Having a consistent brand look, voice and personality can make your company memorable and distinctive in the minds of prospects. But attaining brand consistency doesn't happen by accident — it requires some thoughtful planning. All of your marketing materials, such as your logo, brand colors, rack cards, sales sheets, online presence and all content in between, must work together to create a strong identity.
Here are some guidelines for making sure your branding is on-target:
Define Your Company's Personality
Before you can showcase your brand, you need to define it. That definition will guide your thinking on all your other branding decisions. Are you serious, fun, revolutionary, trustworthy? For example, a landscaper might take a businesslike, knowledgeable approach, while a hair salon might want to convey a more relaxed vibe. What best represents the valuable service you offer?
Write down a description of your company's personality and reference it often — it will help keep you on track.
Plan Your Visuals
You want your brand visuals to be so clearly yours that your clients and competitors will know exactly who you are just by referencing your logo. When you think of a golden arch or a green gecko, what companies come to mind? How about a swoosh symbol or a little blue bird? All these brands are easily recognizable, because their logos speak for themselves. Some ideas to help you get started:
- Check out your competitors' logos: You can't differentiate yourself from the pack unless you know how other businesses are presenting themselves. What symbols and colors do they use? What you think they're trying to convey with those choices? Now think about how you can create something equally memorable — but distinctive — for your business.
- Make sure it's practical: Your logo will be used on everything from large posters to business cards. It needs to be easily identifiable wherever it's placed. Note that it should also look equally recognizable in black & white reproductions.
- Test your logo ideas as widely as possible: Ask colleagues, friends, family, or even an outside focus group to make sure your logo sends the message you want. Once you decide on a logo, it will be tough to change — better to get it right the first time.
Make sure all your visuals are consistent. Think about your overall use of color. What are the actual shades you use in your visuals? What fonts are used exclusively? Don't deviate from your overall brand vision and remain consistent with materials such as business cards.
Create Rules for Written Content
Are you blogging, writing a newsletter or using social media? If so, your voice should be consistent everywhere that your brand is present. Reference your brand personality description and make sure you're still on target. And take the right measures to be sure that personality shines through — all written content should be clear and free of errors, and keep your writing short. No matter how much you focus on getting the tone right, no one will be able to appreciate your work if your writing is muddled, has errors or is overly long.
Compose a Style Guide
Now that your components are in place, it's time to create a plan for how to use them. Forbes recommends creating a style guide that clearly articulates how your employees can (or cannot) use your visuals and content. Make your brand voice clear and identify what is off-limits in regard to written content.
Make sure the style guide gives plenty of examples, so anyone who reviews it knows exactly what you mean by brand consistency. Once you've established a style guide that carefully lays out how to treat your visuals and written content, put it in practice.
Laying the groundwork for a strong brand identity is hard work, but it's well worth the effort. Your prospects will recognize your company more easily, and you'll know the best ways to get your message across.