We have already talked about how putting together the visual elements of your website are really important for grabbing your website visitors’ short attention span. Overall, a consistent visual style is as important as what you say in the copy you write and this principle needs to be extended to all channels you have in your marketing mix. The press releases you issue, the print ads and social posts you make and the trade stands you stand in front of at events all need to reassure your customer that you are a brand that is solid and can be trusted.
You need to make sure that all your brand’s marketing channels are singing from the same hymn sheet by ensuring good brand consistency.
The first consideration is to map out all the touchpoints customers have with your brand. The chart below shows how customers could find you and your products, and because we are digital marketers, we’ve stuck the website in the centre.
At the top of the chart is the decision making element. As a business owner you are probably in charge of product or service development and strategic planning. You decide what you are selling and for how much. You’ll also have a firm idea on channels you need to use to reach your target audience and this helps you brief your vision in to the people at the top of the funnel – the ‘Brand Guardians’ and ‘Creative Agencies’. In small businesses, in reality, these are probably the same people or are maybe even just your web designer that does a bit of print for you from time to time!
Whoever is responsible for setting the look and feel and the voice for your brand, these brand decisions need to then cascade through the other channels to ensure that wherever your customer touches in with your brand they get a consistent experience.
If you have a PR agency in place, they are responsible in part for setting the ‘voice’ of your brand and how it appears to the outside world. So whatever copy they write, the phrases they use to describe what you do or the key messages they go out with helps set the tone for all the other channels underneath where you will need to write words. This is what your ‘voice’ is, and it needs to be consistent.
As can be seen in the chart below, we show how people behave in a multi-channel way when interacting with your brand. If someone meets you at a trade fair or selling event, they are probably going to ‘Google you’ after so you need content on your website that reflects the same experience they had of your brand with face to face at the event.
Equally they might pick up your product from the shelf of a shop, and this might be their first touchpoint with you. The product branding needs to be consistent with the website experience and vice versa. And don’t forget to make space on your packaging to direct people to your digital channels!
Your PR might secure you media coverage in a newspaper, on TV or radio. Again Google plays a key part in helping these people find you after they have been exposed to your brand so following the brand voice, the key messages and reflecting the content on your website is key to helping potential customers locate you quickly and efficiently online.
Your logo is often the first thing that potential customers notice about your business and is really important for brand recall later down the line. It’s not just an image; it’s a point of recognition for clients and an important foundation for the branding of your business.
How often have you seen a company’s brand on their vehicle livery not match up to the logo on their Facebook channel or website? Or ads (print, social or otherwise) made by a third party that don’t match the voice or look-and-feel of the brand in their brochures?
Although most businesses don’t have, and to be fair, don’t need formal brand guidelines, it’s important to be consistent in the use of your logo so that you don’t water down its impact.
Typographical themes and the use of particular fonts are often a lesser appreciated element of your brand’s style. Your designer will often choose fonts that are sympathetic to the brand’s core look and feel and that help your customers understand a message before even comprehending the words. It’s a subtle art but if you think of how different a sans serif font ‘feels’ compared to a serif font, or God forbid, how damaging using Comic Sans can be to a brand’s identity, you might start to understand how font choice becomes important.
Along with colours, fonts are key in making an impression for potential customers, so finding fonts that portray your company’s brand the right way is crucial.
So don’t go using Times New Roman on new marketing collateral when your designer has spent hours agonising over font choice and typography for your brand. If you don’t have a finely honed sense of the visual worth of branding, you could miss this unintentionally, but it’s an important part of psychologically persuading customers to invest in your brand.
If you do have brand guidelines put together by a professional designer for your business, then there will be a colour palette in this documentation that you can reference. If you outsource a part of your design process to a third party – to a print agency to put together a pull up banner for an event, or to place an advert in the newspapers for instance – they will often ask for your logo and your brand guidelines. So make sure to keep these files close to hand when your designer hands these to you, as you will need them again!
Less formally than full-blown brand guidelines documentation, you will at least have a logo that features certain colours, and you will have assets such as leaflets or business cards, or a theme on your website that has established the colour palette you use with your brand. Even if you don’t have formal instruction about how to treat your brand, stick to the colour palettes you already have established to help customers with consistent brand recognition.
Colours are much more than just a visual aid because they convey experiences, emotions, and feelings. Psychologists have asserted that there’s a meaning behind each colour, and professional designers are trained to consider these things when they put together a design for you. And so if your designers have established a calming palette of light blues and neutral stone tones on your website and logo, don’t mess it all up by commissioning a print ad in the local paper with bright reds, oranges and blacks!
By using high-quality images and photography, you can evoke an emotion, a vision, or a dream. Your website visitors will ‘read’ the images and make a decision whether or not they want to keep exploring in a split second.
With a formal brand guideline document, photographic style will be covered. In this kind of documentation the style of photography will be outlined with what is appropriate for the brand and what is not. If you commission photography for your brand, then sticking to established styles is the best way to tie up the whole experience for people browsing your website, or flicking through your brochures.
For small businesses who don’t want to commission professional photography, we would first say, ‘…ok… that’s fine…. but…’. Already outlined in this article is the importance of respecting the visual worth of a brand’s look-and-feel. If you think that you can do your own photography to save money, then we are supportive of the concept and maybe you actually can. Modern phone cameras are great pieces of equipment and can give you great results. However you do need to have a good eye for it to make a good image.
A professional photographer is trained to check lighting considerations, composure, framing and other technical things like depth of field to get as good an ‘in camera’ shot as possible. They are also able to colour correct and retouch images to help convey your brand in the best way to give you that polish that only professional photography can offer.
If you do your own photography, bear these issues in mind and think critically to yourself, ‘Am I any good at this?’.
We’ve had photos sent to us over the years that are, for instance, 70kb in size and so are far too low-resolution for us to use. Or we’ve had images that are out of focus, or that were shot in poorly lit conditions, or just at a really unflattering angle. Apart from these problems, taking a good look at what’s in the background is a time-saver that will pay off in the long run. Is there something piled up in the background that creates noise that doesn’t show off what’s in focus in its best light – move that pile of papers or the wheelie bin and wait for that random passer by to walk out of frame before pressing the shutter! And if you are taking pictures of reflective surfaces, don’t just focus on the object, take a look at what the object is reflecting back at you. Are you in the picture? Or again, is there something showing that would be better not being there in the reflection. There is only so much that can be retouched out of a shot, and as someone who’s served their time in a photographic retouching studio, I will tell you that touching out reflections and it still looking shiny is one of the hardest things to get right.
As you have probably gathered: we think that branding is pretty important, and that at the centre of your branding lies a solid workhorse of a website that ties up all the many marketing channels you use to get your products and services known about. So be good to your brand and take the time to carefully curate your brand identity and it will pay back dividends.
If you want us to take a look at your brand identity, the Destination Digital team are all ears and ready to help you with all aspects of your brand identity, whether it’s a complete rebrand or an audit of your current branding. Please email us on email@example.com or give us a call on 01629 810199
If you’d like help with digital marketing, ads management, SEO, copywriting, websites, branding or social media management… or anything else related to the internet and digital, then get in touch with us. We’re a friendly bunch.