Your 2021 Brand Style Guide: Finding Digital Dominance
How familiar are you with the concept of digital branding? Even if you have little professional experience, you already possess a wealth of innate knowledge. Take a moment to consider each of these short statements and logo descriptions:
- Just Do It.
- I’m Loving It.
- The image of one apple with a bite taken out.
- A bull reared up on its hind legs while charging.
The chances are high that you identified the examples above as Nike, McDonald’s, Apple, and Red Bull. In fact, it has been shown that humans can even discern specific brands based on elements such as colours and even fonts alone. This arises from the fact that we are all extremely visual creatures.
However, it is also important to mention that consumers will normally require between five and seven impressions before they begin to actively remember a brand. This is why establishing a well-rounded brand identity is crucial to the success of any venture. The only potential problem is that designing a brand from scratch (or rebranding your existing appearance) can be tricky. This is why the team at Textbroker has taken the time to create this brand style guide. Let’s begin by exploring the concept of brand identity in greater detail.
What is a Brand Identity?
Investopedia highlights these parameters in regards to brand style and identity:
- The logo.
- The name of the company.
- Visual elements such as colours, shapes and fonts.
- The overall mission statement.
The main takeaway point here is that a brand identity serves to define your company’s core traits and values. It is intended to silently illustrate what sets your firm apart from its counterparts while simultaneously conveying a sense of trust and value. Up until this point, the notion of building and reinforcing a brand identity seems relatively simple. There are nonetheless times when even the largest corporations appear to have tripped over their marketing “shoelaces”.
One recent (and rather notorious) example takes us back to 2017 when the Black Lives Matter protests were gripping the United States. PepsiCo decided to run a commercial that depicted fictional unrest. In the heat of the moment, a white woman approached a police officer. She then proceeded to present the officer with a can of Pepsi. His aggressive demeanour immediately changed and the protests ceased. The intention of the advertisement was to establish PepsiCo as a firm that is able to supersede cultural differences while bringing people together. Unfortunately, marketing analysts and the general public alike lambasted the attempt as obtuse and clumsy. We can now see that developing a brand identity is a bit trickier than it may initially appear. So, what other steps need to be taken?
Clarifying the History of the Brand
Building a brand identity from the ground up requires a strong foundation and this begins with highlighting the history of your firm. Who possessed the initial vision and when was it founded? Has its overall mission changed over time and what does the company represent in the eyes of the clients? Are there any characteristics that serve to set your firm head and shoulders above the competition? These questions are all intended to further refine the “personality” of your brand.
Companies have embraced this approach for decades. IBM established itself as a rock-solid firm with a strong technical background. PepsiCo has always catered to the younger demographic; slogans such as “The Choice of a New Generation” cementing this observation. Conversely, Coca-Cola has relied upon its timeless and classic appeal in order to retain a wide customer base. In the same respect, you will need to carefully consider the core competencies of your venture. Some common examples include:
- Trust, transparency and authority.
- Cost-effective solutions.
- Client-centred services.
- An environmentally conscious approach.
These metrics can thereafter be used to create a bespoke mission statement. Still, we need to remember that the visual aspects of a brand style are just as important. We will now look at what is arguably the most well-known representation of a brand: its unique logo.
Curate a Compelling Brand Story
This is a lesser-known trick, yet it can work wonders when initially attracting the audience to what you have to offer. Storytelling has always been an important aspect of search engine optimisation (SEO) and this approach can be used to “hook” the reader at an early stage.
The main goal of any brand story is to “unwrap” any aspects which set your firm apart from the rest. Stories can be used to illustrate how specific products were developed over time, which type of demographic you hope to cater to and where you plan on heading in the future. Also, this type of content will inevitably reinforce other elements of your brand identity, such as its core values. Take a look at this example created by Skype to get a better idea of what such a story could entail.
Stories are also excellent ways to reinforce the undertones of your company. They may be humorous, technical, straightforward, witty, or a combination of multiple flavours. Such stories can likewise be updated from time to time, accentuating the fact that your business seeks continuous quality improvement. Regardless of the content, it is best to place your brand story upon the main landing page of your website or within the “about us” section. You may also include hyperlinks within this story in order to redirect readers to other pages.
A Firm and Attractive Visual Anchor
Experts agree that logos are some of the most critical factors to address when building a brand identity. While some are able to speak volumes without saying a word, others simply fail to meet the mark. Even companies that offer superior products and services will inevitably fail to enjoy success if they are unable to create a memorable logo. To clarify things a bit, here are some questions to ask during the initial brainstorming process:
- What are the basic elements of the logo design?
- What type of background will be employed?
- Which colours are the most appropriate?
- What typeface resonates with your brand?
- Will a slogan or catchphrase appear next to the logo?
- Will any variations be required?
- Where will the logo be presented (such as throughout a website, on a dedicated application or affixed to physical products)?
We should also note that creating a memorable and effective logo tends to take time and effort. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes along the way, as these can often be used to modify existing approaches and to explore new possibilities. For example, Coca-Cola was originally spelt “Coka-Cola” and its branding was nothing more than s standard serif font until the later iconic Spencerian typography was employed. It could also be prudent to browse well-known logo designs if you require further inspiration. There is no doubt that you will eventually find what you have been looking for. Let us now inspect some other elements that will help build your logo’s style and identity.
