Three terms that are enough to drive any marketer mad
with the context they are used vs what they actually mean.
But trust us, when it comes to your company’s marketing goals,
it pays to know the difference.
WHAT IS BRAND IDENTITY?
So, how exactly does your company gain traction, a following,
and the public perception you’re looking for?
You provide brand identity, or the elements used to communicate your brand.
These elements consist of, but are not limited to the following:
THE LOGO IS THE PRIMARY
VISUAL IDENTITY OF A BRAND
but it’s more than that. It’s a representation of your company’s authenticity. It’s what will leave a lasting impression in the mind of your consumer. It’s what makes a company stand out visually. With an overcrowded market landscape, it can be difficult for a company to rise above the clutter of competitors in their target market—a well-designed logo will provide you with visual emphasis to help you communicate who your company is across your communications.
When you strip it down to the basics, a logo is a logo. There aren’t necessarily “types” of logos—rather, a logo is made up of elements. A logo could consist of a wordmark (think of Sony, FedEx, Jeep), it could include an icon or a symbol (like Snapchat, Target, Apple), or it could be comprised of both. If you have both an icon and a word mark, you can choose (as part of your brand standards, which we will get into later) to keep them consistently merged across your communications or separate them if the elements work independently.
YOUR CHOICE IN TYPOGRAPHY CARRIES MORE WEIGHT THAN YOU MAY THINK. BECAUSE THIS SAYS SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FROM this.
is the artistic approach and technique of arranging your type, including both your letters and characters. It takes into consideration line length, spacing, your point size, etc. It’s the artsy stuff.
refers to the style of a group of fonts—think of Arial or Times New Roman, they’re a group of fonts known for having distinct characteristics.
is the complete collection of all styles and sizes of a single typeface(bold, italic, medium etc.).
is the particular size, style, and weight of a typeface. This is something like Comic Sans Italicized 12 pt. (Which, by the way, NEVER use).
In short, your typography is an instrumental piece to your company’s brand identity. Whatever you decide for your company’s typography, think about what you’re trying to convey. Striving to give your company an edgy, powerful feel? Looking for a luxurious, swooping script to indicate elegance? Understand that the slightest detail in your typography can change a customer’s entire opinion when it comes to your company. Because details matter.
COLOR IS AN EXTREMELY COMPLEX, YET, HIGHLY IMPORTANT BRAND IDENTITY ELEMENT TO BREAK DOWN.
We’ll start with the concept of color theory. Essentially, color theory is both a science and an art in understanding the effects color has on the majority of people. Color theorist like Faber Birren believe that there is a link between our emotional state and colors—beyond the “wow that’s a pretty color” effect. There’s a lot that goes into this concept, but it encompasses something as simple as a color’s hue or saturation evoking certain feelings in a group of people.
According to color theory, emotions that are generally associated with a corresponding color. However, keep in mind that you have the power to manipulate how your target audience will perceive your company with your supplemental brand identity elements.
Now that we’ve touched on color theory, let’s talk color palettes. A color palette refers to a range of colors. For example, pairing softer, muted colors to achieve an elegant look, or incorporating both warm and cold colors to give a striking effect.
In addition to understanding color theory and color palettes, make sure you have the right RGB (computer monitors, and digital mediums use red, green, and blue to display color) and CMYK (most commercial printing presses use cyan, magenta, yellow, and black to display color) colors for both your digital and print color palettes. This will make a difference in how your colors appear on a mobile screen versus a magazine page. The Pantone Process Color Guide (PMS: Pantone Matching System) is the color bible for graphic designers, and a helpful swatch guide for reproducing the colors you will use for your company’s color palette. PMS can help cut down on the cost of printing by streamlining the coloration process—whereas, CMYK requires four plates to be made for a print using varying percentages of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black to create a specific color.
Because color is one of the first components your target audience will notice, it’s worth your time and effort to make sure you have an understanding of color theory, ensure your color palette is consistent, and deploy the correct color conversions to express your company’s personality.
