Brand narrative

—Josep Palau

I’d like to begin by making one particular concept very clear. The logo is the principal brand ambassador for its audiences. It is the most important piece of communication that the brand of any organization, product, service and destination may have. 

That said, I should also clarify that the logo isn’t everything. For example, a logo cannot be expected to take on the responsibility of adequately representing the brand at every moment and for every audience. So what we do is we give it a language that not only enhances and complements it, but also completes it. Inevitably, there are materials where the logo does not appear, especially in contextualized places, such as the interior spaces of an organization, the signage, the pages of a publication, etc. 

In Ideograma we call this language “brand narrative”; it surrounds and reinforces the brand. To visualize it, think of a railway line which disappears over the horizon. Even though it has two rails, they become one at a distance, they share the same destination, just like the brand narrative that we create. One of the rails represents verbal narrative, the other visual narrative. The rails are equidistant and supported by sleepers, while the narratives have communicating vessels that link and intertwine constantly. To get to the destination, both are necessary. 

Verbal narrative is the brand’s way of speaking, either orally or written. It needs pillars of communication that underpin the brand idea, expressed primarily through a slogan or tagline but also to define its personality, a particular tone of voice and the key messages for each audience. 

For us, visual narrative consolidates the identity. Like its verbal counterpart, it constructs a recognizable visual style around the signature (or logo) which takes it to another level. The style is based on the elements that form its identity catalogue. It is expressed through a personalized range of colors, specific typefaces (some are designed specifically for the brand), gridlines to organize spaces, photographic and illustration styles, textures and icons.

But what gives the brand narrative real power is the result of three factors. First, emphasis on consistency and coherence. Only through careful repetition will the audiences be able to understand, identify and remember the brand. Second, it’s very important to know how to use the brand and its identity elements correctly. We tend to use, for example, a culinary reference to make this point clearer. We use the same ingredients to make a fried egg, scrambled eggs, a boiled egg, a poached egg, an omelette, etc., which results in a variety of different tastes and textures.

Returning to our speciality, a given typographic ingredient may be shared. For example, Cisco, Dolce&Gabbana, FedEx, Gillette, Nike, PayPal, TAG Heuer, USA Today, Volkswagen and many others, use the same typographic family: Futura. It was created by Paul Renner in 1927. The difference is in how it is used, and how it combines with the rest of the narrative’s ingredients. 

Finally, the brand narrative needs a good dose of creativity even though the challenge is to contain it within defined limits and to balance it well. It needs to compensate for repetition or possible boredom, as well as the ageing of the language and the trends of the day.

But we mustn’t forget; we must always, always venerate and celebrate the logo, the starting point for any great brand.

Josep Palau

Partner and managing director

Pep is skilled at managing both left and right hemispheres. A charismatic Catalan, he loves to tell stories that are often lessons of life. He is a partner in Ideograma, a brand guru, and the light that guides Ideograma in Mexico.

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