Family Affair: Establishing parameters for brand style consistency
Yeah, okay, that title is already putting me to sleep, but the topic is one I get asked about a lot. “How do I keep my brand-look consistent throughout my product or service lines (think Ralph Lauren ad) without becoming boring or too matchy-matchy?”
I’m so glad you asked, but let’s back up a second. The reason for establishing a brand style is that whenever someone (especially in your target audience) sees your tradeshow booth, ad, web site, business card, iPhone/iPad app, brochure or tchotchke, they instantly get a positive mental link to your organization. It is the ultimate picture/word association exercise. When the brand style is executed successfully at all touchpoints throughout the company, each favorable impression reinforces brand recognition in a prospect’s memory.
So, how do you balance consistent expression of the brand style across all media and client interactions with providing a way to distinguish separate products and services? How do you keep the style and messaging of the offerings from overshadowing the core brand identity? How do you keep everything looking like it belongs to the same family without trade-dressing them like identical twins?
The same solution won’t work for every situation, but here are some guidelines.
Define your offering matrix. Group your products and related service offerings based on how they serve the customer. Think IKEA: the same object might be included in the kids group as a toy organizer and in the kitchen group as wine holder.
Keep it a family affair. Establish the overall look and feel that communicate the brand value of the corporate brand. Then, establish the design framework and devise a system of visual clues that will identify the subsets of the core brand—its product and service lines. They might be icons (as in the Adobe Creative Suite software), color-coding, images (Garanimals), style group names (women’s apparel) or bold numbers, as a few examples. Make sure that the product line branding fits within and doesn’t overshadow the main brand.
Communicate the family relationship. Use these visual clues consistently so that the customer can immediately recognize the product group and the solution it represents. The faster you help your customer identify what they need, the shorter the sales cycle. The goals are to help the customer learn your package of solutions and to remember that the products and services are backed by a strong and reliable brand that brings value to them.
Finally, document your brand standards, keep them updated and communicate them internally with a brand standards manual. Assign someone to be the keeper of the brand. Your brand is a company asset. Protecting it is a family affair and every member of the team should become a brand standards champion.