Brand recognition is about consistency.
Nowhere is consistency more apparent than in branding, which relies heavily on logo design, tag lines, symbols and other design and messaging elements that contribute to creating a memorable brand identity.
Brand consistency is defined as a uniformity of messaging, terminology, appearance and values across all platforms – basically, anywhere your brand is visible. Once your brand is consistent and recognizable, the trust and admiration of your client base will follow.
A prime example of excellent brand consistency is the charitable organization World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Their panda logo is instantly familiar and has become an iconic part of their identity. It is through consistent design elements of the logo—same panda, same font and same proportions—that have helped WWF’s audience connect it to the organization. They have established brand guidelines that helps in-house and outsourced designers know exactly how—and how not—the logo should be used.
Other visuals like photo need to be on-brand at all times, too, and should have their own section in a brand’s style guide that provides samples of what is on-brand and off-brand.
Brands are created and perpetuated by multiple people in multiple departments throughout a company, so it’s easy to see how keeping a brand consistent can be tricky business. That’s why it’s necessary to have a brand guideline to keep all elements aligned: When brand consistency falters, the overall impact your brand has lessens. People are more likely to choose brands that they know and trust, and developing and maintaining a consistent brand presence gives a sense of familiarity and trustworthiness.
As marketers, how do we accomplish this complex task in a seamless way?
Performing a Brand Audit
Every so often it is important to conduct a brand audit. You may find that your company’s vision, values and/or mission has changed and you need to re-brand your company. Or your company has reached a milestone and you want to celebrate with an updated logo. A brand audit helps you identify your brand’s current standings: Does your brand align with your company’s mission, vision and value? Has its perception changed? Is it leading you to your goals? A brand audit is meant to be conducted when there is a shift (in company, in perception) or an issue (inconsistencies).
Assess Your Goals
Begin your brand audit by assessing your goals. Is your brand helping you achieve these set goals, detracting from them or achieving something unintended? Is it targeting your desired audience? Your brand should help your company meet your goals, whether that’s being seen as the leader in manufacturing healthcare products or a retail company with the best customer service.
Look at Your Data
The data from sales, company website, social media and paid advertisements can provide an idea of your brand’s health. Compare this data over a period of time: Have the numbers increased, decreased or stayed the same? An increase means that you likely have a strong brand and good brand visibility that is working for your company. Stagnant or decreasing numbers can indicate a weak or underperforming brand and/or poor brand visibility. Use this data to assess where you need to put more effort into your branding strategy or if your brand needs an overhaul.
Examine Your Competition
No business exists without competition. In order to better your brand, you must assess where you stand among your competitors. For many brands, lack of access to data on their competitors is a problem. One way some brands curtail this is by looking at social data, which isn’t kept under lock and key like many other statistical metrics are. You can get a surprisingly good estimation of the popularity and visibility of other brands by examining their social media standing.
There are also many tools available that will give you great insight into where your brand stands among the competition. You can examine things like keyword search rankings, backlink profiles and website traffic estimation by using competitor analysis tools.
Use this information to be better: What are they doing right and how can you take it up a level? What can you learn from their mistakes?
Look at Previous Visuals
Building a brand is about reinforcing consistent messages and imagery. Keeping your brand consistent may be more difficult for companies that outsource their marketing collateral and ads to multiple third-party businesses or those who have a small staff or budget. A brand guideline is an invaluable asset that ensure everyone uses the same tone, messages and logo each time.
Take a look at previous social media posts, advertisements, marketing materials and creative related to your company. Is the logo treated the same way each time, regardless of media? Is it stretched or in some way distorted? Are the colors used outlined as acceptable in the brand style guide? Are other visuals, like photos, on-brand? Do your messages maintain consistent tone?
If you find any inconsistencies, document them and look into why. Who worked on that particular piece? Was it outsourced to another company? Was the brand style guide available—was one even created? You are unlikely able to go back and fix each issue, but you can avoid more moving forward by understanding how they happened.
Create a Brand Consistency Style Guide
All brands should have a brand style guide. It allows any individual working on creative pieces accurately portray the brand and help it grown. Here are the elements that a style guide should include:
- Recommended logo size (minimum and maximum)
- Space required around the logo
- Adaptations of logo/wordmark (reverse, on a band, etc.)
- Examples of incorrect wordmark/logo usage
- Color palettes, including C/M/Y/K, Pantone (Coated & Uncoated), Hexadecimal, and R-G-B formulas
- Corporate color palette (main colors)
- Extended color palette (complementary colors)
- Typography (corporate and secondary)
- Photograph, including rules on product shots, acceptable/unacceptable modifications and stock photos
- Illustrations, including rules on acceptable and unacceptable styles
- Brand message(s)
- Brand voice
- Print collateral rules, for corporate, franchises and products
- Advertising, including logo/wordmark treatment and advertising for corporate, franchises and products
- Trade show booth, exhibit or display designs
- Promotional items, including wordmark treatment, acceptable items and more
- Customer interaction on social media (Flow chart of how users should respond in various situations)
- Website updates/blog activity (How each blog should be stylized)
This list is not exhaustive but provides a foundation on which to create your own style guide. You may even want to have a series of style guides, such as one for the corporate identity and one that focuses on branding the company online. Need your own branding style guide? Contact us today!
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