The Branding Consistency Formula: A Guide for Digital Marketers
The most important aspect of branding is consistency. That’s much more than just placing your logo everywhere. There’s a strict process to follow to do this successfully. Today, I’ve put together this simple guide for generating an implementable branding strategy for digital marketers like you.
It’s called the Branding Consistency Formula.
A strategy for you to implement today to ensure your marketing efforts are not creating confusion in the minds of your target audience.
Think about it – when you interact with a brand you see certain colours, styles and elements throughout.
You create connections in your mind to that brand with these interactions. The closer you can match these, the more weight each interaction will have.
Marketers who understand this are building omnipresence through branding consistency.
This is not something that normally happens consciously either. But we do it subconsciously dozens, if not hundreds of times a day.
Imagine visiting a social media page with one set of visual styles, and then viewing their website with a completely different set.
Small businesses make this mistake all the time, some to a much worse degree than others.
But brand uniformity is so important, so in this guide I’ll show you how to establish a better experience for your audience.
Before I Start…
Before I get in to the formula, I’ll show you how to run a quick audit on your branding:
- Open your website homepage, a blog post, all social media business profiles, any opt in pages and any active PPC ads (Facebook, Google, etc).
- Compare them side-by-side. Put yourself in the shoes of someone in your target market. Look for things like significant color discrepancies, mismatching font or typographic applications and any obvious styles that might seem out of character for your brand. Will this affect the connections they make in their head?
- Take note of these. You’ll want to revisit them a bit later.
Now onto the formula…
The Branding Consistency Formula
Think of this formula like a smoothie.
Inside are a bunch of ingredients – but in this case they’re your brand’s values, characteristics and distinctions.
All blended together in one delectable concoction.
Now if people love this combination, you want more people to experience it.
But you definitely won’t change anything. Otherwise people will be confused.
You want it to be reproducible.
You want to make it memorable.
Here’s how to do this.
There are 3 parts to the Branding Consistency Formula:
- Define values and personality
- Establish some core visual elements
- Create application guidelines
Let’s look at this in more detail.
Define branding values and personality
Branding consistency starts here. This is where you get absolute clarity for what your brand is.
What values do you and your team strive to uphold each day? How do you want to be perceived by anyone, but especially your target audience?
For solo operators, the best thing to do is to have your brand mirror your own personality. Everyone is an individual with something unique to offer. Find what that is and bring that out in your branding.
Or if you have partners, know what each party brings to the business and take that onboard.
Jot these down, because you’ll use these verbs to decide what to create for the next part.
Establish some core visual elements
The next step is to establish the elements that will represent your brand visually.
Use the words from the previous step as part of your search terms to find some inspiration.
Then look for synonyms or similar matching phrases that could return better ideas.
And another important step is to include words that may better match your target audience.
For example, here’s a typical process I recommend.
The first step is to login or signup to Pinterest and create a board. Call it Brand Inspiration.
Once that’s done, search using the keywords and phrases you jotted down earlier.
In this example, I searched for ‘Luxurious Branding’. You can see the results below:
Any pins that stick out showing something you like, save it to your board. It could be colors, objects, typographic styles or anything that piques your interest.
Now do the same searches with Google Images.
The reason to do this, is because Pinterest’s algorithm will be able to fetch more ideas that will be more inline with what you’re searching for. The more images you feed it the better it will be at providing you more relevant ideas.
You can also edit the Pin before saving to your board. This is a good opportunity to add in the specifics of what you like about it.
Repeat this process for the following areas:
- Stock images
- Graphic elements
You can create separate boards for each, or keep them all on the one board – it’s entirely up to you if you think you have sufficient ideas to start on the next step.
Tip: Use your logo to look for defining shapes or elements that you should have in mind. For example, is there a lot of round features? You can look for ideas with curvy or rounded designs.
Create application guidelines
The final step in the Branding Consistency Formula is to put together a set of guidelines that will explicitly define how to apply your brand anywhere.
This is often referred to as a Styleguide or Brand Guidelines.
Most people get a graphic designer to do this – which is perfectly fine.
But you can do it yourself too. In fact I recommend starting with this as it’s a valuable exercise to learn about, and gain more clarity around your branding.
We’ll be focusing on the 3 most important aspects of a visual brand:
- Logo usage
- Color palette
You can do this in a blank Word or Google document.
I do recommend going into more detail for your styleguide, but more on that later. This is a great starting point.
Step 1. Define logo usage
Your logo is your brand identity. It’s the one thing you have that’s only yours.
Other businesses will use the same or similar colors. They’ll use similar elements.
But they can never use your logo.
So above all, it’s important to be respectful when using it in your material.
Put together a short paragraph explaining how the logo should and shouldn’t be used.
I use something like this:
This is the Primary Logo. Logo must be resized proportionately, and never stretched. Logo can be used in [main color], on [light/dark] backgrounds, or white on brand color backgrounds. In order for the logo to be presented clearly, there must always be a certain amount of clear space surrounding it. To work this area out, use the height of the [insert letter/object] as a guideline.
Obviously, depending on the subtleties of your logo, you will edit this according to your preferences.
