Earlier this week I was handed a corporate style guide for a company for which I was doing some design work. I’ve come across style guides before, but this one was especially thorough: over forty pages detailing how to properly display the company logo, what colors and fonts to use, what kind of photographs to select and even what kind of voice to use when writing content. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this company has some stunningly effective marketing materials. This company knows exactly what they want and how they want the company to be represented, and have a great strategy that leaves almost nothing to chance.
I bring this up to underscore a key marketing concept: branding is more than just a logo. In fact, it’s a lot more than just a logo. Ideally, branding should flow through every facet of a company, setting a consistent tone for everything from internal memos to anything that the public might happen to see. Branding is the narrative that a company tells its stakeholders and customers. It’s the affirmation of corporate stability. It’s an emotional connection between a company and its customers. It’s a vital piece of the arsenal in the constant vying for potential customers’ attention. Therefore, it’s better to think of fonts, logos and colors not so much as an endgame for branding, but more like tools that trigger an instant recognition and reinforce feelings of familiarity and personal preference.
Suffice to say, with all the corporate psychology that goes into marketing a company, successful branding is rarely something that is merely stumbled upon or handed over to a haphazard approach. Branding is a strategic endeavor that requires careful planning, a focused approach and a willingness to reevaluate the plan from time to time and fix any kinks in the armor. To start on the path to a calculated, planned-out approach to branding, start by asking the following questions:
- Is all of your marketing material cut from the same cloth?
- Can you go so far as to sense a common message and style even between your business cards and your website?
- Do all of your materials accurately reflect your corporate atmosphere? Are the materials playful and irreverent while the tone around the office is button down and formal?
- If you stripped off all of the logos and mentions of your company from a piece of marketing material, could an outsider look at it and still recognize that if came from your company?
- Does every piece of your company’s material serve a purpose and deliver a clear message, or were some things created because it “seemed like something we should have” or perhaps it was adopted from a company you are affiliated with?
- Is every piece of your company’s marketing material a smaller part of a greater plan, like cogs in a machine?
For more information on the importance of branding please check out Brand Identity Assessment and What's In A Name?
Let 2012 be the year that you came up with a solid plan for branding your company, execute it and capitalize on the success.