25 Essential Branding Terms for Non-Designers

By on Jul 10, 2017 in Inspiration
25 Essential Branding Terms for Non-Designers

Brand designers have their own jargon: specialized terms that convey specific elements and steps within the branding process. However, if you're not an experienced designer, you might not be clued into what each of these means. To get a good start understanding about how designers go about creating brands, and how companies can best market themselves to the consumers they want to attract, you may want to bookmark these 25 essential branding terms. This basic branding terminology can also give you insight on what you need to know to become a branding designer yourself.

A logo is a design asset that is meant to serve as a recognizable symbol to represent an organization or company. Logos are usually composed of images and/or text, and they serve as a shorthand to clue consumers into both the aesthetic nature and values of the company. There are different types of logos depending on their inclusion of certain elements like symbols/icons, words, or emblems. A wordmark, for example, is a type of logo where the brand's name is spelled out with text. The word or text itself is designed so that it becomes the central, most clearly identifiable element of the entire graphic. Combination marks, on the other hand, mix a wordmark and a symbol/icon to convey the company's identity. Regardless of the type of logo you go for, it should be readily recognizable and memorable.

Brand Identity

Many people mistakenly think that a company's brand is simply its logo. In reality, every company has a brand identity, which reflects how that company wants to be perceived by the world. A brand identity is made up of many components, including a logo, general aesthetic, tone, font choice, etc. A brand identity is shaped by whom the company wants to appeal to and what message it wants to communicate.

Color Palette

A color palette is the choice of colors that a company selects to have associated with its brand. A company's color palette is used in all marketing and branding materials, including product packaging, web design, advertisements, and more. Color palettes are often chosen based on the emotions a company wants to evoke, or the values a company wants to communicate. For example: an eco-focused company might choose greens and blues for their color palette, while an energy drink company might choose bright reds and yellows.

Brand Extension

Brands are often known for creating specific products. When a company launches a new product, in a new category or subcategory, but using an existing brand, this move is called a brand extension. Brand extensions can help companies leverage existing customer bases to create an inherent, immediate audience for the new product. Brand extensions also help companies take advantage of brand loyalty so that they can increase exposure right away from any new products they release. One example of a brand extension is ZzzQuil, a sleeping aid released from the company who created NyQuil. This offered fans of NyQuil a chance to enjoy the sleep aid without the cold medicine.

Sub-Brand

A sub-brand is a product that is tied to a larger brand, but it has its own branding strategy and materials. Sub-brands have their own color scheme, marketing strategy, and name. An example of a popular sub-brand is Diet Coke, whose larger, umbrella brand is Coca-Cola.

Vector File

A vector file is a scalable file type used by designers to create logos and many other graphics. Vector graphics are created from points, shapes, lines, and curves based on mathematical formulas rather than pixels. Vector files allow for more flexibility, since they can be saved as master files and easily resized and edited. Vector file types include .EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) and .AI (Adobe Illustrator files).

Trademark

A trademark is a symbol, word, phrase, or design that you can use to distinguish your products or goods from those of competitors. In the branding space, the word trademark is often used to refer to the aforementioned design assets when they have been formally registered with a government office. To understand how a registered trademark can protect your brand's legal rights, take a look at this brochure by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Brand Manual

A brand manual is a guide that helps you keep track of all your branding assets. Brand manuals outline how your brand should be expressed - both visually and verbally - any time you create new sales, marketing, and packaging materials across various mediums. Brand manuals help teams align because they give everyone the same base knowledge to work with; they also ensure that everyone in an organization is aware of the company's aesthetic, tone, personality, and more.

Creative Brief

A creative brief is a document that gives a general overview of who the design project is for, what it will entail, and how it will be used. Think of it as a roadmap to guide creative work. Before a designer begins work on a new project, he or she should create a creative brief for a client. Developing a creative brief can require the participation of a project manager, designers, and even the client himself. When briefs are created for internal work, designers and managers often work together to shape the document.

Personas

Personas are fictional "characters" that companies design to represent the real people that typically use or purchase a product or service. Companies create customer personas in order to get at who they are trying to target with their products (e.g., what their preferences are, how they spend their time, and what their strengths and weaknesses are). This helps them tailor both the products and services they offer and the best way they market them.

Domain

A company's domain name is the title of its website, i.e. what you type in a URL bar to access the site. Domains are important for branding and marketing, since they often create a first impression of the brand for consumers.