REMEMBER, YOUR COLOR
PALETTE WILL NEED TO WORK
ALONGSIDE YOUR OTHER
BRAND IDENTITY ELEMENTS.
TONE & VOICE STYLE
THE KEY TO SUCCEEDING IN COPY LIES IN UNDERSTANDING TWO DISTINCT ELEMENTS THAT SHAPE YOUR STYLE
Especially if you’ve just started a company, you’re probably deciding how you want to come across—crafting your copy is a key part of that. The key to succeeding in copy lies in understanding two distinct elements that shape your style: your voice and tone.
Essentially, your voice is your personality. It’s stringing words in a way that sound like you and that are unique to you.
FOR EXAMPLE, YOU MIGHT WANT YOUR COMPANY TO COME ACROSS AS
Now think of your own voice. Say something. Your voice doesn’t change. So, whether you’re writing a social media post or an email, website copy or an eBook, your voice should keep the same consistency, or personality, across all of your communications.
Tone, on the other hand, is your attitude. And, just like your own attitude, it’s likely to change depending on who you’re talking to or what situation you’re in.
For example, if you’re genuinely apologizing to a friend your tone is probably going to sound more somber than sarcastic. Which is why it’s important to keep your tone in check. It should always be tailored to your target audience as you write copy.
One example of a company who has mastered their voice and tone is Mailchimp. Their genuine and plain speak voice perfectly pairs with their dry sense of humor across their communications. From their quick quips on Twitter, to their bold statements on their website’s homepage, their knowledgeable and genuine personality shines in their copy, mixing up their lighthearted tone depending on the medium they are using.
Remember, tone can change, but it’s important to make sure you choose the appropriate tone for the appropriate setting, medium, and situation—and always keep your voice, or personality, at the center of your copy.
YOUR VIDEOGRAPHY AND PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE SHOULD CAPTURE WHO YOU ARE!
Think about these two companies: Ford and Subaru. Both sell vehicles, but each has a distinct videography and photography style that centers on their target market. Ford focuses on attracting the “built Ford tough” F-250 driver; and relies on the truck’s power to sell itself. Subaru, on the other hand, focuses its shots on the emotional connection drivers have with their Outback for recreation, exploration, and adventure. Each style is highlighted in their videography and photography—each works for them, and, more importantly, the target audience they’re striving to attract.
Now it’s up to you to decide how you’re going to tell your company’s story with the use of these mediums—what does that look like? Your videography and photography style will capture who you are through both the style and execution of your shots. Like Ford and Subaru, you win by finding out what style is going to resonate with your audience the best, what speaks to your company the most, and delivering these photos and videos with consistency. Over time, you will begin to develop your own “flavor” when it comes to videography and photography, as you begin to see what engages your audience.
TONE & VOICE
FIND YOUR SIGNATURE SOUND.
People are paying attention to audio and music, as podcasts and video are becoming more popular among consumers as a whole. Even if you don’t advertise on these platforms now, there is plenty of potential for you to move to a medium that carries audio in the future. Think about how the Green Giant jingle is synonymous with the brand they have promoted, or how Olive Garden always uses soft, yet upbeat, instrumental music in the background of their commercials.
IT’S A BRAND IDENTITY ELEMENT
THAT SHOULDN’T BE OVERLOOKED.
Rely on music and audio in conjunction with your other brand identity elements—from sound bites in your podcast, to the background music for your company’s online ads, refining your sound and centering on what response you are trying to get will help you infuse a distinct and recognizable brand identity element for your company.
WHAT IS BRANDING?
Reinforcing your brand efforts is an integral part of nurturing your company’s brand. This is where your branding comes in, or the efforts done to help tell your company’s story. This is when you will deploy your brand identity elements and share them with the world. This includes everything from engagement on social media to sharing a print brochure. It’s pushing relevant content to ensure that you’re channeling your branding efforts into every outlet where you have the opportunity to meet your target audience.
