So, how does a brand stand out? Or at least give itself the best chance? One of the answers lies in brand codes. These assets are the engine of distinctiveness for any well-built brand. The unique parts that power the look and feel of an organisation. The things that audiences instantly recognise.
Understanding codes and their role
At their core, codes are the collective elements that visually and verbally define a brand; the assets most commonly associated with a brand experience. This includes the logo, colour palette, typography, strapline, tone of voice, imagery, and messaging. Some categories also include packaging and point of sale, even characters manifested through founders or mascots. Consider the Coca-Cola red, the Nike Swoosh, and Mickey Mouse’s ears. Think of them as the parts of a brand’s DNA designed to act as mnemonics – shorthand for the things that immediately express a business’ unique identity across the marketplace or sector. They can even be legally protected through trademarking, which protects brands in a way that product differentiation can’t.
But why are these elements so crucial? Because in the eyes of consumers scanning supermarket shelves and buzzing digital landscapes, distinctiveness is vital. These codes make a brand recognisable and memorable – often in an instant.
They’re landmarks in a client or consumer’s mental map, guiding them to a brand amidst a crowd of competitors and constraints.
For audiences, brand codes are more than just visual cues; they’re a language that communicates the brand’s values, personality, and promise. It builds a relationship, evokes emotions, and ultimately influences decision-making. When consumers see a familiar logo or hear a tagline, it’s not just recognition; it’s an emotional response, a connection.
Building memory structures
Here’s the golden rule: brand codes must be used consistently and frequently because they are learned over time. It’s about building and refreshing memory structures in the audience’s mind. The more consistently a brand uses its codes, the more associations are established. It’s like a favourite song – the more you hear it, the more familiar and loved it becomes.
Recognition and distinction is another major ingredient. Brand codes should be both high on fame and high on uniqueness. This means that while a logo or a colour scheme should be instantly recognisable and intrinsically linked, it should also be distinct enough not to be confused with anyone else in the industry. This uniqueness sets a brand apart, giving it a unique voice amongst the chorus of competition.
Codes in action
Our recent work with bold CPG challengers and brave place brands has seen us create and develop distinctive brand assets. With consistent and frequent executions, these should become established brand codes in their respective sectors.