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Maybe you’re giving directions on creative and need to advise on an aspect of branding. Perhaps you have a client presentation and it’s starting to look nothing like what your company puts out. No matter where you are in your organization, chances are you’ll eventually have to communicate your brand to an external audience despite not having been the one to create it. So you need a way to ensure that your brand doesn’t get diluted or misinterpreted each time you use its components.
In the next couple of blog posts we’ll go into some useful guidelines to help you avoid this situation and have the upper hand. Before I go into how to visually express your brand across all channels and content types, I have to stress the importance of a single best practice:
ALWAYS be consistent
There cannot be a cohesive brand without a major emphasis on consistency; they go hand in hand. What is a brand if not an image, a logo, a slogan, a mascot that are consistently identifiable over time? Without a consistent thread or a theme tying all your brand components together, there isn’t so much a brand but rather a group of items. Learning to use that theme or thread across all of your online and offline assets can be challenging but we’re here to help!
Not everything about your brand needs to be unique
Colors, typefaces, and logos are the easiest brand items to identify so they can be extremely helpful if you get them right. While it doesn’t matter so much what your colors or typefaces are, it does matter how they are used. Even if, like us, you have an exceptionally common font like Arial as one of your major typefaces, it’s not a detractor from what makes your brand unique. Arial isn’t meant to say “This is Yes Lifecycle Marketing and nobody else!” As much as we would love for everyone in the world to think of our brand when looking at Arial, it’s just not in the cards. Arial’s job, in respect to our brand, is to be functional in the background while other components take the “spotlight” of our branding.
DO: Divide your branding components into spotlight and functional categories and make sure they serve the right purpose.
Define your brand
Develop a comprehensive brand guideline document to help with consistency. Having this rule book of the functionality/usage of each brand component will go a long way in solving some of the larger, more immediate branding issues you may encounter. Keep in mind that times (and companies!) change so it’s not very likely that your brand will stay the same forever. I mean, look at Google – we all thought that logo will live through all! The point is that you can never have complete control over how each of your brand components gets used by your internal teams or sales force (I’m looking at you PowerPoint presentations!), but what you CAN do is define the spirit of your brand and educate your people what that is to ensure they exercise ‘creative license’ (J) appropriately.
DO: Define what your brand stands for through the company’s goals, tone, and positioning both in the market and with its customers. This will ensure that the core of your brand endures the years, employee turnovers, industry trends, and unforeseen circumstances.
Break the rules (occasionally!)
While I don’t know if we should subscribe to the mantra “Rules are made to be broken”, there are always exceptions.
DO: When in doubt, choose quality over compliance. Yes Lifecycle Marketing used to use predominantly black and white photography. However, when approaching clients in the food industry, for instance, we consistently ran into the same - black and white photography DOES NOT communicate the real appeal of food.(see exhibit A below).
Sometimes previously made decisions no longer work and what’s important in these situations is to embrace the fact and learn from it. It can be true of photography, brand colors, graph and image styles, or visualization of abstract concepts. If sticking to the rules yields a sub-par design or visual experience, pick simplicity and quality instead. Consumers tend to notice things that look off and while something simple may go unnoticed, if it lends to the overall quality, you’ve just avoided a disaster!
In the next blog post we’ll look at more specific examples and common challenges marketers face when it comes to branding. In addition, we’ll use the tips above (and a few new ones) and illustrate some more brand-worthy alternatives.