Branding is when your target audience will start to build an emotional connection, familiarity, or a sense of loyalty with your company. It’s also your opportunity to put your best foot forward when it comes to your products and services as your branding efforts will help you to maintain or enhance your company’s reputation.
GOOD DESIGN MATTERS!
and we consider design to be the foundation a brand identity system is built on. Graphic design is all encompassing for every single visual element that’s a part of your brand identity architecture. Your logo falls into this category, but it also includes elements like your web design, social media graphics, business cards, stationary,
THINK ABOUT IT. EVERYTHING HAD TO BE DESIGNED—FROM YOUR SHAMPOO BOTTLE TO THE DEVICE YOU’RE READING ON.
But it’s more than that. Graphic design is a part of every touchpoint your target audience will have with your company throughout their buyer’s journey—it weaves together both your company’s visual identity and values. Your graphic design will become a staple in the representation of your company and in turn, your brand.
HATE THIS. Scratch that.
We’re not going to lie, writing is hard. But hey, you can’t always rely solely on awesome graphics to drive attention and engagement to your company. You still need solid copywriting if you’re going to get anywhere. What’s more, your copywriting tone and voice doesn’t just shape what people think about you, but words run the SEO—in other words, you need words to build your brand authority. It’s how your target audience will find you in the search engine and it determines where you will be ranked.
The business world is overcrowded, so you have to create unique copy in order for your company to survive.
Crafting messaging is a key part to your branding efforts and it takes some serious practice if you’re just starting out and are working to become relevant. It helps to research what long-tail keywords are “top searched” in your industry and learning the language of your target audience so you can connect. Make sure you define who you are before you begin to craft your copy; and writing consistently will prove to be the key to success when it comes to crafting solid copy.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS NO LONGER A WANT, IT’S A NEED TO SUCCEED IN THE BUSINESS WORLD.
Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn—no doubt you’re familiar with these platforms and more. These networks play an integral role in your branding efforts, giving you the chance to showcase your company through user-focused content, while providing an even greater opportunity to connect, share, and listen on platforms where you can best meet your target audience.
Through defining a purpose, target audience interaction, quality content creation, and smart social strategy, you can enhance your company’s presence on social media and expand your branding efforts.
DEFINING A PURPOSE ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Why are you on social media? If you’re simply doing it because everyone else is, well, you’re off to a start, but you don’t establish your brand by doing what everyone else is doing. Take a good look at your company, your culture, and who you’re trying to reach. Does your company really need a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram AND Pinterest account to reach your goals? Is your target audience active on Tumblr? Is a YouTube channel necessary for the work you’re doing, content you’re creating, and who you will be interacting with? Is LinkedIn the right place for you to gain leads and conversions? Determine your goals for what you are hoping to accomplish on social media to understand where you need to be and who you want to meet.
TARGET AUDIENCE INTERACTION
You are expected to engage with your target audience on social media. It’s social media for a reason. But this consists of more than just the people who you are hoping to sell to, as you tailor your content to meet their specific needs, you’ll likely attract a much broader audience. This includes those who will become your influencers, your competition, and even current and future employees. Keep in mind, your goal on social media shouldn’t be to cast the widest net you can and hope you catch a lot of fish—you should be specifically creating content which is tailored to your target market and creating recognition by establishing your brand identity elements along the way.
QUALITY CONTENT CREATION
Social media is unique because it’s a level playing field for both marketers and customers. As we mentioned earlier, people are comfortable on social, and they will be more likely to make conversations if you provide conversational, professional, and HUMAN information—emphasis on human. Skip the automated response junk—reach out and personally thank Average Joe for his continuous support of your company. Show personality in your content and your brand will shine through. Sure, you might be in the business of producing content with the goal of gaining the most followers, downloads, or some other vanity metric—but remember, your goal on social should be to engage with others so you can develop lasting relationships with your target audience.
