By Leslie Youngblood
Brand consistency is defined as “the pattern of expression that affects what people think about your company.”* It’s a supremely powerful tool for every business to utilize. Small businesses especially need it, since you are striving to make an impression on customers who are incessantly bombarded by messaging and relationships with other larger name brands.
It’s helpful to always remember: Those larger brands started out small too. They got to where they are today not only by smart business strategies, but also by smart brand building. They have consistently created a feeling and an identity for themselves that millions of people recognize and respond to. In order for you to do so, you don’t need high-tech tools or fancy, expensive marketing. You simply need to be consistent. The problem is that most small businesses don’t make the time to establish their brand in the most strategic way. In some cases, someone just picks a name they like, creates a logo, and gets going. In other cases, someone might have a plan to devote proper development to their new brand, only to find time always feels urgent and the bottom line begins to bully other priorities around.
Here are the four major components to creating brand guidelines to help drive consistency across all executions and platforms.
Nike. Target. Just reading their brand names conjures up the imagery of their all-star logos. Why shouldn’t your business have its own literal hallmark too? These days, you can have a quality logo created for a relatively modest price. Fiverr allows you to pick your price and designer, and BizBox powered by Office Depot’s logo package starts at $49.
Your brand colors can be derived from your logo, or you can give color direction to whomever is creating your mark. Color might seem like a trivial thing to concern yourself with when it comes to your other business to-do’s, but different colors convey different moods and incite different feelings, and therefore should be given much consideration. For example, if you’re a restaurant, you’ll want to go with more muted natural hues that echo food like deeper reds, yellow and browns, and even classic black.
A font is the combination of a typeface and other qualities such as size, spacing, etc. Arial, Helvetica, Typewriter, etc., are some examples. A good rule of thumb is to use no more than three different fonts in regards to your brand, with each font dedicated to different purposes. What that means, is that you might want to use Font 1 for your business name anytime it appears with your logo. And then Font 2 for all headers on your company webpage. Another example of designating fonts would be to use Font 1 for all headlines on any marketing materials and Font 2 would be used for all supporting copy.
A good designer will help you pair up the right fonts for the right look and brand feel that you’re going for. Much like color, the right font will evoke the right brand feelings and emotions.
4. Tone of Voice
Tone of voice is how the character of your brand comes through in words and messaging. It’s also known as the human aspect of your brand. Are you fun and conversational? Or, straightforward and knowledgeable? When it comes to writing anything and everything, you also need to be consistent. Many of the large companies that you know and love, you probably relate to their tone of voice too. Fanta Soda is fun and lighthearted. ASPCA is emotional and deliberate. The right tone helps focus your identity even further.
All of these components make up your brand puzzle and identity. Take some time to put each piece together, save them in one big document and then title it, “[Your business name]’s Brand Guidelines.” Any time you create new components for your business - website, marketing, business cards, etc. - pull it out and reference it. Make sure the tone you’re using in your Facebook posts follows the tone you decided on. Cross-check that the local marketing firm has your most up-to-date logo. You get the idea.
This might seem like a lot of important decisions, but trust that there are no right or wrong choices, just what’s right for your business. Your brand is you and you are your brand, so go out there and show everyone (consistently!) what you’re made of.
Leslie Youngblood is the Creative Director for Excelerate America, a 2nd stage business accelerator that helps small businesses excel and grow in the digital economy. Feel free to reach out to her if you have any brand questions or if you'd like to share your brand's success story. Email Leslie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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