So, you’ve established your brand and focused on branding in the creative field, but now you need to keep your well-honed branding on point.
With the many startups and small businesses that are out there, maintaining agencies' brand consistency can be easier when only one or two people are using the company assets. As the team expands, it gets trickier to define the brand for new team members. Your brand needs clear guidelines and a path to consistency.
It may be hard to wrap your head around all things branding, but it doesn’t mean you have to. The market has quite a few branding agencies that can take care of branding design for any business. Although it doesn’t mean that a creative brand company is going to manage your company’s branding for the entire lifetime of your business, you can learn a lot of things from it while its team handles your brand design needs. You can actively participate in the process and consult with your branding agency during this period and can even hire one for consultation whenever you need it afterward. Some brand design firms also offer professional support within their service packages.
However, you can get prepared for everything ahead of time. Below you can see a roadmap that will help you ensure that your hard work in establishing your brand carries through to a consistent brand message.
You created your visual corporate identity and decided on your brand voice when you built your brand. Now set the standards for your brand identity by writing it down in a style guide. A style guide ensures a consistent brand identity is being executed properly across platforms.
The style guide is the ultimate description of your brand. It takes what you decided in your corporate identity and puts it on paper – in the most granular terms. The style guide includes how your logos can be used, how much white space needs to surround them (known as the lock space), an outline of the brand color palette (hex, Pantone number, RGB), the brand typography, the icon style, brand voice, and more.
Although it’s not simply laying out what these items are as opposed to how they’ll be used. Will digital be any different from print? How will you utilize each aspect on different platforms? Think of questions your team members will have when completing everyday tasks and include the answers to them in the style guide.
Setting your style guide and brand guidelines from the beginning helps every team member have a clear understanding of the brand.
The style guide has laid out how to use the brand. You can also consider having several team meetings to clarify the team standards for how your business can move forward.
Branded templates are the perfect solution to putting these elements into play. They help regardless of team size. Even if you only have current team members – you will have new ones at some point – the branded templates help speed up processes and ensure everyone is, literally, on the same page.
There are going to be documents that your team uses over and over again, for example, proposals, client presentations, and reports. Having templates for these most-used documents confirms the fact that your brand is presented exactly how you want it to be. And it speeds up the whole process!
Also, templates help eliminate human error – everyone has been in a rush and not remembered to change the font to the correct one. Create templates with the correctly placed company logo (wherever you’ve decided – header or footer), page numbers, the right fonts built into it, cover pages, colors, etc.
For these templates, you can build graphics as well. Like the templates themselves, think what goes inside these documents. Do you typically use the same kind of graph? Have the same icons for your services? Have these items in a folder for easy drag and drop.
Templates often make people think of documents and print materials, like templates for the business stationery, but don’t just focus on the idea of a traditional template. Brainstorm what your team does on the regular and create brand standards around these. Such as:
- Print templates;
- Share templates;
- Social media templates;
- “Things to do” and “things to avoid” lists.
Having these branded templates on hand makes it so the entire team can contribute knowing they’re aligned with the brand.
Of course, there will be times you have to stray from the templates with new projects or posts being created by the team. So, how do you make sure your brand is represented in all of these? Through an approval process, since having these processes in place assures things run smoother.
When you’re a small team, it’s easier to not have a set structure, but when you’re expanding, you need processes. This also ensures everyone knows what templates to use for what, what logos should be used, how to implement the typography and the voice, etc. It’s a roadmap for your team on how to apply your brand to standard operations.
The approval process could be as simple as every social media post being sent to one team member for review before posting or it could be graphics to one person and copy to another. As a team, you’ll have to decide what works best. It’s best to have someone on the team who is a branding person, ensuring every department is adhering to the standards and applying the brand style guide appropriately.
The approval process will most likely feed more into the onboarding process for new team members as well. As new members are learning the brand, you’ll need a process for helping them and editing their projects.
Start the approval process and you can always adjust from there to discover which works best for every department or team.
Everything should come back to your perfectly crafted mission statement. Even if you change services or pivot your strategy, they should come back to the original mission.
The “why” is really what it all comes down to. Why are you presenting this product to your target audience, why are you creating a new service, why are you in business. It sounds dramatic but your decisions come back to that. You may think this is crazy. “You want my Instagram posts to come back to my mission statement?” Well, yes actually! Just like you have your overall organizational goals, you’ll have your overall business strategy and then delve into the individual strategies for the different business section, as you would delve into the individual goals of your platforms.
With all of the individual strategies, you can easily get lost in the weeds. That’s where the mission comes in. Take your head above water periodically and check in to ensure everything is coming back to the “why”.
Your brand is your why. The heart of your organization needs to be reflected in your brand. Think of Nike, their brand is not only fitness, nor is the Virgin brand covering only one industry. They have clear set brands that are tied to a higher mission instead of a single product.
Consistency is key. Consumers are inundated with ads and services every day, and it takes multiple interactions for your target audience to come back to you. Therefore, a strong brand is central to any strategy. A brand helps create a connection with your target audience and helps you be remembered. When you find and hire a reliable interaction design firm, it’s critical that you see eye to eye with their team. The best branding design agency should understand your business and its mission, thus helping you to form a consistent brand.