YOUR SOCIAL STRATEGY
Now that you’ve prioritized your business goals, let’s talk strategy—specifically, how are you going to measure your success? Now’s the time get to know your Google Analytics, HubSpot, Hootsuite or any other social analytic tool to help you track and report the effectiveness of your target audience’s social experience. This will track things like when it’s best to post, where you should be posting more (or less), what content resonates best with your target audience, and what content has generated the most conversions.
THE MARKETING WORLD HAS SEEN A LOT OF CHANGE IN RECENT YEARS—
as it should because it’s a constantly changing landscape. Without a doubt, the most change has happened with how marketers are selling.
THIS IS WHERE INBOUND COMES IN.
The inbound methodology is the process of attracting, engaging, and delighting your target buyer by providing content that is timely, relevant, and meaningful. This process reverses the relationship between buyer and seller—allowing the buyer to find you by creating valuable content that includes:
Inbound is the cornerstone of a strong branding strategy, as the methodology understands that the consumer has the power to shape perception about a company.
WEB DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT
HOW YOU USE YOUR WEBSITE PLAYS A TREMENDOUS ROLE IN YOUR OVERALL BRANDING.
Especially if you’re not a brick and mortar company, your website will act as your home base for your consumers to make purchases, where your central information exists, where you will turn strangers into leads, where your blog will be, where you will link your social media efforts back to, and where the bulk of your high-quality content lives.
But your website will be more than that, it’s the foundation of your digital and web presence—and a key player when it comes to your branding strategy. A website increases engagement and helps you establish footing when it comes to attracting, engaging, and delighting prospects. It’s the place where you can make the most out of your unique brand identity system. What’s more, it offers a way for you to measure success in your company’s goals for engagement and sales. Today, a strategic digital strategy is necessary, and an established website is a must to help your SEO ranking and ROI results.
TRADITIONAL PRINT MEDIA
TRADITIONAL PRINT MEDIA IS STILL AN IMPORTANT MEDIUM FOR MANY COMPANIES.
While we emphasize and prioritize a strong digital strategy, we also believe that traditional print media is still an important medium for some companies. Sometimes, there’s nothing like a good old print flyer to get people talking about a business. While outdoor boards, posters, printed ads, etc. all still require high-quality graphic design that properly conveys a message to a target audience, the difficultly comes with strategic placement and the inability to measure your efforts for just how many people from your target audience are seeing and acting on your message; not to mention, print and distribution costs for this medium can be pretty high.
Think about where you want to be spending your dollars when it comes to your marketing and advertising efforts and think about where you will be seeing the most ROI when it comes down to where you can best meet your target audience.
WHAT IS BRANDING?
Think about it. What exactly makes Disney the “family-friendly” company? What makes Starbucks the leader when it comes to a “connected coffeehouse experience?” A successful company will always be more than the product or service they sell. Through time, effort, ability to deliver, and consistent brand identity elements, your company will begin to grow a customer base—and this customer base will ultimately develop the perceptions future customers, and the marketing world, will have of your business.
A SUCCESSFUL BRAND ISN’T UP TO YOU,
IT’S UP TO YOUR CONSUMER.
You may think that you have the power to control your brand—but the reality is, the determinate of a successful brand isn’t up to you, it’s up to your consumer. However, if you’re just starting to gather a following and your company hasn’t exactly reached the point when you have enough of a following to establish a “brand,” know that you can work to influence a foundation. Over time, there are a variety of marketing techniques, methods and content you can create to nurture and cultivate perceptions surrounding who and what you want your company to be.
WHAT IS A GRAPHIC
Imagine working so hard on developing a strong logo, effective color palette, sweet typography, established tone and voice, and awesome photography work that perfectly captures your company…and no one who works in or outside of your company knows how to use your identity materials properly. That’s the chaos of running a business without a graphic standard guide.
