by Josh Miles
Have you ever wondered why some brands are more recognizable than others?
Welcome to the fifth installment of the Bold Brand Challenge. In our last two posts we’ve discussed how to find your brand voice and how to choose a killer logo. Today we’re talking about the benefits of having an overarching identity system, as well as the benefit of having brand standards in place.
While we could argue about which brands have the best logos (and believe me, I’d be happy to have that conversation with you) obviously most brands have their own logo. So if they all have one, then why are some brands just so immediately recognizable, while others take a second? I’m willing to bet that the ones you notice right away are the ones with more than just a logo—it’s about establishing a great brand identity system.
The world’s top retailers are amazing at this—Coca-Cola, Apple, Target, and Nike—when you encounter their brands or enter one of their stores, you know within a millisecond where you are and whose brand you’re experiencing. It’s about the colors, the typography, the signage, the texture, the music, the photography, and the overall experience that reinforces who these brands are.
This is not just about stamping your logo on every possible touchpoint. Branded environments, trade show booths, printed collateral, business cards, letterhead, apparel, and all of your digital marketing assets (we’ll talk more about these over the next two months) ALL deserve more than just your logo here. They should echo the same tone, look, and feel of your overarching brand identity.
In B2B, we haven’t traditionally done a great job in this regard. And for good reason. Traditionally, buyers didn’t expect to have “an experience” with your brand, they simply wanted you to perform a service for them.
So if my clients don’t venture into my office space frequently, can I just ignore all of this stuff?
The simple answer is, no. The stakes are higher today, and your competitors, especially the best ones, have raised the level of their game. If you want to stand out among the best in your industry, it’s time for you raise your game too.
If your clients never set foot in your office space, you’re not off the hook. Systems thinking goes far beyond the retail environment. It’s about considering every touchpoint your prospects will interact with.
Brand Identity Systems: Best Practices
Although each situation is different, and the opportunities vary, we do see common patterns among our professional services clients regarding their collateral needs. Here are a few of the most common elements to think about:
Across the myriad of printing options, and the various materials and media, color can be an incredibly tricky thing to control. We’ll assume at this point that you have standardized your corporate colors as designated Pantone matching system numbers, but that’s often not enough to ensure consistency.
Ask for suggestions for spot colors and any other printing or digital processes you plan to pursue. Keep an eye out for potential problems from the beginning, and insist on colors that perform well across all media.
Ultimately, our goal for each client is to have their brand own a color.
Outside of matching colors, consistency in design, rhythm, language, and texture are all things your prospects and clients are likely to respond to. Resist the urge to “switch things up” on every other piece you develop. If you think prospects are getting bored by your consistency, it’s probably just you. Strive to reflect unity, not blind uniformity.
For most of our clients, this is a great place to invest some healthy budget, time, and effort. Aside from your personal appearance and style, little else has as much of a first and lasting impact as your business card. Materials like thick cardstock, textured papers, or even metal or plastic can be very impactful. Metallic inks, die-cut shapes, and other specialty processes can also be very memorable.
Brochures and Other Print Collateral
Do you really need a company brochure? Think through any print item you think you need and consider if it’s something you just think you’re supposed to do, or if it will be an asset that will actually get some use. Also, consider at what stage in the sales process a brochure would be most useful, and tailor the messaging to that stage.
Tradeshow Displays, Presentation Kits, and PowerPoint Templates
What do all three of these things have in common? In our experience, they usually have too much copy and junk crammed into the space. Treat each of these like a billboard. Fewer words, more sizzle, and memorable concepts.
Other Touch Points
Lastly, remember that every touch point you have with an employee, partner, or customer is an opportunity to express your brand message or promote your current campaign. Don’t fall into the trap of, “Oh, it’s just a parking lot sign—it doesn’t have to be that professional.” Wrong.
Think about the last time you encountered an unexpected but well-executed brand touch point. Perhaps it was a business card. Or a printed message in an unexpected location. Those little details make me smile.
One Book to Rule Them All
So in the end, you need a standards guide to keep track of all of these things. You may call it an identity guidelines manual, brand standards book, or even a brand bible—any of these are okay, as long as you actually refer to it and use it.
Your brand standards guide should include recommendations for logo usage, colors, typography, photography, and brand voice. Some books are incredibly in-depth, others give very high-level recommendations. The point of having brand standards isn’t so someone can be the brand police. The point is to create a consistent, memorable brand that your clients and prospects will recognize in a millisecond.
Let’s do this!
See you next month. And remember to share your questions, challenges, and successes via your favorite social network below. (Portions of this article originally appeared in Bold Brand by Josh Miles, ©2012 Content Marketing Institute – available on Kindle or paperback)
Josh Miles is a caffeine and Twitter addict, and the principal and founder of Miles Design. He was honored as one of Indianapolis Business Journal's 2013 40 Under 40. Josh is also the author of Bold Brand: The New Rules for Differentiating, Branding, and Marketing Your Professional Services Firm. His expertise is highly sought after by professional services firms from coast to coast.