The 8 universal branding elements every brand needs

When you’re building a cohesive brand identity, certain elements are non-negotiable. These are the elements that clearly express who you are as a brand, what you have to offer and who you’re for.

Take a look at pretty much any company’s branding and you’ll see all of these elements working together. Sometimes, they’re subtle and in certain cases, one or two might be missing, but for the most part, you’ll see each element on this list present and working with the others to communicate the brand.


Every brand needs a logo. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a brand that doesn’t have a logo, which arguably makes it the most important element of branding.

A logo is a brand’s whole personality boiled down into an easy-to-recognize image. It’s often the first interaction you have with a brand; the image that sticks in your mind and conjures up memories (good, bad or indifferent) about the brand when you see it again.

Your brand’s logo goes on almost every asset your brand owns: your business cards, your website, your merchandise, your social media pages, any branded templates you use and all of your advertising and marketing materials. That’s why your logo should represent what your brand is all about and encapsulate the essence of your brand identity.

Color palette

Colors are another key ingredient in any brand identity. Take a look at the following color swatches and try to guess which brand each palette represents.

Color is so important to branding that some companies have gone so far as to trademark their signature brand colors. A few examples of trademarked colors include UPS brown, Tiffany blue and Fiskars orange.

But why is color so important? Because colors express key values and personality traits. We’ve covered color psychology and how to choose effective colors for your branding before, so if you’re not sure which colors are best for your brand, check these out.

And don’t feel like you need to stick to just one color—the colors in your palette work together to express your brand while giving it a unique look.


Shape is another part of an overall branding strategy. Not just the shapes present in your logo, but the shapes in your web page backgrounds, layout design, packaging and even your business cards and other stationery.

As you develop your brand identity, determine which shapes align with your brand’s persona best. Keep in mind that you aren’t locked into just one shape or type of shape—if your brand’s look demands two or more shapes, use those shapes.


“Eat fresh.”

“Just do it.”

These are two of the most well-known taglines in the world. Taglines, also known as slogans, are the flagship of brand messaging.

Brand messaging is how you communicate your brand’s unique offer. Sometimes that offer is obvious, like Subway’s “Eat Fresh” slogan. Subway chose “Eat Fresh” as their slogan to differentiate themselves from other fast food brands by positioning themselves as a healthy alternative. Using green in their branding and running commercials showing customers’ testimonials of losing weight while eating Subway hammered this point home.

For other brands, this unique offer is more abstract, like Nike’s urging the customer to “Just Do It.” But despite being somewhat abstract, Nike’s message is clear: don’t hesitate, take action. Get up, exercise, do what you know is right for your body and your mind—no excuses, just do it.

Your tagline gives your logo additional information and context. It doesn’t just tell people what you do, it tells them what to expect.

Tone of voice and vocabulary

At Starbucks, you can’t get a small coffee.

Well, you can get the smallest of their three standard sizes… but the name of the size is “tall.”

That’s because Starbucks developed their own unique branded vocabulary to differentiate their product offerings from other brands’. Even though they didn’t coin the words they use for the different drink sizes, they were the first to use them in this unique way.

This isn’t the only unconventional naming convention Starbucks is known for. They’re also well-known for misspelling customers’ names on beverage cups—sometimes hilariously inaccurately. And although Starbucks hasn’t officially acknowledged any deliberate choice to spell customers’ names wrong, they have recognized writing names on cups as a fun part of their brand. Individual baristas, however, have different takes on the misspellings.  

A specific vocabulary is part of a brand’s tone of voice. A brand’s tone of voice is the voice you read in all the copy produced by the brand, like the emails you receive from them, the content on their website and the language they use on social media.

Your tone of voice is one of the most effective ways to shape—and reshape—how the world perceives your brand. Wendy’s is one example of a brand that carved themselves a new persona by developing a consistent, unique social media persona. Before they were on Twitter, they were just a fast food restaurant that sold square burgers, frosties and chili. Now they’re a fast food restaurant that sells square burgers, frosties, chili and never passes up an opportunity to be snarky and savage.


Positioning is the niche in the market that a brand fills. When you determine your brand’s persona, you determine not just what it offers buyers, but how it fits among other brands in its space. Are you priced higher, about the same or lower than your competitors? What makes your offer more attractive than competing offers?

A brand’s positioning has a direct impact on its branding. For example, a low-priced brand that aims to communicate that they’re the most economic choice might choose bright, value-communicating colors like yellow and orange and craft a brand voice that’s simple, friendly and optimistic.

In contrast, a higher-priced brand might employ darker hues and a mysterious brand voice in order to position themselves as the more exclusive option.

Brand positioning isn’t just carving out a space in the market, though. It also involves interaction with other brands, both within the same industry and brands from other industries. This is where positioning overlaps with brand imagery: the brands you partner with (and that includes influencers) shape how the world perceives you.

Let us help you build your brand!

As you can see, building a brand means way more than just designing a logo!
Your brand identity is a three-dimensional body of design choices, assets and unique branding elements that all work together to provide your brand’s unique look and feel.
If you’re in the process of creating a brand identity, don’t rush the process or skip out on designing any of its elements.
Work with us to bring it to life!
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