A business’ brand is the face of the company; it’s the core that drives social media and content marketing efforts, and it’s a reflection of the business’ values.
Brand guidelines are a crucial part to laying a foundation for your marketing efforts, setting the stage for how your external-facing content should be formatted, as well as inspiring your team for content and messaging produced.
Lucidpress’ 2016 report, “The Impact of Brand Consistency”, which surveyed over 200 organizations to better understand the impact and value of brand consistency, states that consistent presentation of a brand increases revenue by an average of 23%. This is credited to consumers “internalizing brand values and being more likely to purchase.”
What exactly is meant by, “brand consistency”? Brand consistency means having a clear voice that represents your brand, as well as a visual consistency that instills familiarity with your audience. Your brand’s aesthetic and content standards should be consistent, compelling, and crafted for your ideal buyer. Included in building your brand’s aesthetic are factors like:
- Color palette;
While each of these factors directly influences your audience’s perception of your business and brand, they are also crucial in driving your internal culture. Before you get to building out your brand guide that outlines everything for your brand—fonts, colors, imagery, logo, and how to use each of them—you need to first truly establish what your brand means to you and your customer and how that’s best portrayed across your all of your digital (and printed) platforms.
Where to begin in building your brand aesthetic: Start with a story
Think about what you want your customer to think and feel when they look at your brand, instead of solely what you want it to be upfront. You may have a certain visual presence in mind, but there are significant, specific details to pay attention to that influence how your customer perceives your business. We spoke with Kolby McElvain, Senior Product Designer at High Alpha and AIGA Indianapolis President, about how she and her team approach building a brand.
High Alpha is a venture studio that creates and funds companies through a new model for entrepreneurship that unites company building and venture capital. In building these new companies’ brands, Kolby and her team consider the business name, logo, tone of voice, colors, typography, and imagery when they begin their brand consulting process. She and her team dig into the business’ core beliefs and how they fulfill those beliefs in order to build a visual presence that reflects those values. A Venngage article shares how telling a compelling story about your brand helps launch what your brand presence should look like. Skype’s mission, for example, is to “Give the whole world the ability to make beautiful, lovely, clear and free calls.” This mindset helped establish their visual brand with a bright and clean aesthetic:
Skype’s brand mission
Your brand should not only inspire your audience, but your internal team.
“I believe developing [a company’s] brand is extremely important and plays into a lot of things. Not only is it important to have something to visually represent you, but your brand should help you define what kind of company you want everyone to know you are. By defining that externally it should also play a big role in defining internal motivations and rationale. Having a clear brand is something a team can rally around, it’s something to get excited about, and it’s something to be proud of.”—Kolby McElvain, Senior Product Designer at High Alpha and AIGA Indianapolis President
Email marketing company ExactTarget, which was purchased by Salesforce in 2013 for $2.5B, made its brand color an industry benchmark for a business’ internal morale. The company’s primary brand color was orange, and the term took on an incredibly significant meaning. One of the business’ core values was to make their “make customers look like heroes”, and being “Orange” was a part of living that value. The company’s internal culture of being “Orange” meant working in an empowering, supportive, and all-around positive environment. A former ExactTarget employee shares in this article the extent the brand’s color went to influence customers and internal employees:
“Being ‘Orange’ means looking forward to work every morning. It means learning more than you ever thought you could in an even shorter period of time. Being ‘Orange’ means taking part in employee-led committees … because you love being around the people you work with – even after work. It means delivering the best products and support to our clients because you want them to grow and succeed. It means taking ownership of a project and making your own path. Being ‘Orange’ means constantly learning and growing from our amazing leadership team. Being ‘Orange’ means going to the extra mile not because you have to, but because you want to.”
An ExactTarget graphic depicting the company’s “Orange” culture
The nitty-gritty: Why fonts, colors, and those hundreds of icons are so important
While your brand color can take on a life of its own and inspire an entire cultural mindset, operationally it’s crucial to put parameters around your brand’s colors and fonts. The specifics of fonts and colors build a guideline for your team to use as they distribute content and promote your brand. There are Serif and Sans Serif fonts, and colors should be selected as both primary and secondary. Primary colors are of course your brand’s main colors, (i.e. Facebook’s blue), and secondary colors are ones used in areas like deliverables and your website. Take a look at this excerpt from the brand guide for Love to Ride below, outlining the brand’s specific colors:
There is definitely a science behind choosing your brand’s colors. Many studies have been performed to explain why and how colors affect consumers. HelpScout published an article earlier this year, “The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding”, and referenced a study by the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science titled “Exciting red and competent blue: the importance of color in marketing”, and how it helps support the notion that a brand’s colors affect buying habits of its consumers: “[The report confirms] that purchasing intent is greatly affected by colors due to their effect on how a brand is perceived; colors influence how customers view the “personality” of the brand in question. Who, for example, would want to buy a Harley Davidson motorcycle if they didn’t get the feeling that Harleys were rugged and cool?”
A brand’s colors should guide how the brand’s logo is used, helping your team understand how to use the brand’s logo. This way your brand’s image is consistent to your audience. Take a look at this page from Urban Outfitter’s brand guide:
Imagery: Where it comes into play
Photos are becoming more and more prominent in a brand’s aesthetic, highlighting the personal and relatable side of the brand. Images are a proven factor for amping up your social media presence; Hubspot reported that “tweets with images receive 150% more retweets than tweets without images.” It’s crucial to use imagery that’s in-line with your brand, or you risk declining conversion rates and customer engagement. Companies using custom visual content see 7X higher conversion rates.
Photos can also be used to amp-up your business’s logo. Here’s an example from fitness company Barre & Soul’s brand guide, outlining how to use their logo with a photo background:
Building your branding guidelines: Make it accessible for both internal and external team members
One of Kolby’s tips to all of her clients is to make your brand readily accessible and easy to distribute, especially if your business is involved in things like trade shows and events. This way, you don’t run the risk of a business or partner publishing your brand logo in the wrong way.
“Make the brand assets and reasoning easily available for people to use and know. This goes both internal and external. It’s more and more common to have a ‘brand resource’ page on your website so that people can use the correct assets and also understand why they are important.”—Kolby McElvain, Senior Product Designer at High Alpha and AIGA Indianapolis President
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