation – brand communications.



The Brand Identity

Let’s look at most people’s first idea of brand communications. In fact, it’s what many people confuse with the brand itself (check out the previous lesson, ‘What is a brand?’). Often business owners say they need ‘some branding’ meaning they want work on their brand identity. 

We’ll take a brief look at each of the key elements of a brand identity, but first let’s consider the ‘Brand Personality’. This is just like an individual’s personality. People may be friendly, serious, thoughtful, kind, creative, aloof, dignified, adventurous, cautious, wild, humorous… have any one of hundreds of characteristics… or any combination. 

Before anybody starts to work on a brand identity they should make a careful assessment of their brand personality. It needs an honest and impartial evaluation. Does it accurately reflect the brand, an importantly fit where the brand wants or needs to be? What would be the ideal personality for that organisation?



Don’t sweat the name

Startups generally spend way too much time worrying about the name.

Consider the names of some of our leading brands – they are not significant in themselves.  Their importance lies in what they stand for in terms of the businesses and what they do. For example Apple has nothing to do with apples, and hardly anybody knows what a Google is. But we all associate the business with the name.

Each of us has a given name, usually not of our own choosing. But through life, your name takes on the values you as a person create. ‘You’ are what the name stands for.

So, the sound approach is to come up with a name you’re happy with, and then get on with building your business. That’s where the brand’s value will ultimately lie.

We’ve said the name you choose may not be as important as you think, however, there are some considerations to bear in mind.

Is it a good idea to use my own name?

If your business is personality centred – perhaps you are a photographer, fashion designer or musician, – then there may well be value in it. However, mixing your personal brand with your business can have downsides.

For example, you may want to sell your business in the future.  That could create issues for both you and a buyer.

Perhaps you want to diversify personally and do something different –  or there is always the possibility of business failure. Should the worst happen, do you want your personal name to be damaged?  The reverse situation may be equally bad – remember Ratners?

Should I put what my business does in the brand name?

Can be a great help for a startup, but generally not in the brand name. ‘Acme Plasterers’ may be a great name to begin. But what happens when you grow and perhaps diversify into wider building services?

The place for a descriptive title is in the strap-line.

What about including our location in the title?

As with the above example, it’s not usually a good idea. ‘Leeds Accountancy Services’ may be great – until opportunities arise to open a branch in Manchester or Liverpool.

However, you may really want to focus upon a local market. Perhaps for sound cultural or geographic reasons – but it needs careful thought.

There can be a case where there is credibility and kudos associated with a region, town or country. Stoke pottery, Swiss watches, Italian pasta, Lake District outdoors. Again, give it some thought.

Is it important to register a name?

Yes. Even just doing a search should throw up any potential problems. (Search here) You can register names and trademarks inexpensively. They’re usually registered by sector. So, the name you want may be registered for say ‘clothing’, but not ‘business services’.

Many small businesses don’t register. However, I know of one small company who had been in business for three years before they were approached by lawyers representing a company who had already registered their trading name.

They had to change everything, stationery, signage, website, all their advertising collateral.

What about trading overseas?

Like it or not we’re in a global market – the internet and ecommerce exposes us to potential worldwide customers.

Check your desired name against foreign languages.  It’s fairly easy to check online. But if you are targeting a particular market, run the name by a native speaker. Colloquialisms, slang and offensive terms don’t necessarily show in online dictionaries.

What considerations does digital bring?

Digital is not something special. It’s an integral part of brand communications.  Where search (SEO) is concerned, the web is still a text-based medium so words count.  

Checking domain names is important – and don’t forget to consider the Tlds, especially if you plan to trade overseas. Adding an extension to your brand name can have unfortunate consequences.

Think visually too. Phone screens are small. Social media profile images are usually square. They are just not friendly to long words – short names have power and impact.



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