A graphic standard guide, style guide, brand style guide, brand identity guide, whatever you want to call it, all mean the same thing—a set of guidelines written as a manual to explain how your brand identity elements should be used both externally and internally. It’s to help your company maintain consistency across ALL of your communications. All standards guides typically consist of the following:
THE BREAKDOWN OF YOUR LOGO, PROPER FORMATS, AND WHEN, WHERE, AND HOW TO USE IT
YOUR COLOR PALETTE AND WHAT FORMAT TO CONVERT COLORS IN PMS, CMYK, AND RGB.
A TYPOGRAPHY SECTION
A LIST OF “DOS”AND “DON’TS” WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR BRAND IDENTITY ELEMENTS
Your guide can be a longer, more structured manual like Apple or Starbucks, or you can create something much shorter; as long as it gets the point across to individuals who will be using your brand identity elements for internal and external materials. Speaking of internal and external, your guide should be accessible to everyone involved with your brand identity elements, so they are equipped to work within your identity’s standards.
Trust us, having a standards guide will eliminate the guesswork involved in how to communicate your brand identity materials and relieves the stress of entrusting your visuals to others.
WHAT IS THE BRAND
We’ve broken down what a brand identity system is, and the elements involved, what your branding efforts might include, and what a brand really is. Now let’s put our knowledge into practice by breaking down the process.
CONDUCTING COMPANY AND INDUSTRY
RESEARCH ON A REGULAR BASIS ENSURES THAT YOU UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING
ABOUT YOUR COMPANY’S BRAND.
ULTIMATELY, YOU’RE SEEKING TO ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:
- What do your customers clients/target audience value most when it comes to your company?
- What needs improvement?
- What does the landscape look like in regard to your industry and competitors?
- What opportunities and challenges will your business face?
- What does your external and internal audience believe about your brand today?
- What are our qualitative and quantitative goals for the future?
UNDERSTANDING EVERY ASPECT ABOUT YOUR COMPANY MEANS THAT YOU ARE UNDERSTANDING IT FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE—IN SHORT, YOU GET YOUR BRAND.
So, the next logical question would be: how do you go about getting this research? Whether you choose to get it from an external resource or if you’re conducting research in-house, it’s important to establish a foundation to measure your future efforts. While paid options are often highly accurate and will be extremely transparent about your efforts, they can be expensive. On the other hand, in-house research can be useful and more personalized, especially if you have previous research to help measure your goals for the future; yet, it can be time consuming to gather. Keep in mind that it will make a difference in your market research if you are a new business just starting out with little to no sales or customer base, or if you are an older company organizing a rebrand. Newer companies may want to consider gathering a broader sense of research, looking into their competitors and their industry as a whole, whereas a more established company can consult their company’s previous targeted campaign efforts to measure success.
CORE VALUES, MISSION, VISION
Every company must establish a certain direction to take their company. This is when you establish your core values, mission, and vision. Define the foundation that your company will be built on that reflects who you are with your core values—keep in mind that they might change and develop over time, but ultimately, they guide your decisions for the future. Your mission defines who you are. It’s the statement that you live by—it’s what makes internal employees motivated to work for you and what makes your external audience want to work with you. Lastly, your vision is what you are working to achieve. A vision statement doesn’t have to be a long paragraph that lives in the back corner of a website page collecting dust, it can simply be a short sentence that gives you a focused, concrete idea for what you’re working towards. Every. Day.
New positions in the market are being created all the time. For example, consider dating websites. What comes to mind? Maybe eHarmony or Match. Now, let’s rephrase the question to dating apps. Your mind probably shifted to Tinder or Bumble. Why is that? It all has to do with positioning. All of these companies are in the “digital dating” business, but each has positioned themselves in the mindset of their consumer to reach a very specific target audience. Bumble knew they couldn’t compete with an established dating website like eHarmony, which caters towards an older dating pool anyway, so they purposefully positioned themselves in the mindset of a younger audience. They took their positioning a step further to differentiate themselves from apps like Tinder by giving women the exclusive opportunity to make the first move. Positioning is all about differentiating yourself from your competitors and establishing a place in the market—striving to become the “expert” in your certain segmentation of the market. Now that you’ve gathered your market research, you have an idea who your top competitors are, which gives you an opportunity to find out what specialized services or products you offer and claiming a very specific buyer persona.
