What Exactly is Branding?

Guest Post by Julie Young, Young Design

People can get confused about the term “branding”. A brand is just another term for identity in the marketplace. For companies, it’s corporate branding – the things that convey your company’s personality and that set it apart from the competition.

Designers and marketers create the basics of a company’s brand through the development of logos, tag lines, colors, fonts, images, the tone of any written content, and through interactivity on the Web. These elements trigger emotional reactions that govern how the market interacts with a product or service. This great article from Smashing discusses cool examples of “emotional design.”

Four Ways to Define and Maintain Your Company’s Unique Brand

  1. Be clear. Don’t muddy the waters with confused messages. How do you want to be seen? Be as clear as you can about who your market is, what you do, how you do it, your particular strengths and your voice. Get comfortable with how your company will communicate with your market.You may change your strategy or your product, but the brand should stand firm. Some companies find themselves wanting to change their name to reflect changes in their product or service – instead, they should ask themselves, “Is this a whole other company?” Maybe it can be an offshoot of the parent company.
  2. Don’t sell your brand short. Spend your dollars on high-quality web, digital and print collateral. Your brand should reflect the value of your company – why go cheap on branding when you offer a superlative service and product? How can the market recognize your quality, if not mostly due to branding? Having sub-par branding reflects badly on your company and your message.
  3. Consistently apply your brand across all mediums. Style guides and templates are the tools typically used to keep the brand on track, with strict guidelines for logo size, color palettes, fonts, and how to treat any variations. These approved guidelines for web, email blasts, and print collateral act as barriers to any rogue efforts that might dilute or cheapen the brand.It’s also wise to have corporate brand guidelines for social media, particularly tone. Getting your market to interact with you is part of building your brand – if they have a positive experience, they’ll spread the word to others. Your corporate “voice” should be consistent with the company’s style, whether formal or conversational. It can be jarring to read jokey or questionable tweets and posts from a company whose brand is conservative and well-respected.
  4. Consider corporate vs. individual brand. If you’re a blogger, commenter, or have a profile on any social media app, you’re a marketer of your own personal brand. In today’s world of immediate access, anyone can (conceivably) build an audience.The same points above apply to the individual: Be aware of how you want to be perceived, control that perception, and be consistent. Maintaining brand integrity keeps your market comfortable with you – and loyal.

About the Author

Julie Young is a print and web designer at Young Design. For over 20 years, she has been creating quality branding, websites, print collateral and email marketing to help companies communicate with their customers in order to raise profiles and profits.

Fingers Crossed Is not a Marketing Strategy

Guest post by Julie Young, Young Design

You just got a new logo, an optimized cool-looking website, and some beautiful print brochures; your brand is out there. Now what? Letting your website and marketing collateral gather dust is like tossing a coin into the fountain – you can wish and hope that they continue to work for you, but they won’t – not without tweaks, updates, redesigns, and downright overhauls.

It’s a fact: You must keep your marketing fresh to be effective. Responding to fast-changing technologies, business trends and cultural norms is part of a good marketing strategy.

Prioritize Web Maintenance

Part of protecting your brand is staying on top of the collateral you have in place, and keeping your website up to date is crucial. One look at a stale website without current content, and a user will click away — that’s one customer you just lost. Read our post on website maintenance for tips on setting goals, doing reviews, and assigning tasks.

Adapt Your Brand Identity

Aside from new markets, there will always be new ways to leverage and deliver your brand – social media, video, online ads, mobile apps, and new venues. Is your email campaign performing well? Do you have a blog? Well-optimized blogs are known to draw traffic. Have you thought about launching a podcast? They’re hot now. Do your research, and then make sure your brand adapts to these opportunities, whether it’s getting serious about using new technology or generating entirely new ideas to get the word out there.

Analyze Your Competition

Always, always be looking at your competition. Customers are most certainly comparing your company with others, even if you’re not. Here’s a good guide to finding your online competitors and identifying opportunities to outperform them.

Revisit Your Marketing Strategy Regularly

It’s easy to neglect marketing – business is booming, so who has time? But it’s fairly certain that at some point your business will be idling in the down loop of the roller coaster. Make your own luck: Look into the future and continue to make concrete plans even while things are busy.

About the Author

Julie Young is a print and web designer at Young Design. For over 20 years, she has been creating quality branding, websites, print collateral and email marketing to help companies communicate with their customers in order to raise profiles and profits.

The Pitfalls of Rebranding

Guest Post by Julie Young, Young Design

Lately, it feels the world is awash in re-branding: Dunkin’ Donuts wants to be known as only “Dunkin'”; Weight Watchers is now “WW”; Papa John’s fired their CEO and has a new logo.

Re-branding used to be tweaking a logo’s design to bring it up to date with current trends or pivoting the business to a new product. Today, rebranding is also about correcting past perceptions and mitigating missteps by management.

Let’s take a look at these branding changes and their companies’ rationales:


Dunkin’ Donuts says it wants to be known more for fast coffee than donuts. As of January 2019, they will be known as “Dunkin’ ”. A common consumer response to the change was: “That’s what we already call them!”

The pink and orange color palette and rounded font remain the same. But product changes are being introduced, such as cold-brew and digital ordering kiosks.

And Dunkin’ is not likely to suffer from the name change. Starbucks and McDonald’s are its main competitors, who don’t really ‘do’ donuts. In fact, for the last 8 years Dunkin’ has been the number one retailer of coffee, donut and muffin servings, selling 2.9 billion donuts and donut holes per year.

Papa Johns (no apostrophe!)

In 2018, Papa John’s founder and CEO John Schnatter resigned due to a racial slur he made during a media training conference call. They removed Schnatter’s face from all marketing materials, and implemented company-wide unconscious bias training (similar to Starbucks in spring of 2018).

The company then rebranded, by redesigning the logo, shortening the tagline and dropping the apostrophe in “John’s” to become “Papa Johns”. It seems to signal the end of Schnatter’s ownership, even if grammatically incorrect. The new logo has the same red and green, but is vastly different from the original and nothing to write home about (neither was the old one).

How will Papa Johns weather this change? According to the company, “sales would continue to struggle in the first half of 2019, but will improve by the second half.”


After 55 years, Weight Watchers actually changed their name to “WW” in 2018, stressing wellness instead of dieting. Their new tagline is “Wellness that Works”. But who wants to pronounce “double-U double-U”?

Changing a corporate name is very risky. Brand experts say to never shorten a brand name to initials if consumers haven’t already shortened it for you (remember KFC?). Predictably, the new name has cratered WW’s shares: The abrupt change negatively impacted their first quarter, which is the crucial diet season after the holidays. “It’s gone from being a high flying growth company to being a beaten-up kind of turnaround situation,”said Linda Bolton Weiser, an analyst at D.A. Davidson & Co.

Oprah Winfrey, a major WW shareholder, has been called upon to rescue what CEO Mindy Grossman characterized as a “poorly executed marketing campaign”. WW’s social media accounts and website now say: “WW. Weight Watchers reimagined.” They’re still busy trying to explain the name change. It is likely be a long slog to regain their footing.

“If you were starting a new brand now, sure, you could become more of a lifestyle program,” said Laura Ries, co-founder of consulting firm Ries & Ries. “You have to deal with who you are today. It’s very hard to change a brand.”

About the author: Julie Young is a print and web designer at Young Design. For over 20 years, she has been creating quality branding, print collateral, websites and email marketing to help companies communicate with their customers and raise profiles and profits.