Now that you’ve created a content map of your digital platforms, and prioritized based on the resources that your have, it’s time to learn how to create powerfully branded digital content.
Is There a Disconnect in Your Branding?
Inconsistent branding risks confusing customers and losing their trust. Consider some of the brands you’ve interacted with your entire life. If you saw an advertisement for your favourite cereal brand online and it didn’t feature the bright colours and quirky character you normally see on the box, you would be confused and disappointed. You’d have been robbed of the comforting feelings you normally experience when you see the brand. You would question whether there would be a matching difference in the product itself. You might even believe the ad was counterfeit, causing you to lose the sense of trust you’d had in the brand previously.
Disconnects in your branding can easily set your brand back and undo trained and remembered subconscious touchpoints you have already created. Even simple mistakes such as mismatching colours can produce a sensation of distrust in clients who have become familiar with the brand.
What is Brand Unity?
Essentially, your brand is a set of symbols, colours, and emotions you use to represent your business. Symbols are important to people, and they’re especially important when it comes to trust and other essential emotions. Once people have associated a feeling with your brand, those images, colours, and other symbols will help them recall that same feeling you have worked hard to generate.
Although it’s often made out to be complex, branding is actually a simplification of your business. It boils everything down to several standard components.
Consider what would happen if you had to redesign your logo every time you used it (Sidenote: I am waiting for a brand to try this, making a changing logo become part of the brand itself). While items like logos are the most obvious instances of branding, you can actually extend your brand specifics into the images, typography, filters, banners, colours, words, and phrases you use. When you create these templates and use them consistently, it strengthens your brand. It also saves time because you are reproducing rather than creating.
A brand guide is essential to brand unity. Your brand guide should lay out all the templates for your brand, including instructions on where and how images, social banners, and logos should be used. Your colours, taglines, and other information should all be stored here. Every team member should understand the brand guide and be able to use it for reference when creating new content. Finally, a brand guide should be updated every time there is a change to any aspect of the brand.
Using Campaigns to Achieve Better Brand Unity
Campaigns are a way of organizing information around a central theme or point. In marketing, a campaign typically includes a static “call to action” — in other words, it is aimed at getting your audience to take one specific action, such as visiting your website, filling out a form, or downloading an e-book. A campaign may feature a specific product, or it may focus on a general feature of the business or brand.
Not only do campaigns make it easier for you to manage your digital marketing, they create unrivalled consistency and brand unity. People like and remember content that is consistent. We take in a great deal of content from online platforms in a single day, meaning it’s easy for a single message to get lost in the noise. When you coordinate a campaign across multiple platforms, you provide several touchpoints for a single message, sometimes across a span of several days, weeks, months, or event years.
Using Campaigns Across Multiple Platforms
A single post on social media can (and should, with audience considerations) be used across all the platforms your brand is active on. If a potential client visits one platform, they’ll usually go to your website or another source to verify the brand information. You can change your post to fit the platform, but the overall message and concept should be the same throughout. Again, this meets the expectations you’ve set, generating a greater trust factor.
While your brand should seldom change, messaging for a campaign may change slightly to speak to different audiences. As we’ve already discussed in previous posts, each platform has its own demographics. A twitter message will be shorter and reflect current news or trends, while a LinkedIn post may be longer and geared toward professionals and business owners. A product campaign might be directed to a younger audience on Snapchat or Instagram than on Facebook.
Don’t Make Changes, But If You Do…
Sometimes brand unity fails because of poor implementation. Jimmy the intern didn’t know to use specific filters for photos, Rayanne in PR changed the colour of a logo to match the background of a brochure, etc.
However, brand unity can also fail at a structural level when changes are made too often.
Rebrands should only be undertaken when there needs to be a serious update. Instances when this may happen are:
The company has significantly changed or shifted and the brand hadn’t changed to reflect it.
The company is about to undergo a major change or shift.
The previous brand was not impactful, or has been injured in some way.
If you are planning on rebranding, ensure it’s clearly announced to your audience. Also, make sure all your marketing channels are shifted to the new branding. Go through all your platforms, communications, written materials, and templates to ensure the old branding is taken out and the new branding is consistent across the board.
Perhaps most importantly, changes in branding should always be official. Your brand must be applied top-down to be effective. If you allow one person to make a single change, it may easily have a ripple effect that negatively impacts brand unity. This is why it’s crucial to demand complete consistency in the use of your brand, both internally and externally.
One of the biggest challenges for unified branding is in communications. Help communicate your branding efforts to your team by:
Developing a brand reference guide that demonstrates how the brand is to be used in different situations.
Holding a meeting to discuss branding with your team members.
Clearly communicating any changes to the brand before they happen.
Making a list of all the places your brand appears, so changes can be made across all platforms easily.
Assigning someone to do a brand review once a year to ensure the brand is consistent.
Again — Don’t Over-Complicate it
Mistakes in branding happen in every business, from your local hardware store right up to Home Depot.Do what you can to create brand unity. Take care of the basics first, such as using recognizable colours and correct use of your logos. If you don’t have time to scroll through every past post to check or change your branding, at least ensure that all new marketing strictly follows the guidelines.
At the end of the day, brand unity is important. However, even once we’ve achieved brand unity in our digital marketing, we haven’t reached our end goal. To stand out, we have to do more. Stay tuned to our next blog post to find out how we can go one step further than brand unity to compete in the cluttered digital world.
… Contradicting Everything I Just Said
I do not usually contradict everything I just wrote… but there is one consideration that all brands must make when considering the longterm unification of a brand. The ability to adapt!
Stay consistent, build a unified brand across all online platforms, post corresponding content, and stay true to your brand guide; however, too much red tape, and an inability to adapt and make changes can also hurt a brand.
You need to have the flexibility to achieve some trial and error lessons learned with content, adhere to online trends and build a brand that can identify with the changing behaviours of the audiences.
Your brand guide and marketing culture has to try to allow for this.
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