Over the years I have encountered many wildly different views of brand consistency. Some clients send logos in to us with a 30-page “brand guidelines” manual, itself extremely handsome and well done, with all the things we absolutely may not do with their brand. This manual defines which RGB, CMYK, and Pantone color values to use as well as typefaces, and may even give specific warnings to avoid using anything even remotely approaching the Comic Sans typeface. Other clients come in with a logo concept on a cocktail napkin or, worse, have several versions of their logo, none of which are available in a digital format. I’ve actually been in a meeting where twelve company representatives at the table each had a different-looking business card! True story! In reality, the greatest majority of clients fall into the latter category or somewhere in between.
Do you do have a brand overlord, or at least an advocate? Consider that if you won’t be a champion for your brand consistency, it’s unlikely anyone else will. You don’t want to leave your branding decisions up to each of your individual marketing service providers. Creatives want to be creative, so if they’re not given clear direction, everyone – your biz card printer, collateral designer, trade-show booth staffers, front desk receptionist, vehicle wrapper, signage provider, website developer, email marketer, and social media dude – will be all too happy to whip something up for you.
This is not to say that a campaign can’t have a different look, so long as it leaves the viewer knowing what the brand, brand message, and call to action is. Maybe one of those forenamed creatives has a great idea about how your brand and message should be conveyed via their medium. We want them to use their professional experience to guide us towards effective campaigns that get results, don’t placate brand-owner fancies, and optimize both usage and compatibility in the given medium. But we also want them to leave the brand message and “feel” recognizable.
Here’s my quick-glance guide to brand consistency for the lay person:
- Is the logo, logo + strapline, consistent enough to be recognized as representing the same company or product regardless of the medium in which it is used?
- Are the colors, spacing, and typography appropriately consistent for each given medium?
- Does each brand piece or campaign conjure up thoughts of all or some previous pieces you may have seen from the same company so as to recall those messages as well?
- Is the message and nomenclature usage consistent?
- Are product and/or lifestyle images uniform or do they at least have the same visual feel?
While that is far from an exhaustive list, it should give you an idea of what a minimum consistency requirement should look like. So who will be your brand overlord moving forward? Who will be the brand keeper? Who will stand up and say, “No sir, not with our brand”? Call an emergency meeting and bestow that lofty honor on a trusted soul before someone tries to make yet another version of your brand.