How to Nail Your Branding Like Boss

What makes a good boss anyway? In a word: delegation.  An effective boss can’t do it all, but does have a vision on how it can be done by all in a cohesive way. How does the vision for your brand fit into these crucial components of successful branding? You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but make sure each of these spokes are strong to keep the gears turning towards success.

If your brand isn’t garnering the kind of recognition and returns you had envisioned, you might be considering overhauling your brand or marketing strategy, or even rebranding all together. Before you take that leap, consider the fact that using consistent branding is critical these days. The companies that benefit from a drastic change in branding are either too big to fail, or are returning to the branding strategies that they abandoned in a losing gamble.

When a brand deviates from its original colors, symbols, product, or message, the risk rarely pays off. One of very few brands that have been able to alter their logo frequently (daily in fact) is Google. Even with the Google doodles, the word is still implied in each image, and the brand overall is highly recognizable with its red, green, and yellow color scheme creating a visually consistent presence across Google’s brand.

In other brands, a change can sometimes cause a spike in revenue, but often causes a long term failure which ultimately leaves the company scrambling to reclaim the attention of customers who wonder where their favorite brand went. Brands need to be accessible often to the market, and sometimes even a well-established and seemingly infallible brand can suffer from a shift in branding.

Consider the “New Coke and Coke Classic” fiasco of the 1980’s, or Kentucky Fried Chicken’s recent plea for customer’s to give their “chicken a second chance” after a switch away from their original concept nearly crippled KFC years ago. The re-introduction of their mascot, Colonel Sanders, played by contemporary comedians, has given the brand relevance once again.

These major corporations can tolerate and rebound from near-disastrous marketing efforts, but for smaller businesses or new brands, lack of consistent branding can crush a company beyond recovery.

Conversely, those with solid branding campaigns have become so recognizable that they no longer need words to announce their presence, with their signature colors and symbols carrying the persona of their brand. The Nike swoosh, the Coca-Cola wave, and of course, Apple.

As the internet evolves, web designers, social media networking specialists, and writers are realizing something that the first franchisees of restaurants knew decades ago: customers need to feel the comfort of familiarity, regardless of where they may find you.

It is important to brand clearly, consistently, and early to achieve maximum customer recognition and loyalty. Your customers need to feel like they’re on the same site, regardless of where they find you. Seamless integration of all platforms is the goal.

Ever increasing social media options and the availability of information on a mobile platform means that more sites have customizable themes to match your existing brand. There are still many ways to make your site and brand unique and highly visible while making use of the existing tools and templates. Even though you are using the same tools as everyone else, stake your claim to the facets of branding and use them ceaselessly.

Let’s take a look at your toolbox.

Color is a strong design tool which makes an instant impact on how your customers feel.

Most designers are cognizant of at least the basic effects that colors have on the emotional response of their customers. And the customers are subconsciously aware and responsive, even if they have never heard of color association by instinct or social conditioning.

We all know the big ones: red is stimulating, blue is soothing, stereotypically pink is for girls and blue is for boys, etc. (See more specific examples below.) However, the viewer’s context and the rapidly changing social contexts must be considered when choosing a brand color.

The acknowledgment of gender fluidity has many parents rejecting “pinkwashing”, and manufacturers are responding. Some colors have contrasting meanings, as black can be both a symbol of mourning or of glamour, of authority or mystery. Subtle differences in hue, luminosity, saturation, and texture can send a detailed message to customers’ subconscious cannot be smoothly delivered any other way.

Colors that Elicit Emotional Responses

Red

Active, passionate, trustful, love, and intensity. Coca-Cola, Target and Red Bull

Yellow

Energy, optimism, and joy. Ferrari, Shell, and Best Buy

Orange

Creative, determined, unique. Home Depot, Fanta, Firefox

Pink

Often associated with feminine brands. It means love, warmth, sexuality and nurturing. Think Barbie, T-mobile, Oprah’s Oxygen Network.

Blue

Depth, stability, calm, trust, comfort, and reliability. Samsung, IBM, Intel, GE and Ford.

Green

Relaxing, peaceful, hopeful and natural. Think Starbucks, BP, or Heineken.

Brown

Associated with the Earth, reliability, support, dependability. UPS of course.

Black

Formal, mystery, bold, luxurious and serious.  Even shadows of shapes in brighter colors can achieve a similar effect.

Purple

Royalty, opulence, and pleasure. Wealth, quality, and creativity. Cadbury and Hallmark (though Hallmark is more about the gold crown than the purple field).

The 2016 death of iconic musician, Prince, (or, as he was later known due to a legal battle over his personal brand with Warner Brothers, “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince”) highlighted the effectiveness of a color to captivate an audience and become iconic in a global way.  On the day of his death, Niagara Falls was illuminated in a purple mist.

Originally this display was meant to acknowledge Queen Elizabeth’s birthday, but people instantly associated the color purple with Prince and assumed it was for him. Historically, purple has always been associated with royalty, so the musician made a logical and long-standing choice in alignment with an existing association.


