I remember when I first started in marketing and I was handed a sheet of paper with fonts, logos, and a color palette. I also remember not knowing what to do with it and putting it on the wall next to my desk. Seeing those branding guidelines felt overwhelming, and the funniest part was that they weren’t being followed when I started anyway. However, I knew I needed to represent the business in its own individual way… but why and how?
We all have our favorite brands, right? Just off the top of my head, my absolute favorite athletic shoes are my Nikes. Not only are they a very sleek design but they are also extremely comfortable… not like those Adidas (sorry Adidas!) that I spent so much money on only to tuck them away in the closet. Once I found the brand that worked for me I went and bought another pair… or two. What else do you think of when you hear the word Nike? Is it the swoosh logo? Maybe their positive and encouraging commercials? When you think of athletic wear, is that one of the top brands that comes to mind? If you’re like me you think of all of those things, and that’s what great branding has done for them.
Branding is about being memorable, consistent, and trustworthy.
Consider the Pepsi logo.
Pepsi stayed consistent with two things: their name and their color scheme (of course, sans Brad’s Drink, which was the original name). The logo changed with the trends over the years, starting with popular fonts from 1898 to 1950, all the way to the present where the font and icon got more minimalistic. Their logo is so recognizable, that even if we remove the word “Pepsi”, which they do often, we still know what the icon represents.
So how can we make your brand find success like Pepsi has?
- Have a mission statement.
If you don’t have one by now, you should probably sit down and think about what the business is working toward; i.e. What is the ultimate goal? This mission statement should be a guideline in what you do and how you create content.
Pepsi’s Mission Statement: “CREATE MORE SMILES WITH EVERY SIP AND EVERY BITE (Pepsico 2020).”
- Know your target audience.
Knowing your target market is key in any business’ success. Who are you selling to? …and don’t say ‘everyone.’ Your target audience can include many different demographics, so it’s great to consider them all. If you’re selling clothing you typically choose men or women as your target. If you’re a construction company, it’s likely you’re looking for home owners or business owners. If you’re a bar owner, your focus is on those aged 21 and up. However, there’s even more to it than that! The bar owner might want the environment to be more like a party than a relaxing place to hang out, so this might result in an age demographic that is between the ages of 21 and 35. Maybe the bar owner wants to narrow their audience even further by adding a country music theme.
- Have a color palette.
The color palette is extremely important because that is one of the things that people consciously recognize as something that represents your business. One thing that I’ve heard over the years is “McDonald’s colors.” Now that you’ve read those two words, you’re imagining red with yellow arches, right? There were so many times I’d try to utilize those two colors in design only to be told it reminds them of McDonald’s, no matter what the shade was. It always seemed to be a negative comment, but we have to remember that their branding is memorable and they’re recognized around the world.
Typography is more than just the fonts you use. These fonts are what your brand is recognized as. Typographic guidelines can support all areas of the business. You can give specific fonts to titles and headlines on your website, specific fonts to your blog, or even choose to match the logo fonts completely. However, this typography plan should give you enough detail to know what you need to use and where (and don’t forget to share the fonts with all your designers… they’ll love you for it).
I could go on and on about branding and why it’s important, but I want to go back to the first paragraph where I mentioned my experience with that little intimidating sheet of paper with branding guidelines. Maybe there are other businesses that are not using these guidelines anymore, and maybe that is because your business has changed over the years and grew over time. You’re not alone, and that means it might be time for a rebrand.