Building Blocks of Branding

A checklist of the branding basics.

Diana Lillicrap 5.31.2017


There are a lot of buzzwords for branding—identity, persona, reputation, storytelling, platform, hierarchy—and that’s just a sample list. It can be overwhelming and confusing. So here’s a simple checklist broken down into the various parts that make up a typical brand and an explanation of what it all means.


To be effective, brands need to start by building consensus around core offerings and purpose. For most brands, that begins with defining the basics of what represents your organization. Here are the typical elements of that foundation.

  • Mission, vision, and values: your reason for existing, where you are headed as an organization, and the guiding principles for how you should behave along that path.
  • Goals: these include over-arching business goals as well as specific marketing and communication goals.
  • Marketing communications plan: the framework of what you plan to accomplish and how you plan to do it. This document provides specifics about your audiences, strategies to reach them, and the tactics to use.
  • Metrics: determining what will be most useful in measuring your success. Whether it’s brand awareness, customer impressions, lead generation, or something else, decide what’s right for tracking your progress and then capture a baseline for each.

Verbal Identity

Once your foundation is set, your brand needs a verbal identity to give it a clear voice. Here are the typical elements to a verbal identity.

  • Brand name: what others call you. Make sure your name is something that’s distinct, memorable, and can be owned just by you.
  • Brand attributes: a short list of words that represent how your brand should be perceived by the outside world. Also a great way to objectively assess the tools you create against a set of agreed upon characteristics.
  • Brand essence: clear statements to define who you are, what you do, and ultimately, why it matters to your key audiences.
  • Brand story: an engaging and memorable narrative that brings your uniqueness to life.
  • Tagline, descriptors, and calls to action: whether informative or inspiring, most brands can benefit from a catchy phrase to give more meaning to your purpose.
  • Key messages: Specific segmented and targeted statements that communicate your value in terms of what key audiences want.
  • Other messages: talking points, an elevator pitch, sample headlines, or other phrases that can be used consistently to give more meaning to your brand voice.
  • Writing style guide: the do’s and don’ts of your brand voice, including tone, punctuation, grammar, web and social media rules, or other specifics that are unique to your organization, all in a handy guideline for every brand steward to use.

Visual Identity

An effective visual identity brings the verbal identity to life through consistency, appropriate design elements, and effective tools. Here’s what’s usually included.

  • Logo: the graphic representation of your brand name.
  • Visual system: the visual components that make up your brand, including your color palette, typography, photography and illustration styles, graphic elements, and examples of how this all comes together on typical communications.
  • Templates: the standard tools that you need to use consistently across your organization such as stationery, business forms, social media headers, PowerPoint slides, email templates, etc.

Brand Guidelines

With everything in place, the final building block is a useful brand guidelines document. This will ensure you detail all the elements of your brand and provide your internal and external marketing teams with clear guidance on how to use your brand effectively.

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