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Branding for web professionals: The anatomy of a brand

In Branding for web professionals: An introduction I challenged readers to think about a brand as much more than a graphic standards document, and branding as much more than creating a logo.

In this article, I'll discuss the anatomy of a brand, which is comprised of four elements: the Emotional, Linguistic, Visual, and Customer brands.

Branding for web professionals: The anatomy of a brand

1. The Emotional brand

People may like your products or prices, but there will be someone with a better product or a lower price sooner or later. To survive the market you need to build relationships with customers. People are loyal to brands because of emotional associations that align with their own belief systems.

The emotional brand is the heart of your brand, what you stand for: Values, beliefs, ethics, culture, norms, customs.

A durable product makes us feel tough or secure. A stylish product makes us feel fashionable. We buy products or services because of how they make us feel.

The emotional brand should be at the core of how you communicate your brand, linguistically and visually.

2. The linguistic brand

We love the grassroots entrepreneurial stories of today's big brands, such as how Steve Jobs started Apple. Why? We are trying to understand or confirm how we feel and like keeping a diary, stories clarify how we feel.

The linguistic brand is how you use language to communicate your emotional brand: Slogan, value propositions, mission & vision statements, stories, themed words.

3. The visual brand

A second of exposure to a logo has the potential to strike a fire of emotions in us. Visual elements are placeholders for everything a brand represents. They are portals into the stories and emotions that represent our brand.

The visual brand is how you visually communicate your emotional brand: Logo, colors, common design patterns, office design, visual artifacts, photos.

Emotions and language convey meaning independently, but a logo is nothing but a pretty picture by itself. Emotions and language give it meaning. Use your visual brand to reinforce the emotions and language that give your brand meaning to the customer.

4. The customer brand

At the end of the day the customer brand is the brand. It is the sum of customer (stakeholder) experiences. You can tell yourself who you think you are all day, but if the customer doesn't experience that, then it's all smoke and mirrors.

Your customer brand is a melting pot of experiences. Good and bad. Fun and boring. All of it.

The closer the emotional, linguistic, and visual brands align with what the customer experiences, the better. The more these elements align with the customer's belief system, the better.

So what defines the most powerful brands?

Powerful brands have clear values communicated through language and visuals that align with customers at an emotional level.