By Alesha Peluso
As a designer, I often have clients come to me looking for guidance, frustrated wanting something “exciting” or “out of the box” for their next project or advertisement but don’t know how to make it work with their image. For some small businesses this issue may occur when preparing advertising or printing promotional materials for their company. For larger companies, they are looking to step out of the bondage of a stale, out of date corporate identity. In either case, branding a business properly can become cumbersome and lead to what I like to call “business image confusion”. Whether you are a small business or a large corporation working with a large marketing company, finger pointing and pencils flying will begin if the unified image of a company begins to crumble. In our era, where technology is so readily available and people are glued to their television screens and computers, it comes as no surprise that branding has left an indelible impression on modern consumers. People are becoming more actively involved in the “entertainment” of advertisement. I’ve seen debates about which Geico™ commercial campaigns are most effective to the common viewer. Was it the Caveman Campaigns or the Gecko Era that got your vote? Doritos™ “Crash the Super Bowl” airs a fan-made Doritos™ advertisement during the big game, inviting people to be actively involved by voting for their favorite advertisement and flavors online. More and more, companies look to their style to express what their clientele don’t have the patience to read about. The company mission, values, industry standards, etc go widely unrecognized or unacknowledged by the average consumer. When it comes to corporate creativity, the number one reason people struggle with thinking outside of the box is due to not having a box to begin with. The box, in this statement, is the style guide that defines, in great detail, where you can put your logo, what colors you can use, etc. These tips will serve as a foundation that can keep you in focus for what your clients are expecting from you and act as your golden standard of which all your promotional and advertising is measured. The following is a Branding for Business guide to put you on the right track and get your company to recognize your business’ true image.
One of the things business-minded folks are asked at least once in their career is their “pitch”. The first thing you should ask yourself when analyzing your brand is what makes you and the things you do unique. Go through each of your services, pretend you are your own prospective client, and ask yourself why would you hire you. It sounds tedious but it should provide you with some thought provoking information.
The next step is marrying your unique qualities to your target customer demographic. For example: “The Comfy Puffy Puppy Bed that I provide is unique because pets can share a bed with their human parents without dirtying the sheets. How do I get my most common sales demographic (lets say single middle-age women with pet dogs) to notice what I offer?” Some good things to focus on are how the product or service makes your customers feel, what type of environment do you want your clients to experience when working with you, what type of communication is the most important for your work (example: cold calls, recommendation, etc). At this point, most businesses begin looking for a branding specialist to help visualize these concepts.
For businesses that do not have a logo, this step still applies to any concepts you may have for your future logo and should be sitting in the back of your mind. If you do have a logo, audit it! Does your logo express the ideals, services, history, or ambitions of the company? Is it flexible for any type of medium (print, web, product packaging)? Is it level with your business’ industry standards? If the answer to these questions is no, is their a way to keep the integrity of the original logo design, but update or express the current climate of your business? Is a new image necessary?
A good branding company will ask you many questions to get your image on the right track. A great deal of research has gone into the way colors, symbols, and words affect people’s perception of an image. Even the voice of the messages you are sending out are influential factors. Would a company with a logo shaped like coat-of-arms and selling expensive suites start their brochure with “howdy” in a large western style font? On the other side of the coin, a local daycare will have better luck writing advertisements using friendly, open terms rather then cold, distant professionalism. Think of how you would like the people who represent your company to speak, how you would want them to be perceived during a sales meeting or conference, and let that guide your thinking for the tone of your identity.
Ideally, have your design guide created with your logo. Not only does this ensure that it is stylistically consistent, but it takes the guesswork out of the intention of your logo. The minimum elements your style guide should include is:
- Color Palette – This should include HEX# and/or RGB percentages to keep print and web colors consistent.
- Type Specifications – Often this includes one unique font to the company with a universal alternative (example: Google web font’s “Cinzel” for advertising but “Times New Roman” for all text in company documents)
- Tagline – Your Company’s tagline may include a brief summary of your services or a catchy phrase describing your industry
- Logo Description – A description of the logo that specifically identifies the purpose and intent of the logo as well as where it is appropriately placed and how it looks on various color backgrounds.
Style Guides can become book-sized text or boast it’s own website that details out the appropriate placement of the logo on letterhead, business cards, print design, etc and can even include rules for where a motto can be used and the appropriate way to incorporate your brand in any company videos and/or photographs. Creating a strict style guide can be challenging and expensive, but it will result in a consistent appearance for your business and can be tailored to either a local or a national minded brand.
Never release anything to the public that does not reflect your company’s image and ideals. Consider your brand as a promise from you to your client that you will always deliver the same results, no matter what the obstacle may be, because your business is a beacon of consistency. From your email signature & business cards to publications & promotional materials, make sure that you are following your style guide.
Streamlining your identity matters and is a large step in being a viable company in this competitive economy. Small steps become big steps and your company will start leaving a lasting impression. Be encouraged to know that by considering what your brand identity is, you are getting serious about your presentation to the world. With these steps you will improve your business.
May the journey to your branding your business bring you to a new level of success!