This weekend while watching TV a commercial came on ... the music was happy, the colors were bright, the characters were a bit over the top ... what were they advertising? I had no idea ... but I did know before the red bullseye was on the screen that the ad was for Target.
Creating a strong brand is no longer just for the retail word. The corporate market has jumped on board and I see the public sector not far behind. A brand is an identity - when your company or group has an identity it's easier to understand who you are and sell it to the world around you. Even if you are not selling a product or service, today's world is full of competition. Whether you are trying to attract the best and brightest, retain students, or create a presence in your local downtown ... having an consistent brand is key.
In order to create a holistic brand you must create a strong visual identity and a strong emotional identity. Both of these items link to standard branding collateral like a logo and marketing pieces, but also extend into your work or retail environment - it's the feeling you get when you walk through the front door. Colors, textures, lighting, furniture, signage, super-graphics, clothing, and everything around you impacts the identity you are giving out. Is the store bright and white like Apple? Are your employees in suites or blue jeans? Simple moves will attract different types of people and create a different first impression.
So where do you start? Here are some of the items that will have the strongest, quickest impact - hopefully some of these ideas will help you start to make sense of your own identity in order to create a lasting brand.
- Logo: If your logo is a fuzzy 1980's piece of clip art it's time to upgrade. Having a clean, crisp vector logo is key. A vector file can be scaled up or down without losing quality. This means the logo used on your letterhead can finally match your t-shirts, banners, and building signage.
- Font: If you use Avenir on your building signage, Baskerville on your website, and Comic Sans in yours newsletter it's time to simplify and standardize your fonts! Use a single font of all headings, titles, signage, etc. to help produce a consistant visual. Check out Fil's blog post on fonts to help you choose the right one - Fontastic
- Color: Whether be a school district's colors (purple and gold, blue and white, orange and black...) or a company's logo colors ... pick a color and stick with it! Blue does not mean navy blue or royal blue ... it should mean Pantone Blue 072 C / RGB #28,63,148, Hex #1C3F9. The blue on your website should match your printed literature, which should match your wall paint (see below).
- Paint: Ignore what I just said above - sometimes! In the built environment, the blue fabric on your desk chair, the blue laminate on your table, and the blue paint used on 20 walls throughout your building do not all have to match. The large logo or graphic in your lobby should be your "standard" blue - but in order to create depth, interest, and an overall composition you can and should have some variety in your school, office, or business. Secondary colors or tones should be used. It's a balance - you'll know it when you get there.
- Graphics: Visuals on your website, in your newsletters, and in your building should be more then just repeating your logo. Find an interesting way to reinforce the visual. Maybe you play with the scale - only use slices of the logo - or turn to historical references/images. Building graphics for one are a place to have fun. Use the main logo where it is appropriate and then use variations elsewhere.
Once you have established standards for these items make sure they are known. Publish a company or district wide branding guideline document - if no one knows the standards they can't use them. Here are a few examples from a major high school renovation and addition project we recently completed. You can also get detailed information on this project here. Good luck!