I am usually giving the “your logo is not your brand” speech and talking about trust and promises. I remind everyone that your brand isn’t how you look; it’s how you behave. All true. But this time, I do want to focus on how you look.
I’m always a little surprised when I stumble upon large companies that don’t have their visual identities in synch. Visual consistency is vital to every company’s marketing efforts.
In today’s world, our companies appear both on and offline at a staggering rate. We’re everywhere from an e-newsletter header to a Twitter background in the online world and in the next minute in the offline world, on sales flyers, trade show booths, and golf balls.
Consistency is one of marketing’s cornerstones. Without it, every effort is more labored and less effective. The more each communication reinforces and builds on all the others, the quicker and more easily your audiences begin to link them together. From that linkage comes recognition, interest, trial, and eventually, loyalty.
The better disciplined you are about that consistency, the more likely it is that others will also honor your visual rules. Keep in mind that today consumers create as much content about your brand as you do.
Here are key elements to keep in mind when creating your visual identity.
Your logo/mark. Whether it is a type-only treatment, a combination of words and a mark, or in some rare cases, just a mark alone, your logo is one of your organization’s greatest assets. Your logo should be legally protected, of course, but, equally important, is to have exacting standards for how it should and should not be used.
Type and fonts. One of the more interesting changes that came with the computer is our ability to choose among the myriads of fonts available. Fonts and colors bring with them certain connotations. We’ve all seem how people use some handwriting fonts to evoke a more informal tone. Script fonts bring a formality to a printed piece.
You should have a small family of fonts, each with a designated purpose (headlines, body copy, etc.) and discipline yourself from straying from that family.
Color palette. Colors come loaded with meaning. Even a variance within a color can change the feeling or meaning. Think of what happens with a shift from lime green to pea green. Your goal is to own a color. When I say Coke, you think red. When I say McDonald’s, you think golden yellow. UPS went to the extreme of calling themselves “Brown” in a series of ads.
Choose a single color or combination of colors that speaks to your brand’s personality and then do not allow anyone to take even the slightest of liberties with it.
Tagline. How your tagline is presented visually (font, proximity to your logo, placement within an ad, or other marketing tool) is another visual element that you can and should control. How you handle your tagline will communicate as much as the words within the tagline does.
Layout. This is a tougher one to control because the medium you’re working in may not allow you to be 100% consistent. Think of the Absolut Vodka campaign. The ads (whether they are online, print or TV) all look the same. There is a beauty shot of the bottle and a headline that included the word Absolut and another word or two. There is a very small amount of body copy at the bottom. Aim for that kind of well-articulated design, so your brand is instantly recognizable, even before a headline or logo is.
If you can define your brand’s visuals with this kind of precision and then protect the use of each of these elements, your visual identity will help propel your company’s brand to new heights.