Colours have always played an important role within the branding community. This arises from the fact that specific tones will elicit certain emotions. Greens and blues tend to be associated with a calming sensation. Red signals passion and action. Greys and blacks are often used to convey more formal and authoritarian undertones. Yellow can be attributed to happiness, youth and spontaneity. Choosing the right colour palette for your brand is, therefore, an important step.
The good news is that you can employ more than one in synergy. The majority of experts recommend choosing a light colour, a darker hue and a neutral shade. Not only can these complement one another, but they often provide an additional sense of depth to the logo. One of the best ways to experiment with different combinations is to utilise free online logo templates. Some top software bundles include:
- Tailor Brands
- Free Logo Design
- Graphic Springs
Check out the tools and utilities associated with each. As these are cloud-based packages, no download will be required.
2. Fonts and Typography
Fonts can also be used to further accentuate your logo. Some display a more traditional flavour while others (such as Helvetica® Now and Proxima Nova) offer a decidedly streamlined and even subdued edge. Once again, choosing the right font will be based on instinct as well as the brand personality that we examined earlier in this article.
There is nonetheless an important fact to mention before moving on. Some fonts will display differently when viewed on mobile devices. This can cause them to appear muddled and difficult to read. Before deciding upon a specific design, ensure that you are able to zoom in and out on any text that may be present within the logo. This will save time and aggravation in the future.
Some of the same principles highlighted in the previous section will apply to any graphics that are present within the brand logo. The problem here is that a handful of business owners continue to believe that more is better. This is actually a dire mistake in the majority of cases.
One metric that most well-known brand designs have in common involves their relative simplicity. This primarily involves recognition. Potential customers are much more likely to remember a straightforward design and this approach is also capable of building a stronger association with the brand in question within a relatively short period of time.
Simplicity evokes a clear response from the viewer, it is easy to highlight your intentions and from a graphical standpoint, issues such as zooming and resizing will not present problems. As always, assessing different versions during the actual design process will narrow down your choices until you have encountered the best version.
Would you trust a logo that appeared different on multiple occasions? Of course not. The fact of the matter is that familiarity breeds trust. This is just as relevant when discussing brand style. Once you have established a solid logo that represents the core ideals of your company, stick with it. The same design should be present throughout your website, within any mobile phone application and upon physical packaging. The same holds true in regards to the colours that you choose. Consistent approaches to your brand style will develop confidence over time, further cementing the loyalty of your followers.
Developing Your “Brand Voice”
Many articles place an inordinate amount of focus upon logos when discussing brand styles. While there is no doubt that this is an important variable to consider, we should remember that a brand identity involves much more than graphics alone. An example will help to reinforce this observation.
Why are more than 1.65 billion Apple devices in use around the world? Is it merely because of an easily recognisable logo, or does such popularity involve other factors? Apple has always striven to portray a unique melange of quality, confidence and intimacy. Thus, their products appeal to a wide range of consumers who are hoping to be provided with a personalised experience while still leveraging the latest technology on the market.
This is why a brand style needs to embrace much more than logo designs and a relevant mission statement. The identity of any brand should be present within every segment of your company. Employee training, marketing and customer service are therefore critical. After all, what would happen if a firm promising customised solutions develops only generic products or services? How easy would it be to damage a brand’s identity, which claims that clients are their top priority if they have no direct means to contact a representative?
Consistency also relies heavily upon your initial mission statement. Imagine what might occur if you suddenly decided to change the core values and goals of your firm. An inordinate number of followers would likely become alienated overnight; perhaps even choosing to migrate to one of your competitors. Remaining consistent is the best way to avoid such an unfortunate scenario.
Orientation, Consistency and Data-Driven Results
“No matter how successful you already are, you can always improve yourself a little further.”
– Neil Patel
This brand style guide is meant to outline the broad strokes. It is up to you to fill in the finer details. However, all of the suggestions mentioned above are evergreen in nature. They will be just as pertinent five years from now as they are today. We should still mention that improvement is one of the ultimate keys to success. The only caveat here is that brand styles and identities should remain congruous with one another. So, how can you remain flexible while maintaining consistency?
This is indeed a difficult balancing act to follow and yet, you have options. Although logos and mission statements tend to represent long-term elements of your business, the content of the site itself and how you choose to engage clients can adapt from time to time. This is another way of saying that your brand style is only one facet of a much larger picture. In order to leverage the benefits of this approach, it needs to be used in synergy with other elements such as:
- Creating quality content.
- Adopting the right social media marketing strategies.
- Proactively interacting with your clients.
- Analysing your current performance in order to determine if any changes to be made.
- Ensuring that your SEO strategies are relevant and up to date.
As we have seen throughout this article, brand style should never be taken lightly. Anonymity is no choice in this day and age. Our team can help to take your venture to the next level and well beyond.
Are you having a brand identity crisis? Contact us now to get moving in the right direction.
About our authorRon is a prolific author who regularly contributes to on-site blog posts. His passion for creativity combined with a client-centred approach has brought him a significant amount of success within this competitive marketplace. Writing for Textbroker since 2012, his hobbies include martial arts and bodybuilding.