5 ways to maintain a strong brand in a tight economy.
If you are a business, a product, or even an individual, your branding matters. The truth is that first impressions DO count, so creating and maintaining a strong brand is crucial to how you present yourself and your company.
But times are hard and you may be pressed to find budget for developing/maintaining your brand, so we’ve put together a list of things you do can do right now, on a low budget, to supplement your marketing and promote your brand. Like most things, if you set up a good foundation, then you save in the long run.
The key to a strong brand is consistency. Look at Apple Inc., what I call the iPhenomenon. They were a specialist computer company from the 70’s which were pretty much limited to a select audience. Following a sequence of events in their corporate history, they turned their image around in the late 90’s and reached the status of the world’s richest company in September 2011. Whilst the obvious element here is their product range, how far would they have gone without promoting their “iBrand”? By keeping it consistent in the minds of their existing clients, the Apple brand become a desirable commodity.
With that in mind, we’ve picked 5 core visual elements which we feel you should pay attention to in order to make your brand go further.
- Have a brand guideline. Ideally this should be created by your branding consultant when they develop your logo. Your brand guideline should include all uses for your logo in application (fonts, colours, application etc.) and can go so far as discussing your tone (in articles, image styles and so on). If you don’t have a brand guideline, make your own mini version, and stick to it…
- Logo – have one version, don’t deviate from it. Make sure it’s the right quality, in the formats you require and don’t stretch/squash it when using it.
- Choose your font: If you are doing this yourself, choose a simple font that all computers will have so that you don’t have future issues or need to worry about font copyrights. We recommend web safe fonts as all users should have them.
- Colours: Choose no more than 3 colours and try to resist using more, it might end up looking like a box of crayons! Bear in mind that commercial printers and sign writers use CMYK and Pantone colours, so keeping it simple can reduce costly errors at printing stages later on.
- Stationery. Create a good set of stationery; you shouldn’t need to change it frequently.
- Letterheads: Printed letterheads aren’t common these days so you can usually have an electronic (Microsoft Word usually) letterhead which is incredibly cost effective and is “green” too. Have this set up properly and have all staff use the same template.
- Business Cards: Business cards are a strong promotional item and often the first time a prospective client sees your brand. With digital printing’s popularity, you no longer have to print thousands of cards to make it cost effective; you can now do smaller print runs at a reasonable cost. If you have extra budget, consider your paper and print finish. Our own cards have rounded corners and a spot UV print and generally people comment on them (and in so doing, notice our logo/brand more!)
- Email. All too often we see a company with a strong presence, yet they forget about their email branding. You’ll see an email come through with flashing emoticons at the base, a special message for the day and the senders name in 16 point Comic Sans. None of this is professional and in keeping with your brand. If in doubt, keep your branding as simple as possible. This is where we find the Rocketseed Mail system distributed by Clikit Media highly effective as it bypasses individual’s setting up their mail format and presents uniform email branding from every user.
- Website. Every business needs a website. Gone are the days when sites cost an arm and a leg and you had to pay through your teeth to make changes. A simple, good web presence is relatively affordable and with current technology you should be able to make edits effortlessly on your own. You should use a web professional to create your site as consideration should be taken into your functionality requirements, competitor analysis etc. Have a look at their portfolio and find a company who’s style you like and who’s reputation is strong and avoid gimmicks where they are “free” (based on our experience of companies who have used such sites, they usually get burned and their brand and pocket suffer).
- Advertising & Marketing: Print advertising is increasingly costly, it really depends on the kind of business you have. If you are a retail store, then it’s often a good idea to have your specials etc. in a local paper/flyer. Online and digital marketing has become leader in advertising spend, even overtaking traditional media. You can look at Facebook and Google ads (you can set them up by yourself pretty easily, however an idea is to call in a professional to analyze your requirements and set them up though – this helps you to get more out of your investment). With online spend, you set your own budget and it’s usually a quick return so you can measure how much you want to spend based on the response. We love the Rocketseed Mail solution distributed by Clikit Media as it allows every single email to become a marketing message. Think how many emails you send every day – attaching your message to each email turns all communication into a positive marketing experience. And in comparison to print media, it’s a steal.
- Social Media. Like it or not, social media is here to stay. Facebook is expected to reach a billion users in the second half of 2012. This will mean that one in very seven people on the globe is using it and nearly 5 million South Africans use it. It’s not hard to set up your social media and if you plan a strategy ahead, for a relatively low time investment, you can interact with your customers and potential customers in a way and scale which has never happened before. A word of caution – you will need to put time and energy into social media. It’s rewarding and opens new doors, but you will need a committed approach to maintenance.
However you present yourself, if you are consistent, your brand can only be stronger. Stay focused and 2012 will become a year to be reckoned with!