Have you ever went somewhere with a new haircut or a new style of hijab, and have people say that they almost didn't recognize you?
It works the same way for brands too. Brands that constantly change their appearance will find that:
- People cannot remember them.
- They cannot build brand loyalty.
- Their products are hard to sell.
- They have to compromise on the things they sell and do.
But having your business look the same way won't make you boring. Consistency is actually the magic word when it comes to branding.
The myth is that you have to stick to that colour and that font and that look for EVERYTHING you do. This is not true.
What you're making consistent are only some basics that cover you as a business. You can be as creative as you like with your products. They're two different things because your business will last for a long time, but your products may not. You may move on to other products.
If people only remember your products and not you as a business, how can you sell other products in the future? You don't want your business to have a short life. Through your branding basics, you can ensure it has the ability to make profits 5 years down the road.
So what do you need?
1. Brand colours
Colours make the world go round. That's what I believe anyway. In the natural world, colours help animals differentiate between food that are okay to eat and things that are poisonous (brightly coloured poison frogs, anyone?).
In the marketing world, colours catch the customers' eye and help them differentiate between you and your competitors. Let's do a little test.
Can you guess which brand these colours represent?
Is it Burger King, KFC or McDonald's?
Since we've been seeing these colours on everything McDonald's sell (and even on their buildings), we can instantly recall what brand they represent.
Some colours are so closely associated with a brand that they become synonymous with it. An example is tiffany blue, which comes from the blue box used by Tiffany & Co.
Know the exact shades
It's not enough to know that your brand colours are red, blue and yellow. You have to know the exact shades so that your brand will look the same on everything.
These colours are still arguably red, yellow, white and black... But do they look like the colours of McDonald's? Nope.
Choose primary and secondary colours
Even if brands have a lot of colours to play with, they will usually choose to use some colours more often than the others. The ones often used are known as 'primary colours', while the rest are 'secondary colours'.
This makes the customers associate the primary colours more strongly with the brand. When I think of McDonald's, I don't really think of all the colours. It's the red and yellow that comes to mind.
Your fonts can really affect how people perceive your brand. A bad font can easily make your brand look like it's not legitimate, which decreases the customer's trust.
Take a look at Apple's font. It's modern and clean, which is exactly what Apple is. Even the products give off that vibe.
OK, so you obviously don't expect Apple to use a cursive font, but what about a font in the same category? Perhaps another sans serif font.
Doesn't look quite like Apple, does it? That's because Apple has been using the same fonts (and fonts that are very nearly identical) for a long time. The fonts are such an integral part of the branding that it would be weird if Apple decides to change them.
Choose 2 - 3 fonts
Your brand will benefit from a little variety, but three fonts is the maximum. The reason why you need more than one font is for you to contrast between pieces of information. One of the situations where contrast is needed is in a blog post.
The title is in a serif font, while the blog text is in a sans serif font. People will usually use serif and sans serif to create contrast, not serif with another serif.
The effect? When you read the title, you can see that it's not part of the paragraph. The contrast factor is also highly useful in social media graphics like Instagram photos and print graphics like posters.
3. Photography style
One of the best things about photography these days is that there are so many photography styles. You can go with muted (or vintage), high contrast, black and white and monochromatic. And those are only the basic categories!
But like everything else, your brand needs to stick to a distinct and consistent style. I'm not saying you have to make everything in a photo exactly the same as the next photo, but the overall effect should be the similar.
Why? Because a photo is not just a photo. It's part of the bigger picture. When people scroll through your Instagram profile, what do they see? It will either be a set of visually appealing and streamlined photos, or a set of messy and wildly different photos.
Use the same presets or conditions for your photos
The way you can achieve a consistent style is by using the same presets or conditions every single time you take your photos. By presets, I mean the way you edit your photos on editing apps or softwares like Adobe Photoshop.
Conditions on the other hand refer to your surroundings. If your style is bright and colourful, taking photos at night when the lighting isn't good is probably not the way to achieve that. When you shoot under the same conditions, it will make it easier for you to sustain the consistency.
4. Patterns and textures
Patterns and textures refer to the background of your graphics or brand items like packaging. What happens in the background?
Will everything be crisp and modern or will they be gritty and imperfect?
For example, the texture looks totally natural for Nando's...
But can Samsung pull it off?
Looks kinda weird, doesn't it? If you saw this at a shop you'd probably think that the logo had scratches on it, instead of thinking that it was intentional.
Choose simple patterns and textures
The above is weird because Samsung's personality is modern, but Nando's is a little more casual and laid-back. A 'gritty' texture works well for the latter, but for a modern brand? Not so much.
For the basics, it's better to keep it simple and understated. If in doubt, a simple coloured background is better than putting in too much visual noise like florals that cover the entire photo or item.
I saved the most popular basic brand element for last. It's the thing that business owners always get asked about by family and friends.
"Do you have a logo yet?"
While the logo is important, people often end up focusing only on this and neglect other equally or more important basics like colours and typography.
This isn't good for branding because branding is the sum of many parts, not just the logo. When you only rely on your logo, you can't accurately convey your brand personality.
Choose a simple and timeless logo
When you develop the other basics, you won't feel the pressure to make the logo super duper fancy. This is because your brand basics work together to convey the brand personality, instead of putting that burden on the logo alone.
The result will be a simple and timeless logo that is very versatile. Just look at Adidas.
This is one of their latest variations, which is just a simple black and white logo. But does it have to be only black and white all the time?
I'll tell you the answer in advance: Nope.
Even when I used the logo on a Narrativity Consultants' colour, it still looks like Adidas. It's still recognizable.
This is not possible if you have a complex, 3D logo that only works when there are shadows and 5 different colours. That kind of logo will stop your creativity in its tracks, because you'll have to make everything not clash with that logo. That's very counter-productive and decidedly not fun.
To have a strong building, you need a strong foundation. Brandings basics are your brand's foundation. Without them, your brand won't look professional and memorable. With online and social media marketing, it's important to grab the customers' attention and make them trust you from the moment they click on your profile. Otherwise, you'd be losing out to other better-branded businesses, no matter how good your products are.
What's the branding basic that you're struggling with the most?