Consistency is a muscle we all need to develop, especially as business owners. Your brand is built upon your ability to remain consistent – in your products/services, your customer experience, your promise and your results.
As a brand, one of the best ways to communicate your consistency, reliability and trustworthiness is to develop a strong foundation for your brand identity.
By defining the look and feel of your brand, you will always have a set of guidelines to return to. It gives your team and your marketing partners firm ground to stand on as they help you share your brand with the world.
That’s why Amanda Benson-Tilch, host of The Ask Amanda Show, recently sat down with the super-talented Hillary Broadwater, owner of Santa Clarita’s full-service graphic design and branding firm, QM Design Group. Together, Amanda and Hillary outlined a strategy to establish a consistent brand identity. It all starts with a firm foundation – and a few tips from the experts.
Creating a Consistent Brand Identity
Your brand identity includes your logo, website, marketing materials, digital presence, verbal messaging, visual assets, original content and more. But the glue that holds all those pieces together – and creates one cohesive brand – is an intentional, well-designed foundation.
1. Know your brand promise.
A brand is a promise – the promise of what your customers and network will receive when they work with you.
When you’re creating your brand, the first question to ask yourself is: What does my brand promise? If your brand promises a happy, energetic, uplifting experience, then the look and feel of your visual content should match that. On the other hand, if your services are calming and clarifying, then your colors and fonts would be different.
Let your brand promise guide the look and feel of your marketing.
But don’t forget – once you make that promise, it’s your job to deliver. And that goes back to consistency.
“Consistency is your greatest asset here,” Hillary explained. “By changing the font in a flyer or adding a new color to your social media graphics, you’re creating inconsistencies.”
2. Map out your brand touch points.
A brand touch point is, as it sounds, any time a customer or potential customer comes in touch with your brand. This includes your customer experience, storefront, digital presence, marketing materials, original content and more. All of these moments say something about your brand.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
- When a potential client visits your website or social media
- If a new lead picks up a flyer or drives by a billboard
- How the person at the front desk answers the phone
- How the staff communicates a brand’s values
- How the staff presents themselves with a logo, nametag or uniform
- The perks your long-time clients receive
To design your client touch points with intention, map out a potential client’s journey from the beginning to end. Look at each interaction and ask yourself if you’re fulfilling your brand promise.
3. Create a style guide.
Once you know what you want to promise and how you’re going to fulfill that promise, it’s time to decide what that looks like. Your style guide is the foundation of that process.
“A style guide is a document that defines your brand and how it can be used,” Hillary explained. “It can be one page or 500 pages, depending on how much you want to include. It’s primary purpose is to create consistency across all your marketing pieces – so that no matter who you share your brand with, they have the guidelines needed to remain cohesive.”
Hillary always suggests using a simple trick to get started: When you lay out all your marketing pieces on the table, they should all look like they go together and come from the same family.
“That will set you up for success because you at least have visual consistency with the major branding pieces,” Hillary explained.
How To Use a Style Guide
Share your style guide with anyone who is involved in creating your brand. That could include the professionals/staff members who help create your:
- Digital Marketing
- Social Media Content
- Business Cards
- Print Marketing
- Email Templates
- Email Signatures
- And the list goes on …
A Basic Style Guide Includes:
For a small business of 1-10 people in size, Hillary suggests creating a basic style guide that includes:
- Your logo, in all its formats and file types
- How the logo can and cannot be used
- Fonts, in all their weights and sizes
- Color codes including CMYK (for print), RGB (for screens), HEX (for websites)
Expanded Style Guides Can Include:
Now, that covers only the visual brand. Some brands will even expand the style guide to include sections on the:
- Verbal Brand – messaging, keywords, tone, writing style, etc.
- Photography Guidelines – composition, color, crop, etc.
- Templates – email, memos, call scripts, etc.
4. Develop a branded marketing campaign.
A campaign means your marketing is distributed across multiple platforms. That could include a brochure, direct mail piece, ad in a magazine, email blast, social media posts and more. You might run the campaign for 8 weeks and distribute each piece multiple times. With all those different aspects running at once, everything still needs to work together to achieve a common goal.
“You’re building brand recognition and awareness,” Hillary explained. “When people start to see your brand over and over again, in multiple different places, they’re going to recognize who you are.”
If your messaging is on target, it should get a response. The point of a marketing message, really, is to provoke the question: Do I need that? Will that product or service fix my problem or add to my life in a meaningful way?
