Notes from Designing Brand Identity – 6th Edition

Authors: Alina Wheeler & Rob Meyerson

Considered to be one of the foundational books on the topic this edition is the last one that has Alina Wheeler as an author and is the first one that has a co-author, Rob Meyerson. Alina had decided to bring in a fresh perspective and intended to have Rob act as the primary author of subsequent editions. She passed away during the creation of this edition.


What is the difference between brand and brand identity?

Understand me. Make a difference in my life. Surprise me often. Give me more than I paid for. Show me you love me.

Alan Jacobson – Principal, Exit Design.

Businesses need to look for ways to connect emotionally with their prospects and customers. Ideally, they want to create loyalty and a sense of being indispensable. Moreover the brand that can show itself to really be “remarkable” will gain a wealth of word of mouth marketing that will subsequently be leveraged by social media.

Once a person “trusts” a brand, they will consider them a part of their tribe, identity with them and their mission, and inherently believe in the brand’s superiority when compared to others in the marketplace.

All of this can be summarized to state: How a brand is perceived affects its path to success in its target market category.

Brand basics

  • Who are you?
  • Who needs to know about you?
  • How will people find out about you?
  • Why should they care?

Businesses are only as strong as their brands, and nothing else offers business leaders so much potential leverage.

Jim Stengel – Grow: How ideals power growth and profit at the world’s greatest companies

Brands now appear regularly on balance sheets in many companies. The intangible value of the brand is often much greater than the corporation’s tangible assets.

Wally Olins – The Brand Book


Three primary functions of a brand:

  1. Navigation – Brands help consumers choose from a bewildering array of choices. [Give them an “easy button”].
  2. Reassurance – Brands communicate the intrinsic quality of the product or service and reassure customers that they have made [or are making] the right choice.
  3. Engagement – Brands use distinctive imagery, language, and associations to encourage customers to identify with the brand.
David Haigh – CEO, Brand Finance

We define “Brand” as the intersection of promise and perception.

Ken Pasternak – Chief Strategy Officer, Two by Four

Brand touchpoints are opportunities to increase awareness with your target customer.


Branding [when done professionally and intentionally] is a disciplined process used to build awareness, attract new customers, and extend customer loyalty.

Positioning a brand to be irreplaceable requires a daily desire to be the best. To be successful, brand builders need to stick to the basics, stay calm on the roller coaster of relentless change, and seize every opportunity to be the brand of choice.

Branding is deliberate differentiation.

Debbie Millman – Chair + Cofounder of the Master’s Program in Branding, School of Visual Arts.

Don’t make the mistake of not doing your absolute utmost to understand your customer. Always be innovating and delighting them. With branding, deliver insightful and valuable messages to your customer making you even more trusted and irreplaceable.

Types of branding:

  • Co-branding – Partnering with another brand to achieve greater reach
  • Digital branding – Web, social media, search engine optimization, driving commerce on the web…
  • Personal branding – The way an individual builds a reputation can be crucial, especially if you have a Key Person of Interest leading your brand.
  • Cause branding – Aligning a brand with a charitable cause; or strongly held sense of corporate social responsibility.
  • Country branding – Efforts to attract tourists and businesses. [??? WTF is this ???]

Emotional branding is a dynamic cocktail of anthropology, imagination, sensory experiences, and visionary approach to change.

Marc Gobé – Emotional Branding

Process of branding

  1. Conducting research
  2. Clarifying strategy
  3. Designing identity
  4. Creating touchpoints
  5. Managing assets

When to start the process [of branding]

  • New company, new product
  • Name change
  • Revitalize a brand
  • Revitalize a brand identity
  • Create an integrated system
  • When companies merge

Brand identity

Brand identity is tangible and peals to the senses. You can see it, touch it, hold it, hear it, watch it move. Brand identity fuels recognition, amplifies differentiation, and makes big ideas and meaning accessible.

Design differentiates and embodies the intangibles – emotion, context, and essence – that matter most to consumers [especially those consumers that are the ideal customers for your brand].

Moira Cullen – Strategic Advisor, Design Rethink Food

Great brands are like friends – you encounter a huge number of them every day, but you only remember the ones you love. [seems like a more than slightly shallow approach to friends… lol.]

Luc Spenser – Global Chief Innovation Officer – Landor

Brand strategy

Effective brand strategy articulates the ideas upon which a brand is built – ideas that unify and align identity, actions, and communications. The best strategies are clear, consistent, and customer-focused. When well executed, they help brands defeat or even prevent competition. [… I’m getting so tired of words like “articulate”, “align” … may have to start using substitutes for my own sanity. :-)]

Brand strategy [Using BS from now on just for fun] is a road map that guides marketing, makes the sales team’s job easier, and provides clarity, context, and inspiration to employees [seriously?]. It should align with business strategy, reflect values and culture, and fine the brand’s target customers and positioning.

A smart BS reflects an in-depth understanding of the customer’s needs and perceptions as well as the competitive landscape. The BS must be customer-focused [to be successful – this is a “duh” moment], but, should also resonate with other stakeholders: employees, the board, core suppliers, and other important partners [or else you won’t get their support and that is crucial to ease and effectivenesss of implementation].

Strategy is an informed opinion about how to win.

Mark Pollard – Author, Strategy Is Your Words

Why invest


Organizational culture

Brand experience

Brand architecture

Visual identity

Messaging and voice

Brand governance

Brand ideals











Brand elements

Brand dynamics

Before and after


Best Practices

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