What is your brand?
Perhaps before we look at whether you have a joined-up brand, maybe I should ask a more fundamental question:
Do you know what your brand is?
Note that the question isn’t ‘Do you have a brand?’. Whether we appreciate it or not, every business has a brand. Fundamentally your own business brand is what people (importantly your customers and markets) think of you. This will depend on their experience of engaging with you and can be incredibly inconsistent, particularly if your brand isn’t clear in your own mind. I’m not going into any detail here but suffice to say your brand is the essence of your business proposition and the benefit it delivers. A strong, respected and trusted company brand is the basis of growing long-term, sustained value in your company. I strongly recommend you take time to really consider and understand your own brand – and write down your brand so you have a permanent reference document If you’d like to read more about defining and understanding your own brand check out this post
A joined-up brand
Ask many people for the definition of a ‘Brand’ and you will hear words like Logo, Design, Graphics, Website. While these are all relevant, they are not your brand in themselves. They are (or should be!) representations of your target brand which is, in itself, much more fundamental. Every engagement between you, your company and your customers and contacts are all representations of your brand. Here are some that may be less obvious:
- They way you talk and dress at networking sessions or in meetings
- How you present letters, reports, quotations, invoices etc.
- Your writing style in emails
- Your email signature
- How your company phone is answered
- Your social media profile(s) and content
- Your website content and ‘up-to-date’ness
This may all sound a bit overwhelming but there is another way of looking at it. If you find it too stressful and have to work too hard to deliver your brand proposition, ask yourself whether are you in the right business?! Alternatively, it may be that taking a step back and looking at things differently opens up different ways to do things. If you skip to the end, you will find I finish on an example of this that happened just last week! The important thing is to be aware and work to ensure your brand is joined up across ALL your business engagement at ALL levels. This is where a written brand statement is so valuable as a point of reference in helping to keep your brand joined-up.
The value of a styling document
I have already suggested that a brand is way more than a logo and a website but it is often in visuals where a brand that isn’t joined-up is most clearly exposed. Some people can’t help themselves when it comes to colours, fonts and styles!
- A slightly different shade of green
- A new font I’ve just found
- Change the logo to fit is the space I have
Subtle changes over time can lead to a remarkably inconsistent brand with different logos, fonts and colours appearing in different places. As well as having a written brand statement, a visual styling document can be immensely helpful, particularly as your business grows. It can be simple – a single page may be enough – or more in-depth. The styling document will specify The styling document can include:
- Approved Branding Colours (Remember to specify for both screen and print)
- Logos – Approved logos, shapes and spacing
- Fonts – What font or fonts to use for documents, website, emails etc.
- Email signatures – ensure consistent content and layout
Having a styling document means everyone involved in producing marketing content and collateral will produce work with a consistent and joined-up brand style.
Staying joined-up – Less is more
Sometimes it seems there are new marketing channels and opportunities appearing every month. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need to embrace them all and ‘jump on the band waggon‘. Every new marketing channel you start to use is another that needs work to keep it joined-up; but once you start it can seem difficult, or even dangerous, to stop. I was talking to someone last week and she was explaining how pressure of work meant her website was out of date, she wasn’t proud of it, and needed to find time to sort it out. She also mentioned that she found it easier to keep her LinkedIn profile current. Although I believe a high-quality web presence is a vital marketing asset for any business, it doesn’t have to be your own website. It must be the place you promote where people can (and will!) go to find out more about you and what you offer. In my current example, I was talking with a consultant. Having a well presented LinkedIn profile can be a great web presence for consultants. I suggested that maybe the answer was to take down her website and, instead, redirect her domain name (I think it is important to have your own web address URL) to her LinkedIn page. To make sure your brand stays joined-up, concentrating on less can sometimes give you more.