 

His 1984 biopic film, “Purple Rain”, revived this association, and purple has become synonymous with Prince ever since. This was an epic example of controlled personal branding, wherein a musical Prince attained social hierarchy over the actual Queen.

Your brand may never be legendary for a generation (or maybe it will), but a timeless logo should be more than “pretty or cool.” Determine what feeling you want your brand to evoke and then choose your colors wisely.

If you select a color but it seems too intense, play with transparency, hue, shadows, and other subtle color design tricks to get it just right. Tiffany’s teal didn’t happen by accident, and their brand has been around since breakfast. (If you ever get a chance to make a movie that supports a brand, take it! Space Jam, Purple Rain, 8 Mile, come to mind.)

What’s Your Type? Typography: What’s In a Font?

See how those differing fonts caught your attention, but then maybe made you wonder if you were still reading the same information? Creative people are drawn to different fonts, but most have been conditioned by click-bait and scammers to be suspicious of radically or even slightly different fonts. Is it an ad? Is it a knock-off? Is it real information?

While it may be tempting to use dazzling new fonts to grab attention, consistency of your font is an important part of branding. With the exception of languages that have different alphabetical characters, the globally renowned brands that have their own unique font are instantly recognizable. (Think Disney, Coca-Cola.)

Until your brand transcends the need for words (McDonald’s, Apple, Starbuck’s), the next best thing is a font that is your brand’s signature. With some brands, the font is very similar to a commonly used font, but subtle differences make it uniquely theirs. Combined with the use of color, a unique font is achieved.

Consider the Facebook, Youtube, and LinkedIn fonts with other examples here: https://99designs.com/blog/creative-inspiration/fonts-behind-famous-wordmark-logos/

Logos might mean something completely different to your audience than they do to you. For example, there was a logo for AT&T (or maybe it was Sprint or Singular. I don’t know because they CHANGED it, proving my point…). This logo was a small blue square which appeared flexible, with the impression of a circle or most of a circle inside of it. One could not help but see a condom package, but I wonder if that was a phone company’s way of pandering to the “sex sells” mantra, or if it never crossed their minds and represented only a merging of 2 logos during the many convergences of phone companies after their monopoly was fractured.

Logo choice speaks volumes about your business and mission, but it also relies somewhat on the context of the viewer. What will yours say, and how will they relate?

Your logo has messages you specifically intended, as well as some you may not have intended. A streamlined, simple, or serious logo sends a different message than a silly or busy logo that “pops”. The old standby of “sex sells” can even sometimes backfire, as  StarBuck’s discovered when their split-tailed siren was met with rebuff in a 2008 rebranding flop.

Tone. Tone? Tone! T.O.N.E. tone . . .

What tone will you use in your content? Consider your literary syntax, the audience’s lifestyle, and the occasion for the remarks. Witty, funny, professional, sympathetic?

The tone used to address your audience can make or break your brand. The balance of hooking potential customers while keeping your content engaging to your target demographic requires the finesse of a skilled wordsmith.

Well-crafted content is invaluable, so don’t skimp here. It is better to invest in quality content that will maintain relevance and generate revenue right away than to cut corners and have to revise your content later. The logo, colors, and font are ways to pique your customers’ interest. Now, what extraordinarily compelling information do you have to share?

  • Content done wrong: content that excludes a certain demographic, or alienates existing customers for new or vice versa  , content that switches tone for no particular reason, content that is reactionary instead of responsive
  • Content done right: acknowledge and welcome, engage empower encourage, viral emotional hooks

Design is all about ease and comfort of the interactive experience.

Your design needs to be functional.  Errors in functionality leave negative emotions in your customer’s brain, with you or them realizing it.     

Most of your customers are accustomed to and prefer a vertical design with simple tap-and-go functionality. Make sure you can accommodate this. Few things will make a person back out of a website so quickly as having to navigate a wide format website on a mobile screen.

Easy navigation is critical, considering the micro attention span of most of your customer base. Certain features like a smart cart (one that saves customers’ selections) might cost more up front, but pay off big on the bottom line with brand loyal customers and repeat business.

This article shows some strong examples of functional designs and some that are too cluttered or do not support smooth navigation:

http://www.awwwards.com/6-web-design-trends-you-must-know-for-2015-2016.html

A word about card sorting or card stacking formats: These styles work well with customers who like to compartmentalize their experiences. For the viewer who likes things to be more cohesive and flow intuitively, this design can be enough to chase them away.

When it comes to customer service, your brand color should be gold, metaphorically speaking.  Treat others the way you would want to be treated (or even better, the way they want to be treated). The ways you handle customer service say a great deal about your brand. And you can bet the customers will have a lot to say about it too, either way.

Consider the big picture here. Unless your brand has no competition, a high level of customer satisfaction can give the edge needed to succeed in a tough market.

