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Why Getting Clear on Your Brand Codes Matters

August 3, 2023

When we start our businesses we're like visual magpies. We tend to be 'brand code happy' - collecting shiny things. But in our blind, brand enthusiasm we can leave our audiences confused re: 'who' we are. Drawing on my Story Tiller re-brand experience, this blog explores the value of establishing distinct brand codes. Chosen well and applied consistently, these can become the cornerstones of brand identity. Read on for insights and tips to help your brand stand apart.

Why I Chose To Rebrand Story Tiller 

When I decided to rebrand Story Tiller, I was having a cup of tea and a bacon bap at the corner cafe. My (Yorkshire pragmatist) husband said, “Are you sure?” And without pause I said “Yes, it’s time.”

Although I was low on savings and hadn’t been actively working in my business for 6+ months, I knew that, to elevate my brand profile, I must invest in my identity.

You see, Story Tiller had evolved since launching in the COVID funk of 2020. The branding I’d started out with no longer represented where I was. It was vital to realign and reframe my visual brand and establish a set of brand codes unique to my business.

Typically, brand codes (a key learning point from my brand management studies) might include any of the following:

  • Logo (inspired by name, purpose, personality etc)
  • Brand palette
  • Typography 
  • Iconography/symbols/motifs
  • Textures
  • Emoticons 
  • Imagery/video style

I knew that getting my codes sorted was key to my future success. Crystal clear codes are crucial to building brand value, awareness and equity.

Reflection And Research First - Design Second

From the off, my brand name (Story Tiller), would be a key inspiration point. My first logo and colours had emphasised the ‘soil tiller’ and ‘growth’ aspect of my business. Going forward, I wanted to highlight the ‘nautical tiller’ and ‘journey’ theme. This correlated more strongly with my new strap-line (“Light your path to success”) and expanded strategy services. 

Whilst I was tempted to go straight into 'magpie' mode, I knew I must research my competitor's codes and reconnect with my brand heart. A big learning tip from this experience is the power of taking time to reflect before flying forward into designing.

It's well known that, for our visual brand identities to impact, they must align with our purpose and personality. In addition, competitor research gives us the intel to take a distinctive track. If we want our target audience to buy - we must attract them by our visuals, values and offer. 

Once this reflection work was complete, the visual exploration could start. First off, I collated colours, imagery and symbolism that reflected my brand. Next up I commissioned brand designer Leanne Kelly of Jakenna Design. I was attracted to her artistic, heart-led approach to brand identity development.

The beauty of working with an external designer was having an expert onside to translate my ideas into creative concepts. Leanne was the professional to realise a unique, illustrative approach to capture my brand essence and client promise.

Identifying and Selecting Stand-Out Brand Codes 

Across the Story Tiller design phase, several brand codes would emerge (see above). First up, we decided on the brand palette and typeface. Early on, nature inspired colours, representing sea, land, earth and sun set the tone for the design. When it came to typefaces, we selected curvy (Brillors) and clean (Poppins) - fonts that evoked the ocean waves.

Next, we worked on the re-design of my logo to honour the new, nautical theme. Here, we took inspiration from the island view at the end of a telescope. Next came the development of key illustrative elements. For example, the ‘Tess Tiller’ on a boat to Distinction Isle would take centre stage as a symbol. I loved the way it reinforced my navigator role on my client's transformation journey.

As the process went on, further motifs and icons evolved. The free-hand style waves, the radiant sun, the beckoning island with the glittering path. Suddenly, a distinctive brand identity was slotting into place; it was such an uplifting and validating feeling.

If you're embarking on your own visual brand reflection journey, I would recommend the following steps.

  1. Review existing brand codes. ID where are they strong and confused (court opinion that counts).
  2. Reflect (internal/external) on where you are as a business (personality, purpose, promise).
  3. Clarify if your codes are still relevant and resonant? If not - how might you update them?
  4. Look at your competitor's codes. How can you best distinguish yourself from them?

From my experience, choosing your codes is a detailed, reflective and rewarding process. In the end, I arrived at a selection that made my heart sing. However, the hard work has just begun in terms of getting them out into the wider world. Here, we need to step up as brand guardians and amplifiers.

Why Consistency is King with Brand Codes

Once you’ve settled on your codes you need to put them to work. Here, a sharp focused consistency is king. In the words of maverick, marketing mastermind and code fanatic Mark Ritson

“You are under playing your codes because to you, they seem obvious; but to the customer, they’re gone in a second. You cannot over play codes.“

Above all, it’s important not to slip back into the visual mishmash trap. A little while into applying mine I realise how disciplined I need to be. In these competitive times, brand clarity matters even more to secure our brand's position in the marketplace.

Below are my key findings from my re-brand and code clarification experience.

  1. Get clear on your brand personality
  2. Reconnect with your brand heart 
  3. Know your audience (preferences)
  4. (If possible) commission a design professional 
  5. Define your 4-6 distinct brand codes 
  6. Apply them EVERYWHERE 

I am excited at the potential of building my brand so I stand out I shine. I feel new confidence that my visual brand is in step with my audience and strategic direction. All I have to do now is to codify like crazy, making beautiful brand ripples that attract the right humans to my door.

If you found this post interesting, discover my new eGuide ‘6 Steps To Brand Distinction’  for further tips to stand apart. Contact me to book a Brand Clarity Call to get on the right path.


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