The Ultimate Guide to Evolving Your Brand
Think about the person you were when you started your business. Now think of the person you are now.
There's a difference, isn't there? Not so great that you feel like two different people, but enough to see the development through time. It's a natural part of growing with your business.
So if you've evolved as both a person and a business, chances are you've been thinking about evolving your branding too. After all, 90 percent of consumers expect their experience of a brand to be the same across a range of devices and platforms. Working on your brand development can bring these different touchpoints into alignment.
Browse Pinterest for any length of time and you'll find plenty of 'how-to' guides for creating a brand. Trouble is, they're aimed at businesses who are just starting out.
They give you a great place to start for ideas. But you need something more substantial when you update your brand.
Brand development is the next natural step in the evolution of your business. It involves setting up guidelines around every element of your brand to keep things consistent and, more importantly, professional.
Don't worry if it sounds overwhelming. We're here to walk you through the steps so you know what to expect when you sit down with a designer.
Brand Development Starts with a Style Guide
Think about the last time you visited an Apple store. Even if someone hid the Apple logo, you'd still know where you were.
Why? Because Apple follows a style guide. It covers everything from the T-shirts the staff wear to the colours used in the store. Style guides even cover the wall treatments and materials used for the floor.
Now picture walking into an independent general store. Maybe it has handwritten price tags on those items on special offer. The linoleum floor could be in any shop in the world.
Which store inspires greater consumer confidence? We bet you'd consider the Apple store to be more knowledgeable and professional.
You can provide a similar experience by having your own style guide.
What Does a Style Guide Cover?
Your style guide will depend on your business. If you have no bricks-and-mortar store, then you don't need to worry about specifying materials or furnishings for a physical space.
But all businesses will need to, at the very least;
- finalise a logo
- choose a colour palette
- identify fonts and
- decide on the kind of image treatment you want for your photography.
Let's walk through those points.
Logo Types and Formats
Logos fall into one of four groups;
- Wordform, which is the name written in a specific way (e.g. Samsung).
- Pictorial, which is a symbol that resembles the name (e.g. Apple).
- Letterform, which is a single letter representing the brand (e.g. PlayStation's PS)
- Abstract, which is a recognisable symbol that doesn't relate to the name (e.g. Nike)
It may be possible to simplify your existing logo, such as removing (or adding) flourishes. Work with your designer to decide what logo form best sums up your brand.
Just remember your brand is more than just a logo.
Yes, there is more than one type of logo format. At the very least, you'll need the logo in JPEG, AI and PNG.
JPEG logos are fine for adding to email signatures since their file size is smaller than a PNG. You can also use them on social media pages as profile photos.
But they're created using a lossy form of compression which removes quality each time you save the file.
PNG formats are great for websites because they preserve image information. They can also preserve transparency so if you don't want a white (or black) box around your logo, PNG is the way to go.
Finally, AI logos are the files created in vector-based programs like Adobe Illustrator. Because they're vectors, they can be resized without losing quality. The program simply recalculates the design as you change the size.
That gives ultimate flexibility over your logo because you could save it in an A4 document. Need it for a billboard? No problem - just resize the AI logo file.
You'll also need the logo in an AI format if you intend to have it embroidered onto clothing. Most commercial embroidery machines use vector files to create their outputs.
It's best to have your logo listed in the style guide in a range of shapes. Squares are great for use as social media avatars. Landscape logos look great on website headers or on banner ads. Portrait logos are best for sidebar ads or platforms like Pinterest.
Refreshing Your Colour Palette
If you did your own branding in the early days of your business, how did you choose your colour palette? Did you go with the trendy colours of the day, or colours you liked?
Colour can be vital to your brand's success. Take Gumtree as an example. They underwent a rebrand in 2017 in Australia to celebrate their 10th anniversary. They ditched their old pictorial logo but they kept the shades of green to help recognition.
You'll need to understand why you use certain colours as part of the brand development process. Not only do colours have associations in the western world, they also differ between cultures.
Take red, for example. In the west, it can mean hunger, danger, passion, or anger. But in Hindu culture, it's the traditional colour for bridal dresses.
Your designer can walk you through these colour associations to pinpoint the best colours for your brand development. If you simply followed colour trends, you may find different shades of the same colours will work best.
Don't Worry That Customers Won't Recognise You Anymore
Use eBay as an example. They updated the font of their logo in 2012, swapping serifs for sans-serif letters. The colour scheme remained the same.
But in 2017, they changed from a four-colour wordmark to a monochromatic colour scheme. By pairing the elegant new logo with high-quality lifestyle images, it helped alter the perception of eBay from being an auction site to becoming a shopping destination.
Your style guide will list out the colours suitable for your brand. It should include Pantone colours if you can afford them, or the CMYK values (if you can't) for printed materials. You'll also need the RGB values, or hexadecimal values, for each colour.
CMYK is the colour mode used by printers, so specifying the right shade means you'll get a more accurate result when you print. Screens display in RGB, which is why you need both.
That way, you can make sure you use the right colour every time. Such design consistency is subtle but it helps build a mental image of professionalism for your business.
Like colours, fonts help make your brand instantly recognisable. When Coca-Cola dropped their famous logo from their cans in favour of customer names, people were shocked. But the red of the can, and the font used for the names, meant customers still picked out Coca-Cola as a brand.
The brand reported a 2 percent rise in sales after the campaign, originally launched in Australia, rolled out in the US.
You'll need to choose fonts that don't date easily. In 2015, Google swapped their old, serif typeface for a new sans-serif typeface. The colours of the logo remained the same but the logo got a fresh, modern facelift.
Your style guide will contain a range of fonts for different purposes. The font you use on your website may be a different weight from the one you use in a brochure since text reads differently on a screen.
Or you may choose a serif and a sans-serif font to pair to cover headline text and body copy. Make sure you choose fonts that reflect your brand image and provide a great user experience.
Choose Consistent Imagery Every Time
The final piece of the brand development puzzle is the imagery you use on your website. Whether you commission a photographer or use stock photography, you need to keep the images 'on brand' so you don't undo all the good work of rebranding.
The best way to integrate imagery with your brand development is to use your style guide to dictate your image choices.
Having colours, textures, locations, or even an ambience that suits your branding makes it easier to choose the right stock photos. It also means you can easily write a brief for a photographer when you commission bespoke images.
So a lifestyle business will use very different imagery to a tech company. Or a bookshop for students will use different photos to a high-end hair salon.
How Do You Know When It Is Time to Evolve your Brand?
Brand development is never something to be undertaken lightly. But there are certain factors that might trigger your decision to undergo the process.
Has your offering changed since your business started trading? Your target audience is no longer the same set of customers you originally counted on. If so, updating your brand to reflect who you are now can help you attract that new audience.
Did you follow design trends rather than branding principles? Your brand might simply look out of date because your competitors all evolved their brand and you haven't. Yet. Or it might look outdated because you didn't choose branding that suited your company.
Are you finding it difficult to hire the best staff? Maybe a mismatch between what you offer and how you appear is also putting off talented staff from applying to work with you.
Once you have your new branding in place, you can approach a web designer equipped with your style guide. Refresh the branding on your site to reach that state of alignment that shows off your business as a professional entity.
We realise we've given you a lot of information in this post, and make sense of it all might be difficult. If you want a partner to walk you through the brand development process of creating a style guide, contact us today.