7 steps to creating a consistent brand message

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The face of marketing has changed drastically over the years. It’s not about the cold calls anymore, but about brand identity. Integrated marketing requires that you have a list of elements lined up to voice your brand in making it memorable.

Believe it or not, branding is more than just a logo design. While a logo is a good place to start, you should consider building your visual position to be something larger. Building a system for your brand allows you to meet the demands of different media, while still presenting a cohesive identity. The more elements you can establish as your basic look and feel will mean that variations from that scheme won’t make your brand identity disintegrate.

Branding is about consistency. In order to make your brand message and essence consistent, all aspects of your company’s deliverables need to have a consistent theme and message to the public. There are several elements that require your attention when it comes to branding. Here are a few elements that are worth updating and integrating into your brand message.

1. Logo or wordmark

A logo is a graphic symbol, whereas a wordmark or logotype is just the words of your company or product name set in a specific, fixed way. Your logo or logotype is the core of your brand identity. It can be a difficult to determine whether or not you need a symbol (a traditional logo) or just a logotype. Some organizations choose a only wordmark because they are simpler design  projects that generally cost less. Another factor is whether or not a memorable symbol can be designed that will show how your business is unique. A well-crafted wordmark can convey a sense of professionalism without trying to visualize your brand.

2. Logo usage and variations

While your logo should always be used consistently, you will need variations based on placement and usage. For example, you may need colour and black and white variations, you may need versions for horizontal and square applications. But they all should have the same essential qualities. It’s critical that your brand shines through your social media profile graphic. Generally, these avatars are square in proportion, so a square or circular logo easily works. If your logo doesn’t start that way, make sure it can be cropped or sized well. By contrast, you’ll probably also run into a case where you need a horizontal or stacked version of your logo. We’ve run into this frequently when trying to place logos into web site or software, or onto promotional items.

3. Key colours and additional colour palette options

A corporate colour palette is usually defined by the colours in a logo. Often these are one or two colours only, although some are more complex. When your designer hands over your logo files, make sure you are told the Pantone colours, CMYK and RGB or web colours for your logo. In addition to the colours in your logo, you want to also focus on others colours that compliment your primary colours. This can be loosely defined such as: bright and bold, pastel, or cool colours. Or, they may handpicked from a colour swatch book. To ensure consistency, pick out a palette or core and secondary colours and find the values of these as Pantone, HEX, CMYK and RGB so that everyone who touches your brand can quickly and easily make good choices.

4. Typography

Choose just a handful of fonts to be used in printed materials. Often these typefaces come from the logo design. However, the styles of your logo may be too decorative for letters or proposals. Finding complimentary typefaces to use throughout marketing materials will created a unified brand identity. Whenever you work with an outside designer or marketing firm, make sure they know your corporate typefaces and have access to them. Additionally, figure out how to make your corporate typefaces available on all the computers that will create key documents such as PowerPoint or Google Slides presentations and proposals. An electronic version of your letterhead will ensure consistency. Remember, not all fonts are available in both Mac and PC version, so if multiple employees will be creating important documents make sure that your designer is choosing compatible fonts.

Your typographic identity should include ways of handling key types of text, especially your tagline (if you have one) or your web address. This begins to move outside the box of design and into editorial standards. Developing a consistent way of writing and styling headlines or pull-out text really begins to create a distinct voice for your brand. Work to make these similar from one application to the next. Pay attention to the way you write your URLS, or the way you capitalize your headlines.

5. Consistent style for images

You don’t need to use the same photos over and over again, but all imagery should have a consistent look and feel. Maybe the photos are brightly lit and the subject is looking right into the camera. Or, the photos have a subtle colour palette and the people never look at the camera but are engaged in their activity. Photos could be close-ups, soft focus, or crisply detailed. You don’t need to use photos! You can use line art, illustrations or just charts and graphs. Whatever you choose, use a consistent style in all materials, whether printed or online.

6. Have a full library of graphic elements

These are all the small details that really build a branding system. It could be a handmade texture, a line style treatment, a use of white space or color blocks. It’s really how the five items listed above come together into a unified and recognizable brand identity. When you are relying on pre-made templates and free images from your website provider, you usually don’t have the rights to use the imagery across all channels. Additionally, you may lack both the design sense and the tools to do this all yourself. A professional graphic designer can pull together a cohesive look for you and set you up with style guides and libraries to create a distinct look for your brand. When you have a comprehensive and broadly built graphic identity, it creates a foundation for a rock solid brand identity.

7. Get yourself a brand identity guide

This is particularly important item for your branding system. Creating a simple booklet that catalogues the specific colors, type, logos, imagery, patterns, taglines, etc. of a brand makes sure the brand machine runs smoothly. This can help when you are hiring designers to develop a particular marketing item for your company. Instead of highlighting the different dos and don’ts for your designer, this book of guidelines can help in being specific about your brand identity and image.

The truth is, that once you start making things, your identity standards are going to be tested. For example, choosing your typography is not going to be possible in all applications. On many mobile phones there are only limited font choices, so your mobile optimized or responsive web site may not showcase the corporate font. But if you have seven other branding elements that are strongly apparent in the web design, the site will still be able to promote your recognizable brand. If on the other hand, those other graphics are not well-defined and well-used, each application you create dilutes rather than builds a comprehensive brand identity.