Having a strong look and feel visually, on paper, and in the digital space doesn’t mean that you have to redesign your logo every year. For some companies, it means time for a refresh or updated look, and for others it means strengthening the components of their brand to make it stronger and more cohesive.
I suppose as a graphic designer, that’s easy for me to say - right? After getting questions about what it takes to put more power behind a brand, I decided to write a blog about it. Everything from what I consider a “brand” to be, what makes a brand powerful, and where you can start.
What is a Brand?
Several years ago Jerry McLaughlin wrote a blog for Forbes about branding. In the article he said, “I think ‘brand’ is one of those words that is widely used but unevenly understood.” and I couldn’t agree more. We all have an idea or vision of what branding means; it’s the label or image that distinguishes one company, product, or service, from others. You’re not wrong. But when it comes to the impression and reputation of your company, graphic design and digital presence really take it to the next level.
What Makes Strong Branding?
In our world at MAS Media, we consider branding to be the tangible and intangible representation of who you are and what you do. When we look at “a brand” we’re looking at all the facets - your logo, color palette, font choice, icons, imagery, digital and print design, signage, style and voice of writing … all the pieces that tell your customers and potential buyers your story.
The strongest brands have powerful colors, consistent visual elements, strong imagery... the things you can see and can create. But these visual aspects are the most powerful when they collaborate with the elements of branding we feel. The emotion, message, and impressions you give - the “judging a book by it’s cover” instinct.
One of the most important ways you can strengthen your brand, though, is making in cohesive and consistent. And like I mentioned earlier - for some companies, updating their look and logo means a redesign, and for some it means an update or facelift. I’ll use Starbucks as an example. Starbucks first opened in the early 1970’s. Did you know their brand color was brown? Yes, brown as the coffee you get there. But over time, they’ve enhanced and updated their original logo and branding to keep it updated and modern. Check this out:
But what did Starbucks do right? They were consistent. When Starbucks updates its branding - they don’t just change the cups and leave the website and social media pages outdated. They take their branding and visual elements and the consistency of them and weave them into every aspect of their business.
4 Tips for Bolstering Your Brand
If you’re not sure where to start, I totally understand. To make it a little less scary, use these four tips to dig in and begin assessing the strength of your brand, and how cohesive it is.
1. Start with Your Logo
What does your logo say about you? Is it the name of your business in a nice color or font? Does it have imagery that helps your audience understand what you do? Does it combine colors and icons in a way that give people a sense of who you are? If you look at your logo and roll your eyes with disgust, it might be time for something more fresh and updated - something you can resonate with. Heck, Bremer Bank just did… you can too. Or, if you look at your logo and think “there’s some good aspects of this” but feel some dusting off could give it new life, then take a step forward. Having a visual representation of your brand that everyone in your business can get behind is important.
2. Website = Digital Impression
More often than you might think, we start working with businesses who have a certain logo, brand, or feel in their building or place of business, but it’s completely different than what is shown on their website. Research found that over 90% of consumers will search for a company online before calling or visiting the store or business to make a purchase. NINETY PERCENT! There’s some serious opportunity to make an outstanding first impression with your website … don’t let an inconsistent or outdated brand confuse or turn-off your buyers.
3. Update Print Materials
Yes - we live in the “digital age”, but I’m sure we can all agree there are just some print materials that never fail. I’m talking point-of-sale materials, business cards, and depending on who your audience is - brochures, folders, and letter head. If your print materials don’t match the look and feel - or even use an old set of colors, fonts, logos, and imagery … time to take a step toward more consistent branding.
4. Social Media Matters
I’m sure I’m not the first one to tell you that social media is a big deal for businesses. Whether you’re using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest (ok, that list could go on and on) … the profile you have is like your social media business card. Make sure you’re using voice and messaging that is consistent with your brand standards and a look that is unified with your website and all other materials. If someone finds you on social media first, you want to make sure they’re confident it’s the same business they find online or in-person.