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Two Simple Elements for a Super-Sticky Brand Image

A close up of the head of a liquid glue that is oozing with an excess glue

What can you do to make your brand image stick in your prospects’ minds?

This post isn’t about copywriting, or brand promises, or taglines. I’m talking solely about your visual brand.

When you’ve finished reading this, you’ll know the two visual elements you must master to make your brand unforgettable.

First let’s talk about what we remember when we think of iconic brands.

Look at the images below. They’re not logos, but they look suspiciously like some well-known brands. Do you know which ones they are?

Name that brand

brand building lessons from a successful brand

brand building lessons from another successful brand

brand building lessons from yet another successful brand

I’m betting that Coca-Cola, FedEx and Starbucks came to mind. The images above don’t say those names. So what is it that defines the brands?

Color: A brand’s best friend

All three companies use color very consistently in their marketing materials, no matter where it’s printed or displayed.

  • Coca-Cola red is recognizable on everything from bottles to delivery trucks to web ads on an iPad.
  • FedEx purple and orange make for an unusual color combination you can identify from a block away
  • Starbucks’ corporate green and black is featured on cups, signage, napkins and in their store decor.

You can put color to work for your business, too. Choose two main colors, and use them consistently in everything you do, just like Coca-Cola, FedEx and Starbucks.

If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you! Need help? Visit this page for in-depth business color resources.

Typefaces: Your brand’s voice

These companies use typefaces very consistently to identify their brand. Coca-Cola’s hand-drawn swashes, FedEx’s streamlined Futura font, and Starbuck’s block-like sans-serif provide a voice and personality for their marketing messages.

Well-chosen typefaces will do this for your business, too. To start, pick two — no more — that communicate the “personality” you’d like to associate with your business.

Is it corporate? Friendly? Classic? Frilly? There’s a font for every kind of brand. To get help choosing and using typefaces, visit this page for information and a downloadable font combinations resource.

And now, a test. I’ll go first.

If we took your business name away and just used your colors and typeface, would people recognize your brand? What do you think?

creating a brand that holds up even with different text

How would your visual brand hold up? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson is the Chief Marketing Officer at DCS. She’s the creator of the Offer Accelerator Program. Learn more about Pamela’s content marketing books, and read reviews of the tools used to run this site.
Pamela Wilson coaches people in midlife to build profitable online businesses
I’m Pamela Wilson

In 2010, at the age of 45, I started this site and grew it into a business that offers freedom, flexibility — and consistent revenue.

34 thoughts on “Two Simple Elements for a Super-Sticky Brand Image”

  1. Nope, I don’t believe my brand would stand out. I can spot this when I look at other blogs, but have a hard time defining it and recognizing it on my blog. It is sometimes hard for people who are versed in Marketing to put their advice to work on their own stuff. It is kind of like we are too close to the tree to see the forest.

    • I agree, Nicole: it’s challenging to step back and see it from the outside.

      Do you have a group you can ask for feedback from? It’s fascinating to hear how others perceive our brands: it can be very educational!

        • I see! Were you able to recognize it still? That green and black is so ingrained at this point that I suspect they’ll be associated with the brand for years, even if they’re changing it now.

          • I think they’re banking on the signature green since it’s the color of their straws, the aprons (unless you have a rare and famous elite “black apron” barista) and the logo. They decided to go all Nike and drop the type and reduce their logo to the mark.

            That said, I think they’ll always have a logotype in some form, since their name needs to be written out in some way. Just not wrapped around the mermaid anymore.

            They’ve changed it on their website and other materials. I think it’s still pretty recognizable.

    • I actually never knew it was a mermaid on the logo. Interesting that they are reducing the logo as much as they are. It gives me a totally different impression of them. Now I am picturing mermaids swimming around cappuccinos. Is that the impression they want me to have? Just curious what do you get the impression of when seeing the logo?

        • I can’t say I’m entirely surpsrised, really. I’m originally from the Seattle as well, and my favorite location had the mermaid face instead of the word Starbucks on their logo. From a marketing standpoint, I’m sure they’re convinced that the colors are what’s iconic, not the word.

          It’s not like they’ll be the brand formerly known as Starbucks, after all. 😀

  2. I totally missed FedEx, but got the other two immediately.

    As for my newly-launched brand, I’m hoping that it will eventually become that iconic (heck, it’s so new that I can’t always recognize it).