Ethnography

In general, ethnography is the study of people, cultures, and social interactions. Ethnography can be helpful for creating a brand because it gives people insight into the way others live their lives and how they make their decisions.

Icon

An icon is a small graphical representation of an idea, object, or activity. In branding, icons are symbols that represent what your brand stands for. The word itself can be used to describe the main symbol that accompanies your wordmark (if your logo is a combination mark) as well as the set of multiple supporting icons that are designed to complement your brand identity.

Manifesto

A company manifesto is a crucial step for creating a cohesive brand. A company manifesto is a document that explains the company's ultimate mission and intentions, regardless of whether that company is your personal consulting practice or a huge multinational corporation. In "Why Your Company Needs to Have a Manifesto," Dani Fankhauser of Contently explains, "Having an attractive brand is important, but even more crucial is putting out a cohesive message. The company manifesto is not new, but it is trendy and serves as almost a new type of mission statement; it's a content vehicle for outreach, but also a valuable resource for those internally at your company."

Aesthetics

Aesthetics comprise the look and feel of your brand. They include the overall visual image your brand gives off, as well as its attitude. Aesthetics include elements like color palette, typeface, photography style, and more.

Moodboard

Designers use moodboards to gather together images, text, and other visual elements that come to define the look and feel of a brand. Moodboards are helpful when words simply aren't enough to describe a brand's aesthetic and feel, but you can use a collage of images to communicate it precisely.

Positioning

A brand's positioning is what allows it to occupy a distinct place in the mind of the customer, in opposition to (or separate from) competing brands. You can position a brand by emphasizing what sets it apart from other brands, or you can market to a specific, segmented audience. In his piece for Hinge Marketing, "Elements of a Successful Brand 1: Brand Positioning," Lee Frederiksen, Ph. D explains, "Successful positioning rejects conformity. At its best, positioning elevates a brand above the fray so that people can't help but take notice. The human brain instinctively looks for things that are different and unexpected. So a brand that stands in stark contrast to its competition will attract people's attention and have a distinct advantage in the marketplace."

Storyboard

Storyboards allow designers and creatives to map out a story they are trying to tell, piece by piece or frame by frame. Designers who are creating videos or longer-form media can use storyboards to look at their creations in smaller, more manageable chunks. Storyboards can be physical — made with paper and drawing utensils— or they can be done with digital tools.

Touchpoint

A touchpoint is any place that a customer comes into contact with a brand. These touchpoints can be numerous and include experiences like interactions in your social media profiles, conversations with a sales representative, steps within you purchasing process, and many other places where your brand truly comes to life.

Typeface

Typeface is often used interchangeably with font, although the term itself is more descriptive of a font family. Throughout the branding process, designers select a combination of two or more font families that convey your brand's personality and aesthetic. Unlike individual fonts, font families (or typefaces) comprise a cohesive set of fonts in varying weights and styles that share an inspiration source and work well together. These typeface choices reveal important ideas behind the brand itself, and must not be taken lightly.

Value Proposition

A company's value proposition is a statement that lays out the solution or advantage that it has to offer to consumers that make the brand valuable in their eyes. Value propositions should explain how a company can deliver benefits to potential customers.

Voice

Voice is certainly one of the most important terms in a branding dictionary, and it refers (quite literally) to the way the brand sounds to consumers. Based on specific word choices and language styles, a voice shapes a brand's personality and how it is perceived by the people it is trying to communicate with.

Mission

A brand's mission statement explains what it intends to do and the reason it has been brought into being. It should discuss the products or services provided, the intended audience of customers, and the general idea behind your company.

Vision

A company's vision statement outlines what the company hopes to achieve and accomplish in the long run. It can serve as a guide for decision-making within a company. In her article "12 Truly Inspiring Company Vision and Mission Statement Examples," Lindsay Kolowich explains that mission statements and vision statements are actually different: "A mission statement is intended to clarify the 'what' and 'who' of a company, while a vision statement adds the 'why' and 'how' as well. As a company grows, its objectives and goals may change. Therefore, vision statements should be revised as needed to reflect the changing business culture as goals are met."

Collateral

Brand collateral pieces are the physical, visible objects that have been created to represent a brand. Collateral can range from things like brochures and flyers to Facebook ads and signs at events.

If you've read through your branding glossary, and you're ready to start building a brand, or you want to help other companies solidify their branding, check out the design assets on Creative Market. Designers have created a slew of templates, handmade typefaces, graphics and more to help companies build a brand that's cohesive, visually appealing, and effective.

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