Make your brand strategy visible, every day
We’ve talked before about how to use your brand strategy every day to make decisions. But how do you reflect your brand strategy visually? How do you make your brand strategy—your positioning and personality in Big Duck’s brandraising model—visible, and use it to present your organization compellingly to your audiences? Your brand strategy is just as directly translatable—and as essential—to transforming how your communications look as it is to crafting what they say.
What’s brand strategy again?
There are a lot of models for brand strategy—a fundamental tool to building a strong brand—and we’ve just published a new ebook that defines several of them with handy examples. Your brand strategy should be accurate and authentic, yet aspirational. It must be true to who you are—you should see your organization reflected in the words. Your brand strategy should also be a force of change, pushing you towards your goals.
Photography and illustration
Use your brand strategy to put healthy pressure on how you select and commission photos. Read your positioning statement aloud, and review the images you’re selecting to populate your website, emails, and more to see if they support it. Then do the same for your personality. Ask yourself—do these images reflect the positioning we’re trying to convey externally? Are they the right tone and style to represent our brand?
It may be that you need to make global changes to better reflect your brand strategy. Do you have a word like “authentic”, “relatable”, or “real” in your personality? If so, you might consider switching from stock to real-life photography. Do you have a positioning statement that leans into being “the organization that…” ? You might want to redraw or refine your illustrations or icons to all be one specific style or color palette to reflect your singularity.
Type and color
Hopefully, your brand guide contains specific guidelines around how to use type and color. But if you don’t have those guidelines in place, or they’re not very specific, your brand strategy can help you define them. Ask yourself the same questions about these more nuanced parts of the visual identity of your brand—are they representing your brand strategy? Sometimes these details are what makes your communications feel “on-” or “off-brand”.
Let’s say you’ve got “sophisticated” or “efficient” as a personality attribute. Those word choices should have a major impact on how your communications look. You’ll likely want to examine your communications and “dial up” the refinement on how you use color and type. To reflect a “sophisticated” personality, you could elect to use color more sparingly or judiciously, or you might consider limiting the number of type styles (fonts, sizes, and weights) to a very small number to present a more “buttoned up” look. And, consider how your brand strategy intersects with your audiences, and how that influences the cultural associations that type and color can convey. For instance, Helvetica may feel sophisticated to architects and designers—but less so to someone in a different field.
Capture your visual choices
Make sure that the decisions you’re making about how to reflect your brand strategy in imagery, color, and type are all codified in and consistent with any guidelines in your brand guide. And if they’re not, add guidance to your brand guide, with examples and sample art, so that your whole team is putting your brand strategy to work in the same ways.
Use your brand strategy to decide if bigger changes are necessary
What if you follow the visual guidelines established in your brand guide to a tee (you always apply your logo correctly, and you follow the rules for selecting images, type, and color, for example), but the materials you create just don’t feel “on brand” for you? What if they don’t reflect the positioning statement or personality of your organization? If that’s the case, it’s likely time to consider a rebrand.
The nonprofit Educators Rising had just this experience. As their co-director Ashley Kincaid, related in a webinar we hosted that covered brand strategy and personality,
“Once we had our personality characteristics identified–energized, expert, fresh, charismatic and powerful–we examined our logo and our name. We said, ‘[…] does this logo really represent our personality?’ While we felt like maybe “expert” showed, that was really it. We didn’t really think that the logo that we currently had felt fresh or charismatic at all, so we went for the whole enchilada.”
Strive for strong alignment between your brand strategy and the visual presence of the communications you’re putting out. If you establish your brand strategy and your entire staff, leadership, and board all agree it’s both authentically and aspirationally “you”—but these new tools expose visual misalignment—it may be time for a deeper change.