Before you embark on implementing a digital marketing strategy, be sure your branding is on target. Small businesses and large organizations alike need solid, consistent branding to create memorable campaigns that attract customers.
But what goes into consistent branding? And before we even go there, let’s explore the crucial question, as simple as it may seem: What is a brand?
Your brand is not just the products you create or market. It’s not your logo, your website design, your color palette or your font package. It is all of these things working together – and it’s more than that. It’s the audience you attract. Your company’s mission, vision, and ideals. It’s what you care about and how that is reflected in your products, services, and marketing. And, more than ever today, it has to be authentic.
One study from Stackla found that 86% of consumers consider authenticity a key factor when choosing their favorites brands. Similarly, 81% of consumers said they choose their purchases based on their trust in a company.
How can you build trust? Consistent branding carves that path to show authenticity, boost brand recognition, and build trust and loyalty with consumers.
How to Create a Consistent Brand
If you’re already past the start-up phase, chances are you already have ideas and feelings surrounding your company. It’s time to take these elements and the branding that has emerged organically, and tie it into a cohesive structure.
Branding efforts should begin with key stakeholders, including company owners and founders, but be sure to include those on the frontlines of your sales and marketing teams, as well as your outsourced marketing agency, if you work with one.
You’ll want to start with a positioning statement. This exemplifies what your brand does and how it is different from competitors. Your positioning statement should include your product or service, your target audience, and the benefit you offer to that audience. It should list a few key competitors and point out what makes your brand different from the rest.
Your positioning statement might read as follows:
[Company name] provides [key offering] to [target audience] to [the problem your offering solves].
Unlike [competitors], we [unique selling proposition or key differentiator].
Your positioning statement could also be derived from your mission statement, spotlighting what your company hopes to accomplish through its efforts and its reason for existence.
Brand messaging should derive from the benefits your company offers and be created to appeal specifically to your target audience.
With this important element in place, you can move forward to create a company logo, slogan or tagline, color palette, font choices, and more that will all reflect your brand. If you are a brand-new company, you’ll want to take what you’ve discovered while writing your positioning statement to also come up with an appropriate company name. If you’re launching a new product or service, this process can help you create a brand and a name for that specific offering.
How a Brand Guide Can Help with Consistent Branding
A brand guide can help ensure consistent branding by giving everyone in your organization, as well as freelancers or outsourced agencies you hire, specific rules and instructions for promoting your brand.
The act of developing the brand guide will help your marketing department gain clarity on all the brand elements. Having the document in place will help ensure that everyone follows the brand guidelines while creating content. If your graphic design department or web development team is ever in doubt about a specific font, graphic or color, simply refer to the brand guide for the final answer.
Your brand guide can also help spark the imaginations of your marketing team to create brand stories that resonate with your target audience.
Tristan LeBreton, Creative Director at 99designs by Vista, said in the Vistaprint.com blog, “…[I]t not only shapes your overall brand identity but helps maintain consistency across how it is used, positioning you as a credible, reliable and trustworthy business.”
Elements of a Brand Guide
Your brand guide should include your positioning statement. It should also dive a little deeper and include your brand’s overarching story: What makes your brand important? Why should consumers care about your brand? What sets it apart?
Use brand storytelling to expand upon your mission and vision statement in a relatable way. From there, all the elements of your brand guide should somehow reflect your brand’s story.
After your positioning statement and story, your brand’s logo may be the most important element of your brand guide. People should be able to easily recognize your business from your logo alone. You’ll likely want to start the next phase of building your brand guide by creating your logo. Color choices, fonts, and photography use will all be driven by the look and feel of your logo.
Your brand guide should show appropriate uses for your logo, and a few examples of common ways people might mis-use your logo so you can warn people against it.
You might create logo versions for multi-color or single color use, logos to use against a colored background or white background, and a “stacked” logo to use as a profile picture on social media.
Your color palette should include all the colors of your logo, as well as complementary colors that can be used on social media and your website, as well as in other marketing materials.
Shopify shared an infographic showing the various emotions different colors may evoke. You can draw from this Color Emotion Guide for inspiration or to ensure that the colors you’ve chosen evoke the emotions you want to represent.
To keep things simple, you’ll want to choose two complementary fonts, which also coordinate with the font in your logo or wordmark. Use one font for headers and one for plain text on your website. These fonts do not have to be exactly the same as the font you use in your logo, but they should evoke a sense of familiarity and cohesiveness for brand consistency.
Photography and Illustrations
As you create marketing material, you may find you need stock images to help you tell your brand’s story. To help stay consistent with your brand, you may want to use similar styles of photos. The lighting, composition, and even the content of the photos can reflect your brand.
Choose some photos of similar styles and use them as examples in your brand guide to help outsourced designers and in-house employees choose the best images for ads, social media posts, website design, and anywhere else you need to use photos to support your brand story.
Similarly, if you plan to share data in the form of graphs, charts, or infographics, you may want to create a standard template for a consistent look.
Written Content and Brand Voice
Some might say this is the most critical element of branding. That’s especially true if you’re creating a lot of inbound marketing content to build brand credibility and touch your audience emotionally. And it’s even more important if you plan to hire outsourced writers to create website content, articles, or social media posts.
First, think about your brand’s overall voice. Is it:
- Friendly and casual?
- Somewhat formal and professional?
- Hip, using today’s slang?
You may also come up with a list of adjectives used to describe the attributes of your product or service, as well as common descriptions used for specific features. This can help writers ensure they are describing products in the best and clearest way for your audience and for the search engines.
For instance, Sandhill Digital describes itself as a “performance marketing agency,” and this descriptor might be used in press releases and news articles with audiences who aren’t familiar with who we are.
As you think about word choice and product descriptions, it’s also worth reiterating your brand differentiators and key messaging. This way, anyone reviewing this section of your brand guide to drive their writing can make sure they are emphasizing the appropriate selling points using the right messaging.
Finally, take some time and do the research to determine the best hashtags to use in social media posts that can set your brand apart. This could include hashtags for specific marketing campaigns, your company name, company slogan or tagline, as well as industry specific hashtags that will help you attract a relevant following.
Applying Your Brand Guide for Consistent Branding in Your Next Campaign
With a brand guide in place, you should find that creating consistent advertising campaigns is easier than ever. If you’re working with a digital marketing agency, you’ll find that having a brand guide can reduce onboarding time and revisions. A brand guide ensures everyone on your team is on the same page (so to speak) when it comes to your brand’s look, feel, and message.
Your customers will notice it in subtle ways. They will begin to spot and recognize your campaigns in native social ads, Google Ads, and in their inbox. They will feel a sense of familiarity as they click through to your website. This consistency builds recognition and trust that will ultimately drive loyalty, leading to word-of-mouth referrals and increased revenue.
Building a brand guide is just the first step toward effective digital marketing. A performance marketing agency like Sandhill Digital can help you craft and execute the best campaign strategy for maximum results.