It’s amazing how many times we are asked to bend the rules of a brand guideline. It often makes me think, do people really understand how important these rules are? For example, most brand guidelines cost companies large amounts of money in research, creative, and production. It’s not like you can just throw your logo in the oven and out pops a great guideline that tastes great.

Most of the time, and hopefully, the agency put in the time and research to justify the suggestions made in the guidelines, not to mention the cost. Why do they spend so much time, and is it really worth it? Regardless of size, industry, or target market, you need a brand as strong as your foundation. The brand is usually your company’s first impression, and will be the lasting impression.

What Is My Brand?

Well, I’m about to open the floodgates of discussion, but your brand is NOT the same as your logo. In a nutshell: It’s your elevator pitch, your employee training, what you show the consumer, it is the ESSENCE of what makes your company…Your Company.

How Is My Logo NOT My Brand?

Think of it as a complete suit.
Your tie is your logo, and usually the first thing someone sees.
Then they see your jacket, which could be a magazine ad.
Even deeper they see your shirt color, this would be your message and your copy.
Oh look, nice matching pants, which should be a nicely branded website.
And the shoes, that’s your e-blast and digital ads.

This is just an example, but not one single piece makes the outfit; it takes all of them to complement each other. And what happens if your shoes don’t match? It ruins everything. Your brand is very similar; it is all the pieces that make your brand work, and each piece is very important for its purpose. Put the wrong piece in the wrong place, and you may end up with a disaster. There’s nothing like going to a client meeting dressed like a clown, and there’s nothing like having a confused brand.

Do I Need to Adjust My Branding for the Audience?

Even as an agency, we can admit it, you’re in a give-and-take relationship with your brand. Sometimes, your brand doesn’t work for the media you want to advertise in… WHY?
You first have to ask yourself: does it not work because I’m trying to advertise in the wrong place? Am I placing my ad here because I just want to see it there? Is this really my clientele?

You may be surprised by your own answer. If you put your time and effort into building your brand, finding out who your client really is, then the brand should fit anywhere that your target audience is viewing it and drive business through those channels.

Exceptions: Yes, there are a few. When it’s Christmas season, go ahead and put snow on top of your logo, and use red all over. During St. Patrick’s Day, go ahead and make a cool logo in green with a leprechaun holding it up. Of course there are exceptions… as long as they don’t become one of the rules.

What’s the Value of a Clearly Defined Brand?

The Disney brand is one of the most recognizable in the world, along with Coke, Apple, McDonalds, and a few others that are instantly recognized. Their brand defines every single aspect of the company as a reflection of their vision. Once again, we go back to the brand being the essence of who you are and not just your logo. If you look at the Apple logo, you would think they are fruit vendors; McDonalds’ arches don’t really tell you anything; so on and so forth. It is the complete package that defines them; because of their branding efforts, when you see an apple, you think technology. When you see yellow arches, you think french fries.

You don’t have to be a giant in the industry to have strong brand. Many small businesses use their family name or something representing their business as their logo. But the message you build around it is what really matters. When potential customers connect with the brand, begin to recognize it, what it’s about, and what it stands for; this is when you have a true brand.

How Do I Develop My Brand?

You have to start on the inside! What that means is you have to look at your core values and what makes you unique and different from the competition. Be honest with yourself. Do you offer better quality? Are you faster? Find the top traits that make you the best in the business, then start crafting your external message.

Don’t cheat. Say what you really are, and if you can’t build a brand you believe in, then you need to make some adjustments from the inside out. Once you have the belief in yourself and your business, your brand will come along just fine.

It won’t happen overnight. There are so many things involved when you build your brand, such as color, font style, bold or thin, flowing design or corporate, what photos should be used, how much copy is enough… it goes on and on.

At Figment Design, we take pride in creating brands that are recognized and can stand on their own. Make sure you take the time to get your brand right, because once you decide on it, it should last you a very long time.

What Does My Brand Do For Me?

