Is Your Brand Putting Its Best Face Forward?

Whilst how your brand is perceived is up to each individual person, how your brand is presented to those people is completely in your hands.  In an age where brands are evermore losing control of their overall image, it’s critical to maintain a complete, effective and cohesive brand identity.  It is one of the few constants left.

… well, it should be a constant.  But for many companies today, a strong, consistent brand identity seems to be elusive.  Why?  Chalk it up to lack of oversight, inexperience, constant churn in the marketing department (with everyone having their own idea), starting with a minimal identity and adding to it over time, the list could go on for a while – but let’s not bore you with it.  Let’s talk about more interesting stuff instead.

I was talking with a client the other day, when they told me that they admired a particular company’s branding.  The reason for this?  It was because everyone in their industry knew a piece of content or marketing collateral was from that company – even before seeing a name or logo.  That’s powerful stuff, and should be the goal for all brands.

They have a brand image that works wonderfully with their target audience, and it’s so consistent, you could remove brand names and logos, and still receive a high level of recognition.

Strength and consistency, consistency and strength – whichever way you prefer to look at it, this is where success is created.

As an avid listener of rock music, I like to think of it like this: A strong brand identity sets the tone – consistency amplifies the volume (all the way to eleven, if done right).

Take a good look at your own brand.  Ask your customers (heck, go and ask your potential customers).  If you removed your name and logo from all of your marketing collateral, would your brand still be recognisable?  If your brand no longer had a face, could the rest of your identity still stand out as YOU?

The colours you use, the fonts you use, the shapes, the types of images, the tone of voice, the spatial design, the volume of content, print finishes, app and web user interfaces – they’re all important pieces of the puzzle.

Now, this isn’t to say your logo itself isn’t very important.  After all, it is the core visual representation of your brand, and strength and consistency are just as important here.  You, of course, want it to be strong enough to stand on its own, so working to ensure it clearly represents you in a consistent fashion, across all media and uses, is essential.  Doing this with your logo, in conjunction with your overall identity, unlocks an excellent bonus that will be surprising to many – Flexibility.

Say what?

Didn’t you just tell us that consistency is key – vital even – to branding success??

Why, yes I did.  Let me explain.

A lot of variations won’t build a strong brand, but a strong brand allows you to use variations – in the right way.  One of the most well-known examples of this has to be Google.  You know what I’m talking about – all those super funky doodle logos that have become somewhat pop culture icons.  Let’s be honest, you can’t even read the name Google in half of them.  Yet, through consistency and strength in colour choices, design element ordering and spatial structuring, your mind tells you it’s Google.

“You know it’s Google because you typed it into the browser silly.”  That just strengthens my point – They only go crazy on variations in the one specific place.  It’s actually part of their brand image now.  Everywhere else you look, you’ll find the clean, clear and consistent Google branding.  So consistent that they can change their logo daily, on some of the most visited web pages in the world, and not weaken their brand through doing it.

OK, say you’re not trying to be like Google.  How does this help you?  This will vary from brand to brand, but here’s the basic concept to get you started.  Consistency and strength allow for greater recognition and flexibility in an extended brand family.

If you have your niche and are looking for added competitiveness, use consistency and strength to bolster your clout.  Be the first brand in the room people recognise, be the one they remember easiest, put up a united front and a ‘one-voice’ brand image.

Do you have multiple offerings or sectors you are trying to fit under one brand?  A strong and consistent logo, together with consistently delivered variations can give you the perfect blend of one brand – many parts.  Take real estate as a simple example: with a solid brand, you can easily and effectively, change either your base or main complimentary colour (depending on your overall design) to highlight different market sectors.  Red for residential, green for rural, yellow for beach/holiday homes, blue for commercial, silver for luxury, you get the idea.

Or, to take things in the complete opposite direction.  Let’s imagine you have a brand new widget that needs its own product branding.  Great.  But you still want it to be part of your overall brand family.  A solid overall identity (and your new widget logo designed with your current brand in mind) can give you the recognition level required to quite literally just switch from your main to your widget logo and run with it.  People will easily make the connection, and your parent brand’s reputation and emotional connection will be passed on to your new widget.

Another important variation option available to you is that of localisation.  While in Dubai a couple of years ago, I found it interesting which brands I still instantly recognised.  Walking through a crowded Dubai mall, into the food court, certain familiar brands just jumped out.  McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Subway, Coke, Pepsi, all brands we’re used to seeing – the thing is, most of it was in Arabic (even the brand names), but they still stood out.  The shapes, the colours, store designs, brand graphical elements – all these things have been so consistently been presented, that I can walk off a plane in a land where everything is different than I’m used to, and these things still offer instant recognition.

So yes.  I did say consistency is key to success.  And it becomes even more critical if you utilise business and / or marketing strategies that require flexibility and variation.  Varying your brand identity is a useful tool – if it’s consistent and each variant a clear part of the family.

Whether you aspire to have your own logo doodle collection; are looking to be globally recognizable yet locally relevant like McDonald’s and Coke; or are trying to carve out your home as the leader in your market niche; taking the time to ensure the strength of your brand identity and focusing on a super consistent delivery will put you on the path to success.