Step 2. Create a color palette
The next page is where to add your colors.
Normally you have two or three primary colors. These would typically be from your logo, but they don’t have to be. If you don’t have a logo yet, the steps below show how to find great primary colors for it.
Sometimes there could be four, five, or more colors – for example if your target audience is children and/or their parents.
Colorful = playful, young, energetic, etc.
But two or three is the norm simply because you don’t want to potentially dilute your connection opportunities.
If you have more than three colors, it’s important to then define what colors will be used in what content.
So here’s what to do.
Pick Your Primary Colors
Install a color picker browser extension or plugin. I recommend Colorzilla, which works for Chrome and Firefox.
Go to your Brand Inspiration board and open your desired image in a new tab.
You can now use the tool to select the color’s value. It automatically copies the hex value (the one you’ll need – see below), but you can access the RGB, HSV, HSL values and even color history.
Another cool tool you can use is Coolors. It’s free and super easy to use.
You generate color schemes at the single press of the spacebar.
But you can also lock in colors. The trick is to use this in conjunction with your inspiration. So this is where you can use it to paste in the color values from the picker tool.
I try to lock in the first two colors from inspiration (or your logo), then use the spacebar to look for the others.
Pick Your Secondary Colors
The other three will be: a strong color, a light color and a dark color which is normally to be used for text.
The third color may be the hardest to find. It’s your strong color and will be for things like Call-to-actions in your content. So it’s important – it needs to stand out.
If you find yourself annoyed after pressing the spacebar a hundred times, here’s a tip:
Stop generating at your next close match. Use the Adjust feature to match the hue to what you have in mind.
Adjust the saturation level slightly higher. You want it slightly stronger than the primary colors. If your primary colours are already strong, use your judgment to refine them if you think that’s necessary.
See the difference?
Once you’re happy with it, lock it in.
The next two are the easiest. Your light and dark options. These will essentially be white and black, dark gray or navy. I like to adjust these slightly too.
Here’s my final color palette:
You can export various formats. I like the PDF as it shows all the different color codes and values.
I would recommend getting feedback at this stage.
Do some tests as well to check there is no clashes with your logo.
Tip: As this is a guide, these colors are not the only ones you can use. Design software has features where you can apply shades and tints of palette colors. This gives designers more room to work with color-wise, without looking off-brand.
Step 3. Define typefaces and fonts
Just to get a bit technical for a second here: a typeface is the font family of a particular type of design. Usually a group of fonts. For example, Arial.
A font is a specific combination of a size and weight from a particular typeface.
These terms are used interchangeably now, but I want to mention that to avoid confusion.
For your guidelines, you can build a perfectly good brand with one typeface. In fact many professionals recommend just having one.
Having two has is benefits though, such as differentiating parts of content can be much easier.
It’s entirely up to you.
But keep in mind that there are some rules to follow.
Recommended viewing: Typography Tutorial – 10 rules to help you rule type
Setup Typographic Guidelines
Typographic consistency is fairly easy to document, but can be hard to adhere too.
Therefore, it’s important to set it out clearly.
Let’s start with the easy part. Simply list your typeface(s) in the document.
Then to go a step further, create a table showing your text hierarchy. This structure is super important to achieve branding consistency across your textual content.
You can customize your text hierarchy as much as you need to.
The goal here is to tune each text style to make it legible, readable, and appealing when displayed, using things like weight, point size, line height and letter spacing.
Once you have your three sections completed, you’ve got your basic styleguide created.
Furthermore, keep in mind it’s not a set-and-forget document.
You will make tweaks and changes as you learn techniques or new trends pop up that you should take advantage of.
If your target audience ever changes through new developments or product launches, that is a good catalyst for updating brand guidelines.
Above all, the main thing is to adhere to them!
Expanding on your guidelines
I know a lot of people are not the creative type.
That’s one reason why I made this as simple as possible. I want it to be as actionable for as many people as possible.
However, if you or someone on your team is design savvy, and can access design tools, your branding guidelines can be made much nicer.
It’s worth adding more sections to it. You can start to show examples of common designs and how they should look.
This will expand on the value the styleguide has. A picture tells a thousand words, remember.
For example, if I ran a business that offered comparison services, a common visual element I would want to use throughout content could be a divider.
A plain transition down the middle is no fun.
I would want to use a cool design for that element.
See how that stands out?
And it applies the colors I established earlier for consistency.
If I had a blog, I would use that divider on each feature image so each visitor will learn that style, which makes it memorable.
In conclusion, if you don’t have branding guidelines already for your business, I can guarantee mistakes are being made. Especially in the marketing team.
This process will help you get on top of that.
Even if you do, it’s a valuable process to undertake, not just to create a consistent brand experience, but to learn about your brand as well.
Implement this and you’ll start to see improvements immediately.
But you’ll also start to see branding mistakes being made and that’s a good thing, because you can get them corrected much faster.
The next step is to delegate or outsource design to achieve branding consistency more effectively.
With the help of experts you will no doubt see many benefits.
I hope you found this useful! In fact I would love to hear from you. What would you put in your styleguide to help create consistency in your branding and marketing content?
Let me know in the comments below.