Over time, your brand should help define you and make you recognizable to your clients. When you feel like your brand is not working for you anymore, it’s time to look at it from a fresh perspective. Then you can decide if the model has changed and you need to refresh the brand, or if you have moved in a completely different direction, you can decide to create a totally new brand.

What your brand should build for you is:

  • Trust: Does my brand deliver on who we are and what we do?
  • Recognition: When someone sees my brand do they know what we do?
  • Uniqueness: Does my brand stand out over the competition or does it get lost?
  • Clarity: What would a first time viewer think I do when looking at my brand?

Remember, if you stay true to your brand, it should work to build a loyal base and help recruit potential customers.

How Often Should I Adjust My Brand?

Every month. This way, agencies can get rich and make up for the clients that are too cheap to spend the time and money. “Did I just type that out loud?”

Seriously, your brand should be touched as little as possible, but here are some reasons you should refresh your brand or completely rebrand altogether.

Change in Business Model: Some businesses change along the way. If you are a plumbing business and you decide you are going to start serving HVAC, electrical, and other home services… maybe the logo with the plunger isn’t your best representation.

Business Take Over: If you are taking over an existing business that may have great resources and opportunities, but not a great reputation, it’s definitely a good time to rebrand.

Change in Clientele: If you’re an Adults-Only hotel and business drops because the destination has shifted to being family-oriented, maybe it’s time to refocus and rebrand.

As Time Passes: Some people say you should refresh your brand every 3-5 years. I don’t think that time has anything to do with it. I believe your business has everything to do with it.

If you have been consistent with business for 10 years and things are still going good, I would probably recommend you make some changes just to make sure your logo fits in the same decade. But if that same business feels a steady drop, I would first check my business to make sure it’s still living up to the brand. If it is, then it might be time to refresh.

When You Feel Like It: Sometimes you just get a feeling that you aren’t branded like you should be, or you feel like you need a fresh start. This often happens when you feel like you’ve been run over the coals and you think a fresh start will do you good. We love to make our clients happy; can you imagine the smile we put back on their faces when we tell them what they have is great—it just needs a new look. Sometimes, you just need fresh eyes to look at what you have and present it in a different way. This tends to be the case more often than you think.

The Importance of Consistency

The key to executing your brand with consistency is to keep the message clear—if you put all of your marketing materials out on a conference table, could someone tell you all about your company in just a couple of sentences? Can you tell that the creative, content, and messaging was created by the same source?

Brand consistency begins by developing a style the sets the rules for your tagline, mission statement, logo usage, fonts to use, color breakdowns, etc. All of these choices are made for a reason; it reflects key characteristics of your brand. The color of the blue could be the difference between the Caribbean and the Pacific, the font style being bold or script could be the difference between a loud, fun place and an elegant, laidback place. It all fits into the grand scheme of things and makes your brand what it is.

Once you establish the rules for using your brand, make sure anyone who works with your brand, from vendors to staff, understand the importance and are issued a Brand Guideline so that all of your team members become brand police for you. And if things do get updated, it’s ok, just make sure it gets out to everyone so they are all on the same playing field.

Transform Your Brand into a Living Entity

Remember, your brand is a living entity in your company. Even the best marketing materials can’t make up for products, services, or employees that aren’t aligned with your branding. Your brand should start from within and work its way outward if you want customers to believe your message.

If you are thinking of rebranding or refreshing your brand, you have to be ready to go back to the beginning and ask those hard questions again. Are we still providing what we promise and giving our customers what they deserve? If not, you need to start with reorganizing your business model, and then move to the brand. If you end up rebranding and your services are bad, you will only taint the new brand, so get things in order first.

Are you struggling with defining your brand and keeping it consistent? Figment Design has the expertise to help define who you are, interpret that into a message, and DRESS it up like new suit. Not sure if your business meets the criteria of your brand? Professionals at Figment Design can give your business a “check-up” from an outside perspective and compare it to your goals and what you want your brand to be.

Because our agency is full-service, we can coordinate all elements of your online and offline presence to achieve maximum consistency.