Editor’s Note - The following is a guest post by Emily Brackett, President of Visible Logic, Inc. a Portland, Maine-based graphic design firm that works with start-ups and growing businesses to help them build compelling and comprehensive brands across media. A longtime reader of The Hot Iron and strategic partner of Dunkirk Systems, LLC, Emily shares some of her wisdom and experience here, which we hope will be the first of many guest posts from her.
As a business owner, you probably have the usual elements of your corporate identity: business name, logo or wordmark, business cards and a Web site. However, as you grow your business, your identity can either be strengthened by consistent branding, or dilluted by irregular use of these elements.
There are several common reasons why business owners are not consistent in their branding.
The first is that no one is in charge of watching the brand. Many times our brand identity is being added to, molded, and stretched without anyone giving it much thought. Someone should be ensuring that logo usage and graphic elements are consistent from one piece to the next and from one media to another. For a small business, this may be the business owners, or an internal marketing person. If you work with outside designers, Web developers or even a print shop who does some design/typesetting for you, make sure you instruct them on how to use your identity correctly and uniformly.
Another reason why many businesses have so little cohesiveness in their image is that they try new things too often. You may be tired of seeing the same colors and similar layouts, but your customers (or potential customers) may just be starting to grasp your unique identity. Keep with it and the payoff will arrive.
Why is consistency important?
The most obvious reason to be consistent with your brand identity is that you don't want to confuse potential clients and customers. Make it easy for someone to remember you. Frequently, people notice certain elements, but not all the details.
For example, you meet a potential client at a networking event and give her your business card which features a large, red, circular logo. A few weeks later, that person is thinking she may need your services so they Google your name and browse to your Web site. If she sees a large, red, circular logo she feels confident that she’s at the right place. If, on the other hand, your Web site shows your logo (even the same graphic) in green, she may feel confused and question whether this is indeed the same person and company she had met previously.
People trust things that they know
The first example highlights the most basic type of confusion that can cost you sales. But often it is more subtle than that. Every time a potential client hears your business name or sees your logo it gets registered, even slightly, in their memory. The stronger the bank of memories - and therefore the connection - someone has to a brand, the more likely they are to buy from that brand. Consumers choose brands that are familiar, because they seem known, established, and therefore trustworthy.
It makes business sense - increase your returns
Unfortunately, many business owners make their brand inconsistent without giving it much thought. One example is an entrepreneur who hires a Web development firm to create their Web site and another design studio for their printed work, without coordinating the two. You’ve paid for two projects but rather than having those two pieces compounding your brand and building them exponentially, you may end up with two unmatched marketing tools. Therefore, the two pieces are not as effective in building brand recognition as one coordinated effort.
How to build consistency:
- Use the same business name, logo, and/or logotype. Typeset the name and other elements, such as a tagline in a fixed fashion. Whether you do this yourself or work with an experienced graphic designer, once the logo or wordmark is done, don't change it.
- If you’ve hired a designer to develop your logo or wordmark, make sure you receive electronic files that you can work with. You and your staff should use these graphics in all letters, memos, proposals, etc. Do not retype or tinker with the logo, and do not allow your staff or agencies to do so either.
- Choose a corporate color, or color palette and use them as the dominant color scheme throughout your materials - printed or online. If you’ve worked with a professional designer for your logo, make sure you’ve received your pantone (PMS) color numbers as well as CMYK and RGB equivalents. Whether you create something yourself in PowerPoint or work with a graphic designer, always use those same colors.
- Think across media. Ensure there are design elements that are similar across all of your materials. From business card to Web site to advertisement to educational brochure, there should be a recognizable look and feel.
- If you worked with a professional designer, have them write up some easy-to-follow guidelines and have them create templates for you. These might include a letterhead template in Word and a PowerPoint template for your presentations.
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