Brand Codes
January 12, 2021
Written by Scott Lancaster
Read Time 5 Minutes

What are brand codes and why are they important?

Branding articles, how to build a brand, building a brand, starting a brand.

What are brand codes?

So what are brand codes and why should you care?

Well if you want your brand to be easy to recognise and to improve the likelihood that it sticks in your customers mind... you should most likely read on.

So what is a brand code?

In simple terms, a brand code is basically a distinctive element or characteristic of a particular brands DNA.

A brands logo is the most obvious brand code. But there are so many more.

Think about the sound an Apple computer makes when opened. Or even the iconic red used consistently by Coca Cola.

A brand code is exactly what the name suggests. 

A unique code which instantly allows you to recognise the brand in which the code is associated with.

There are many different types of brand codes you could develop for your brand, but I want to simply outline some of the most powerful forms brand codes come in:


The most obvious brand codes come in the form of visual elements, graphics or even sound and smells.

This includes logos, patterns, colour schemes and even the tone of photography used. It also includes jingles used in adverts or perhaps even a trademark smell a particular store could have to enhance the retail experience.

The way to know if a brand code is strong enough is simple.

Coca Cola brand strategy

If you saw this advert on a billboard, would you know the brand it's representing? There are three brand codes in this single image. The colour red. The font/typeface used for the text. And lastly the shape of the bottle, which is completely unique to the Coca Cola brand.

Ask yourself the question, could you recall the company in question simply from seeing the brand code alone?

If you can, bravo. 

If you can’t, it’s likely the brand code just isn’t distinctive or unique enough.

Interested in learning how you can develop distinctive brand codes to help customers recognise your business easily, you can book a free 15 minute brand code development session with a Brander Consultant by clicking here.

Tone of voice

This is perhaps the hardest to get right for smaller brands.

The tone of voice a brand uses can be unique and personal to the company it represents.

Think Burger King.

The cheeky wit which seems to be present in everything the burger chain does is unique to the brand itself.

Burger King brand strategy
A tongue in cheek advert from Burger King, showcasing their original brand voice. They use humour to showcase their brand's witty personality on a regular basis, and the result is a brilliant showcase of how brands can use their DNA to stand out and take on the likes of McDonalds in style.

Instead of trying to beat McDonalds at making burgers, they compete in with thier personality and clever advertising.

They use humour to counter McDonald's advertising efforts, which has helped create some hilarious results.

This is a brand code Burger King use throughout all of their marketing efforts consistently. And this keeps the brand front of mind with customers who appreciate the brands charmingly fresh approach.

Worldview and values 

The last and potentially the most under-rated form of brand code is a companies values and worldview.

Every great company should stand for something and have purpose.

And it's even more spacial when that purpose is unique to the company who pioneer it.

Think Nike.

nike brand strategy
Many know Nike for their slogan 'Just Do It'. But this statement by Co-founder Bill Bowerman can be found in the most cunning of places in Nike stores across the world. I even saw it stitched into a seat once in a retail store in Shanghai China. The brands DNA is everywhere, and is applied in the most unique ways.

They believe 'If you have a body, you are an athlete'.

A strong statement. But more importantly, a unique one.

If you saw a billboard with that brand code written across it, you'd instantly know which brand that billboard belonged too.

So how can I create my own brand codes?

The process for developing your own brand codes is fairly simple if you keep the definition of what a brand code is in mind.

A brand code is basically a distinctive element or characteristic of a particular brands DNA.

So in order to create your own brand codes, we first need to define what is unique and distinctive about your brand and what you do.

In what ways can people recognise your brand based on just one simple element.

Take Tiffany & Co's 'Forget Me Not' Blue for example. The colour is one of the most protected colours in the world, enjoying the Pantone colour code '1837' which is the same year the company was founded in New York.

This can stem from a number of different areas and methods.

But for a more humble business, how can you create brand codes which people can remember and notice if you don't have the budget of Nike or Tiffany & Co?

There are a number of low cost ways to create a brand codes, some of which are completely free and just take a little time.

Colour as a brand code

To pioneer a distinctive colour (or set of colours) can make your brand instantly recognisable.

It's also completely free and simple to do.

Although being known for one single colour (like Tiffany & Co) will take far longer, you can use two or three colours to create a palette which people instantly associate with your brand.

Mastercard have been using their now iconic 2 circle logo since 1968. Since then, the brand have become known for the interlinking shapes being coloured red and yellow. If these two circles were blue and green, we'd likely not associate it with Mastercard at all. Therefore colour can be a great way to help people recognise your company.

If you need some hands on help developing an effective colour palette for your brand, feel free to book a one-to-one branding session with me.

Using your stance & beleif as a brand code

By having a strong stance or purpose built into your brand, you can truly stand out in your market.

This is even more true if you have a belief or stance which is slightly controversial.

The beauty of having a controversial stance on a topic related to your product or offering is many of your competitors won't feel comfortable taking that level of risk.

Which often results in these generic companies simply becoming another option as opposed to actually standing for something that you believe in which customers can resonate with.

Patagonia have a strong stance on the environment and sustainability. They urge their customers to buy less, and instead take care of and pass down clothes they already own. This unique set of values set's Patagonia out from others selling similar outdoor related items.

Need some further help developing brand codes?

I can appreciate there may be a lot to take in here. Especially if you've never thought about developing brand codes for your business previously.

If you do need some additional help, I try to have a couple of one-on-one meetings with business owners to give back to the people who helped me do what I love for a living.

So if you'd like to connect for 15 minutes and discuss how you can create effective brand codes for your business, you can do so right here.


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