In this month’s instalment, we’re talking with Richard Meads, the Head of Creative at Blue Digital, to discuss an integral part of any SME’s growth – how to craft your business’ brand identity. With over 20 years’ design experience, Richard has led and delivered diverse branding projects for a variety of B2C and B2B businesses.
Read our full interview with Richard below:
When should a business look to craft a brand identity?
Ideally, a business should be crafting its identity from the outset. A logo is essentially an identifying mark which will help to create visual recognition and understanding. The logo doesn’t necessarily have to spell out what the business does but it must be considered in a way to reflect the care, attention and quality offered by the business.
A brand identity doesn’t just stop at a logo either. A suite of elements that visually represent the organisation should be planned and produced to help support any future marketing activity. The correct photography, company videos, print collateral such as brochures and flyers, along with assets for digital promotion such as web banners, will all help to set the business up for the next stage of promotional activities.
Is it something which should be complete from the early stages of operation, or should it develop over time?
The identity should be present from the outset, however it can evolve over time. Some of the largest global organisations have evolved their logos, either reflecting the changing times, becoming less traditional and more digital, or even reflecting an evolution in business direction or audience.
The main thing to remember is that it is a positive thing to evaluate your branding and evolve accordingly. It helps to show that your business is aware of changing environments and evolves with them, and that you’re not scared to embrace change and move with the times.
When committing to a brand identity, and creating brand guidelines, what information should be provided? Which factors should be emphasised?
A lot of companies receive brand guidelines which do not include any information about the brand. What quite a lot of companies receive are identity guidelines, outlining how the logo can and can’t be used, corporate colours and fonts.
Full brand guidelines can be quite an epic document, giving both internal and external contacts a full understanding of the business. Areas that need to be covered in a set of brand guidelines include:
All businesses should have a vision and purpose, values, personality and tone of voice which the identity will support. The logo and supporting information around colour and fonts will all be available. However, other items such as collateral guidelines, brochure layouts and social media profiles, through to editorial guidelines, are all relevant to the business’ needs so will differ business to business.
Should a business’ brand identity be led more by internal factors or external influences?
The brand identity has to be true to and reflect the business it represents, which is driven internally based on the company’s ethos and core purpose. However, that will need to be balanced with external factors such as marketplace and core customer for instance.
This is something that will more often than not balance itself naturally. For example, someone who is running a piano tuning business wouldn’t want a log with a heavy grunge feel - customers in the market for piano tuning would expect something more classical and traditional.
For businesses looking to update or refresh their image, would you advocate radically changing a brand’s identity to meet the needs of an evolving audience? Or, is gradual progression preferable?
There are many reasons for a business to want or need to refresh their image. The reason for changing dictates how the company will need to approach the refresh. Slight repositioning, changing markets, an outdated image or moving with the times can all be achieved sympathetically through gradual evolution, taking the customer with you on the journey.
A radical evolution may be needed in other cases such as mergers and acquisitions, internationalisation or even to offset bad reputation.
If a wholesale change is undertaken, the business involved needs to be 100% sure that it is the right direction to go, and that the potential impact on their brand value is positive enough to justify the change.
Many businesses will bring in an external expert to help them develop their brand identity. Naturally, these professionals may not have the same brand knowledge as management, how important is a close relationship between these two parties to creating a true and effective brand identity?
Bringing in the right brand expert will definitely help enhance the process and produce a much more effective brand identity. It is true that the management will have much more knowledge about their brand and marketplace, but an external expert will bring alternative market knowledge, inspire different ways of thinking about their brand, and challenge the management to reassess what they think they know about their business. Management will have become comfortable with how things are, so a change in approach could be the way forward.
A close relationship may not be essential, but trust and rapport will be required to allow openness and acceptance when being challenged. If the management team are closed and guarded with the external expert, communication will close down and the process can become pointless.
What do brand guidelines often get wrong?
Being focused on logo/identity guidelines and not giving insight into the brand by including anything about what drives the brand.
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Where brand guidelines do list values they are quite often dull and simply state the obvious. There is a standard that everyone expects when dealing with a business. Honesty, dedication and having drive shouldn’t be something we need to buy into; values should give us more of an understanding of the business and how they operate.
And finally, should a new brand identity be tested or trialled? Are there any processes you’d recommend to ensure a new or altered identity connects with the target audience?
The main audience you don’t want to alienate is your current customer base. A well-defined stakeholder communication plan can be a great way to connect with them and inform them why you have evolved. This will avoid confusing anyone with awareness of your brand as to why things have changed, and hopefully engage them further within your brand.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to read the rest of the Q&As in our Business Basics series. You can read some of the most recent posts in the series using the following links:
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