If you’ve been reading this guide to its entirety, you’ve probably seen “target audience” pop up more than a few times. But what does “target audience” actually mean? One of the reasons so many companies struggle to get people to know who they are and why they do what they do is because they 1.) often struggle to communicate their message and/or 2.) don’t really know who they are trying to communicate with.
Regardless if you are a B2C or B2B, one primary piece to the brand identity process that you will be sure to keep in mind is creating and maintaining a buyer persona—or a semi-fictitious representation of your ideal customer. Buyer personas allow you to better tailor your content and personalize your marketing efforts to reach your goals.
So, how do you create a buyer persona exactly? If you have existing information from your current customer base—that’s a great place to start. However, if you are looking to break into a different market or are just starting out as a business, you may not have any information at all. Start by digging into demographic and psychographic research and come up with educated speculations for what your persona is like. Conduct focus groups, interviews, and surveys to validate those speculations. And, don’t forget to ask those questions that relate to their goals, challenges, background, shopping preferences, and attitudes when it comes to their everyday life
To get you started, here is a list of typical demographic and psychographic topics that will be associated with developing your buyer persona:
- Naming and humanizing the buyer persona
- Determining her demographic traits (age, education, marital status etc.)
- Determining her industry and company
- Career details (job title, how her job is measured, who she reports to)
- Characteristics of professional/personal life (goals/objectives, challenges)
- What she needs to accomplish her work (systems, software, dashboards etc.)
- Where she gains information (social networks she belongs to)
You will certainly want to include other questions that relate to your specific company and industry—the more specific you can be, the better your buyer persona, the better you can tailor your content to meet your buyer’s needs.
CLICK HERE TO SEE AN EXAMPLE OF A PERSONA WE DEVELOPED A WHILE BACK FOR A CLIENT IN HEALTHCARE.
CREATION OF IDENTITY ELEMENTS
AND GRAPHIC STANDARDS GUIDE
We hope by now we’ve burned the importance of brand identity elements into your mind, because now is the time to start developing your identity. Why now? Because you’ve done your research on your buyer persona(s), competitors, industry, and you’ve established the key pieces of your strategy. At this point in the brand identity process, you have a better idea for creating identity elements that will:
A: Attract, engage, and delight your target audience
B: Speak to your company values, mission, and vision
C: Allow you to differentiate yourself from your competitors in your target market
D: Establish consistency, so you can move forward with creating and sharing your graphic standards guide
IT’S TIME TO REVEAL YOUR
IDENTITY TO THE WORLD.
IT’S THE MOMENT YOU’VE WAITED FOR.
At this point in the brand identity process, it’s time to reveal your identity to the world. Remember, your branding is the efforts done to help tell your company’s story using your brand identity elements, this includes everything we explained in the branding section, from showcasing your graphic design to engaging in social media, creating copy for your website, and more. It takes time and consistency when it comes to developing target audience relationships. But what it boils down to is how you can best get people to resonate with your company through these efforts.
MONITORING YOUR BRAND
MONITORING PUBLIC PERCEPTION SURROUNDING YOUR COMPANY.
IT’S IMPORTANT AND IT’S ONGOING.
It goes beyond monitoring how many followers you have on your social media page or how you’ve handled a customer complaint, it’s how you can use the inbound method of attracting, engaging, and delighting your customers to turn them into promoters to help keep the process going. It means continuous tracking of any campaigns you are running, finding influencers, finding out where your customers are going and meeting them there, optimizing your product or service and any communication attached to its name, improving customer support, just to name a few examples.
IT’S THE ONGOING PURSUIT OF BECOMING BETTER.
It’s seizing opportunity. It’s knowing what
your customers want before they do.
We’ve broken down what a brand identity system is, the elements involved, what your branding efforts might include, and what a brand really is. Now it’s time to hit the ground running.