One of the vital tasks you must do for your small business is to develop a brand that is consistent across many channels, from your business website to the custom bags your customers carry out of your retail store after a purchase.
During the development process and after the implementation of a branding plan, it's essential to ensure consistent branding whether someone first encounters your business online at your website or offline in person.
A consistent brand helps you deliver the persona you want to convey to your customers and reduces confusion about your business versus others. The standards you develop regarding your company brand will protect your business and help build a following with current and future customers.
Here are five essential tasks you'll want to complete to ensure your branding efforts are consistent:
1. Create brand standards for your business logo.
Your brand must have a standardized logo that looks the same whether it's painted on the front of a retail store, or it's part of a banner at the top of a website. If you imagine some of the most popular and most recognized brands in the world, those companies have a logo that transcends each type of media.
Imagine the popular, well-known logos for major brands today. The colorful NBC peacock, the script of the Coca-Cola logo, and Google's four-color logo are immediately recognizable on any media. Interestingly, Google created quite a stir when it changed the font-face of its logo, and the company published a fascinating story about that change.
"Design was only one part of the effort. The realization of the new identity required the collective work and diligence of hundreds of Googlers, in different roles, spanning the entire organization."
Changing a logo – and keeping that logo consistent across the different methods your customers will interact with that logo – is almost as important as the initial creation of the design. Changing a logo can have dramatic consequences or benefits, depending on the care with which you approach this essential branding task.
2. Use consistent colors in everything from logos to physical buildings.
In addition to a consistent logo, the colors used in that logo, as well as within every other facet of your business, must remain consistent, and they must also create a look that's pleasing for onlookers. Colors that clash may influence a customer to develop a poor opinion of your business.
The American Express small business blog shares some incredible statistics about consistent colors and the impact on branding:
"Research by Xerox discovered consistent color branding across all your platforms (branding, social media, advertising, logo) not only makes you look more professional, but prospects are also more likely to remember your brand and your business. Color improves brand recognition by up to 80 percent and increases comprehension by as much as 73 percent."
Your current customers enjoy the products you sell and the services you offer, and you will enhance their loyalty when you use consistent colors in your logo, as well as in your physical products and stores. Does your logo use a few shades of blue? Consider using that shade on one of the walls in your retail store or as the color of your custom printed paper bags.
3. Coordinate marketing offline and online.
Tiny storefronts in small towns need a website just as much as multinational corporations that sell and ship goods all over the world. A consistent marketing plan means coordinating sales, promotions, pricing, and the company's visual identity across every platform, whether it's on a website or in a store.
Marketing Sherpa shares an excellent case study regarding retailer Pier 1 and the company's efforts to integrate online and offline objects.
"Indeed, most of the online efforts target offline sales… One example: An "in touch" email marketing program which sends weekly messages to opt-in addresses collected in stores, notifying customers of promotional events, as well as new product arrivals and promotions."
The Pier 1 example is helpful to any business that might rely more on in-store shoppers than online shopping. Even if your business conducts 100% of its sales in a retail store, that doesn't mean that an online marketing campaign, as well as a healthy social media presence, isn't worth the time. In fact, since many shoppers conduct research online before shopping at a store for the first time, so an online presence is essential for virtually every business.
4. Choose a personality for your business.
The personification of inanimate objects is a concept that every business owner should understand. Personification is the act of giving human characteristics to something that is not human. For example, the animals you might see in a Disney cartoon can talk and share feelings despite not having that ability outside of an animated feature.
Whether you realize it or not, you personify businesses and perceive them as "good" or "bad" while giving them qualities that an inanimate object would never possess. A company's owners might be "good" people, but your perception of the company they run is colored by how you feel about what the company stands for and the persona it conveys.
In fact, marketing experts call this phenomenon "brand personification," and it's a well-known concept within the marketing world.
Of brand personification, Element Three suggests:
"Corporations using people (and occasionally, creatures) to personify their brands is nothing new. It’s much easier for consumers to connect with a personality than a handful of claims or benefits, especially when you’re dealing with something most feel is a commodity – such as insurance. Characters with unique personas allow the public to identify with a brand and its offerings in a way no other tactic can, helping to establish relationships with consumers that wouldn’t otherwise be possible."
You don't necessarily need to hire a brand ambassador to help personify your brand, but developing keywords that you would like your customers to use when describing your brand is a start. Is your brand friendly? Is it edgy? How should your customers feel about your brand?
5. Create a style guide for your logos & brand
The sign of a successful brand campaign is increased recognition of the brand, and when you create digital representations of your brand with items like logos, those images will invariably end up in a variety of different places from your business website to physical advertisements to your business packaging and custom printed bags.
Small business and marketing advice from Go Daddy reveals:
"As you identify all of these elements, keep track of them in a style guide. The style guide should include your font family names, color codes and variations of your logo. Make it available to any person on your team who is tasked with creating online profiles, digital media and marketing materials (in print as well)."
Creating standards for your brand's visual identity with a style guide ensures that your efforts today to create a consistent brand will continue into the foreseeable future as your brand gains strength and recognition with your expanding customer base.
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