    Re: Starbucks, even in Seattle the only thing that has changed so far is the cups.

    • Hmm … maybe if I put the fake FedEx logo on the side of a truck? Context probably would have helped. 🙂

      And thanks for news from Seattle. I’m going to pay more attention to see if I notice the branding change as it trickles over to the east coast.

  3. Hi Pamela, I don’t know if my business is memorable by font or color, plus I’m not even sure it qualifies as a business site yet–working on that. I’ve recently improved the header a little, and I was going to change the font but decided to stick with the Orlando with Arial as my second font because 1) I’ve had it for over a year 2) it’s a little different, I think 3) it sort of goes with the topic of my blog (spiritual/self-improvement stuff which some people might call new agey, and I think Orlando sort of ties in with that).

    Slightly off-topic: you know that Elmer’s glue bottle in your pic has symbolic significance, right? And you’re waiting for someone to comment on it? 😉 Marketing isn’t really my background but literary symbolism is, and it kind of crosses over into the visual w/advertising and all that. So yeah, I got a giggle and it brought me to your site to comment lol 🙂

    • OK, now I’m intrigued! I want to hear about the symbolism. I can imagine a few things, but you waded into it … spill the beans!

      I chose the shot because it was the simplest of all the ones I reviewed. And it conveniently points directly at my opt in form on the right. Sneaky, huh?

      (And it’s working: lots of sign ups this week! Hmm … maybe it’s the symbolism that’s doing it …)

      • lol Didn’t Magnum ice cream ads get banned in the US for being too overtly phallic for our Victorian tastes? Meanwhile, if you’ve ever visited Philadelphia’s City Hall…aka Philly’s Phallus…. now lay that on its side like the glue bottle 🙂 And if you look at City Hall from a different direction: (3rd from the bottom, didn’t want to give the full link due to *gasp* certain words)..hey, I live here so I would know 😀

        Since the bulk of my grad studies was on this sort of thing not to mention my thesis, no big deal but I’m, erm, beating around the bush considering the mixed audience.

        I just figured you have a delightful sense of humor 🙂

  4. Awesome post, Pamela! I’m a huge believer in selecting the right branding color, font, logo, look and feel… it should all convey a message congruent with your brand! Of course, no need to quite take it to the extremes that I do with my entire wardrobe, luggage and car in matching shades of blue! 🙂 Lol.

    Do you know my friend David Tyreman btw? He wrote a book called World Famous – you two should for sure connect! 🙂 (He’s @worldfamousco on Twitter).

    • Hi Mari!

      You do an excellent job carrying your brand color through everything. You’re right: it might seem extreme, but since you use a lot of web video it makes good sense. You are your brand, after all. And every time you appear on screen in that shade of blue, your brand is reinforced. Smart cookie!

      Thanks for recommending David. I’ll look him up right now. 🙂

  5. Hmm… Me thinks I’m stuck.

    My colors are Red/Orange/White (lots of white-space). But if you took my name away, what then?

    Looks like I have some work to do Pamela… 🙂

  6. I told my designer, Rachael Acklin, that my favorite color combo is black, white and yellow with a splash of red, and I wanted a ‘diner’ feel to the site. I fell in love with the font on another site and asked her to use it.

    I think she got it just right. What do you think?

  7. Hi Pamela, I love the way you chose to demonstrate the power of a great logo!

    But isn’t typeface a part of a brand’s visual identity? I thought ‘brand voice’ is about the tone of your communication and the words you use.

  8. I think I’ve got my brand identity fairly set from a recent conversation a friend had with my young girls. A truck drove by with a company name on the vehicle in large blue Zapfino lettering. My girls (4 and 6) cried out, “Kaelin Design! Mommy you bought a truck!” My friend replied, “No, Kaelin Design isn’t blue it’s a dark brownish black color.” I didn’t have to say a word… 🙂

    I still think it can use tweaking, of course, and after reading this article, I’ve made more conscious decisions about colors and repetitive usages.


    • What a great story! You definitely sound like you’re on the right track. If 4 and 6-year-old children recognize your brand elements, you must be doing a lot right. 🙂

      • It’s not half as good as when we were in the grocery store, and the lady behind us commented on my necklace(the one in my avatar, and on my business cards). Before I could even say a word, my oldest piped up, “It’s Kaelin Design, and Mommy will give you a card.”

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