Both amazing and poor customer service can spread like wildfire these days. Some burns are good, and they will regenerate the forest you are cultivating. Others just leave you blistered and in shock, trying to soothe the wounds. Hire people who can put out the damaging fires and rekindle the warm ones, and make contacting them as easy as possible for your customers.

Ads Gone Mad?

There are differing schools of thought on whether advertising bolsters or cheapens a brand, and how to advertise without being a nuisance. While some sites are plastering their pages with ads and assaulting the news feeds of customers with direct offers, others are embracing the viral video subtlety that can be a boon to any campaign.

Videos with humor, emotional hooks, or that seem like they were sourced from a real person instead of a crafted ad campaign are all valuable advertising tools.  Using hashtags for crowd sourced content can work well, but be vigilant for trolls who can put that strategy in a tailspin if not handled right away.

No matter what you do, you will never please or appeal to everyone, so use your ad budget in a way that garners the attention in a memorable way.

Maintain the same branding in your advertisements that you use onsite, but if you are going for something intuitive and almost osmotic, consider including it in the background or at the end. Does your brand assimilate well with all of your marketing platforms? Does your logo look as good as an app icon as it does on the website or in print? Does it translate well in size?

Intuitively, it makes sense to market a brand to subcategories of the market through specific demographic appeal. This approach can backfire if it seems too much like pandering to the crowd. Present a cohesive concept and your brand will automatically attract the appropriate audience.

A consistent flow from one platform to another is critical. Is your brand as clear in a short tweet as it is in a viral video or a succinct ad? Anything that is a component of a branding element should be able to stand on its own, such as a gif or snippet from a longer video, a color or shape from the more detailed logo, the font that gives your brand’s tone its style.

Certain platforms can be opportunities to experiment with new ways to drive traffic. If that platform has a font they use for new deals or whatever, try it out. When in Rome! BUT, be prepared to integrate and implement your original elements too.

Social media managers are a thing now.

Maintaining your content tone on social media is critical and time consuming. Whoever will be tethered to social media for your brand needs to be a quick thinker (responsive but not reactionary) who is apprised and available always.  Your brand voice should have a unique personality and tone, but nothing that is difficult to replicate by multiple authors or changing circumstances behind the scenes.

If sometimes you are funny and sometimes you are serious, readers may not know when to engage or on what level. Whatever tone you choose for your brand, always respond to your audience promptly. If a customer feels ignored, they will make sure others know about it.

Business cards: Relic or Relevant?

All this talk about ways to make your brand strong online neglects a tried and true element, and ignores customers who rely on and revere their sense of touch. There are those who will always prefer tangibility over technology, a book over an e-reader.

These people have a loyalty to the presence of a brand. These are the people who will accept and use your business card or free promotional item. Remember to use relevant tangible items as often as the opportunity arises.

Fortunately there are services that will seamlessly print your elements on everything you need to present a cohesive tangible marketing strategy for your brand. And remember the original great idea, the free t-shirt. Short of those who will actually tattoo your brand on their body for the world to see, an eye catching t-shirt will get the word out for years, in all sorts of locations.

Making all of these facets of the branding gemstone shine takes talent and perseverance. It all comes down to the old decision of “diversify or specialize?”.  

If you nail your branding right the first time and adhere to your formula, you won’t need to wonder because your brand will outperform your expectations. Reflecting upon the persisting brands in the national and global economy, one can clearly see that crafting a brand without barriers that seems to transcend time and space is all about perseverance. Just keep doing you and it will all come together.

Most times, the value of forethought is only apparent in hindsight. It is not until these strategies have been implemented for a while that a comparison can be made on the effectiveness of any one element or the overall branding campaign.

Do it correctly now, or do it over later. Choose wisely though, because if your branding consistency is impervious to the temptation of change, you will be stuck with that brand when it is iconic and globally recognized.

Be:

Consistent in your branding strategies, and keep at it even if the pay-off isn’t immediately as visible as you had hoped.

Colorful with your logo and your font. Not necessarily several colors or bright colors, but YOUR brand’s signature color.

Concise in your message. Between the short attention spans and distractions, brevity id the order of the day.

Credible in your reputation and customer service. Conduct your business in such a way that if anyone were to deride your brand, no one would believe them.

Clear in your mission. Imagine the market as a muddy pond, and your job is to filter out all the confusion and competition through clear and accessible design that makes buying easy for your customers.

Cognizant of your demographic’s desires, resources, and abilities. Engage with them, not at them.

Contemporary and constant in your social media approach. This is a delicate balance, as one day you are in and the next you are out. One troll can cause an avalanche of negativity online. Be ready with responses for the what-ifs.

Classic in the strategies that always worked, and always will. Face to face interactions, business cards, free stuff, certificates. Work that face time.

Complete in your branding strategy. A wheel won’t turn for long if it is missing spokes. Keep all the elements tight and toned and turning!