Product Branding: What Does It Really Mean?

Everyone has heard the term “product branding.” These words are often used by marketing companies, advertising firms, industrial design firms and the media. But what does product branding really mean and how is it affected by product design?

Product branding refers to the instantaneous association you make between a product and its Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM).

Corporations have discovered how effective product branding is as part of their marketing strategy, and utilize it as an extremely important marketing tool. Product branding plays such an important part of sales and marketing that companies invest hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in design to attain the ideal image for the next product launch.

Product branding relies on repetition, consistency and simplicity to communicate quickly and reliably to the consumer. Companies that have become household names—including Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike, Audi and Rolex—are great examples of corporations that have mastered associating all their products with their names. But how can a product brand be communicated through design?

There were many challenges in maintaining a consistent brand identity throughout numerous products that are continually evolving throughout long product life. Some of the tools that are used by designers that can be universally applied to all products are color, logos and product details. This is why many corporations have stringent graphic and design standards for the placement of logos and other design details. A minor change in color, for example, could disconnect the brand association and alter the perception of who manufactured a particular device.

Many corporations have established comprehensive design guidelines to maintain consistency across many products within their lines. These details define specific color pallets, logo size, proportions of various design features, overall shapes and countless product design details.

Although adherence to these guidelines is important, designers must skillfully interpret these specifications by creatively applying them to specific applications. This is why sophisticated designs are based on a simple palette of forms that can be adapted to endless product applications without compromising function or product use.

Corporations that have well-defined design guidelines also adhere to high-quality standards. Maintaining quality and craftsmanship, product details, surface finishes, labels, buttons, and even graphical user interface, is an essential part of corporate identity and product branding. Simple product designs are deceptively difficult to create as well as manufacture because any flaws become immediately apparent.

It is actually more difficult to design products complying with stringent corporate policies than creating products with design standards. Designers must be creative while restricted to criteria that comply with overall corporate policy and branding standards.

Corporate design guidelines must be written and defined to allow designers the freedom to explore new ideas while establishing styling standards that are consistently maintained across many different products.

Next time you’re walking through a department store, shopping online, or simply walking by some products, be sure to notice the design. Ask yourself why you believe that it was manufactured by a specific company. This may help you better understand and appreciate the meaning of product branding.