5. Invest in a full-service design firm.
“One thing a lot of business owners don’t know to look for is a design firm that can do everything in one place,” Amanda explained. “A full-service graphic designer can create the foundation of your brand, and then any time you need something, they can create it easily, quickly and with very little of your time or energy.”
QM Design Group is a fantastic example.
“We’re turnkey; we handle everything from concept to completion,” Hillary explained. “You can come sit down with us, and we’ll design your logo. Then we turn that into a full brand identity with letterhead, business cards, brochures – whatever you need. We can also print it all for you and mail it for you.”
QM Design Group can create anything you can think of from the little things like pens and nametags to large-scale projects like full installations, trade show booths, canopies and more.
“The biggest benefit, really, is that it allows me to keep control of the project and the brand’s consistency,” Hillary explained. “I know the printers I work with personally. If it’s a big or complex job, I’ll personally go on press to oversee the job and make sure it’s consistent. We’ll do what we need to do to make sure it gets done – and it gets done correctly.”
Get a Brand Evaluation
The first step in creating, or recreating, a consistent brand identity is evaluating where you’re at right now. QM Design Group is offering a full brand evaluation to all Ask Amanda referrals.
Hillary will help you lay out all your marketing materials at once to see where the inconsistencies are, and together, you will create a plan for more consistency across the board.
Meet the Experts
Hillary Broadwater – Brand Identity
As President and Creative Director of QM Design Group, Hillary Broadwater has turned a passion for art into an award-winning graphic design and branding firm in Santa Clarita. Hillary’ earned her bachelor’s degree from Art Center College of Design and spent 10 years as Art Director for AIMS Multimedia, the leader in K–12 educational media. During this time, Hillary revitalized a classic brand – thoroughly updating the look and feel of the company’s marketing collateral. She went on to design for Discovery Education, a division of the Discovery Channel. Considered by her peers as one of the nation’s top graphic designers, Hillary’s objective is to assist clients in establishing a strong “visual voice” for their brands. She’s currently the Chairwoman of the Board of Directors for the Valley Industry Association (VIA) and is an active member of the American Advertising Federation (AAF), as well as Soroptimist of Greater Santa Clarita.
Need a full-service design firm that can help you design and execute a consistent brand identity? Contact Hillary at QM Design Group for a comprehensive brand evaluation.
Amanda Benson-Tilch – Small Business Consulting
While you may notice her first by her wit and second by her infectious sense of humor, the next thing you’ll learn about Amanda Benson-Tilch is: She’s a problem-solver. Owner and Growth Strategist of Ask Amanda Consulting, she offers the skills, tools and network it takes to get the job done — no matter the task.
Working with each client differently, she helps identify blocks, present solutions, implement them, and execute. And if she can’t execute, she’ll connect you to someone who can. She’s helped past clients improve their branding, operations, customer service, marketing, company culture, and more. She’s organized a company-wide rebranding and restructuring after it was bought out. And she’s helped local small businesses increase their growth without increasing the headache. From consulting to full-scale project management, Amanda steps in to help your business level up with ease.
In addition to her work with Ask Amanda, she’s also the Director of Business Development for Thomas Realty Co., a property management company in Burbank, where she oversees the growth of select tenants. Currently, she’s serving as the Managing Director of both Burbank Fitness Club and Burbank Center Apartments. Over the last year, she helped completely rebrand, renovate and rebuild the gym, and she recently started the same process with their luxury apartments.
About The Ask Amanda Show
On any given day, small business owners and entrepreneurs spend most of their time putting out fires, solving problems and asking themselves questions like: “How do I brand this? How do I reach more people online? Why can’t I break through my revenue ceiling and reach the next level of business?” They often feel like an island – holding it all together without support, clarity or feedback they need to finally achieve their vision. That’s exactly why Amanda Benson-Tilch created The Ask Amanda Show. As a small business consultant, not only does she have the answers to the questions you keep asking, but she’s also created a podcast community that reminds you: You’re not alone in this journey.
Tune in once a month to get access to small business experts, nuggets of inspiration and answers to those burning questions preventing you from growth. Enjoy powerful guest interviews as Santa Clarita small business experts share their stories and provide actionable steps to help you grow your business. Whether you’re a business owner, aspiring entrepreneur, or someone looking to get more involved in your community, this is your show!