I often bring in our mail with my kindergartener. It’s fun because unlike me she is still thrilled by the pile of catalogs and bills. Last month it was particularly fun due to all the crazy and excessive holiday mail we were getting. One day as we were walking back in to the house lugging the huge stack we had just collected she pointed to the catalog on the top of the pile and said, “That one is for me Mommy. That’s from Target.” I was slightly taken aback since she is just learning to read so I asked her how she knew and she told me, “It’s red. It’s a red bulls-eye.”
Wow. Talk about great branding.
One of my first bosses after I got my MBA was often called the Brand Cop behind his back. It wasn’t meant as a compliment but it was true. He was very intense when it came to guarding the integrity of the company logo and identity. As a young marketer I was often frustrated when he wouldn’t let us add flames to the logo to ‘fire up’ our sales team at a sales meeting or manipulate the layout on a new package instead of following the same boring old format.
Today almost 20 years later I find that I have become the brand police for many of my clients. Clients often ask me whether we really ‘have to stay consistent’ and I find myself reminding them that it is important for us to use the same color and font and structure so that we make it easy for consumers to recognize and shop and connect with our brand.
While I understand the temptation to mix things up and play with fun new fonts or change the color of our logo, I have also come to realize that every single time a consumer interacts with our brand it is an opportunity. It is an opportunity to either make a deposit into our brand equity or make a withdrawal out of our brand equity. Using a color, image or font that is instantly recognizable makes it easy for our consumer (or potential consumer) and is key in the hectic world that we live in.
Implementing discipline around your brand usage can be challenging especially in large organizations or organizations with many ‘cooks in the kitchen’. For example, we work with a private school, which is blessed with lots of enthusiastic parent volunteers who are always creating fliers and materials for their events. Reigning in their creativity felt a bit heavy-handed but was also incredibly important. One tool that we recommend to our clients is a Brand Style Guide, which we create specifically for their brand. This document clearly outlines exactly what is and is not allowed and can be shared with a large audience to make sure everyone is on the same page. It was the perfect solution for our private school client.
I am always looking for a quick an easy way to illustrate why this concept of consistent branding is so important. I think I might start telling the story of my daughter to demonstrate how powerful branding can transcend age and even the ability to read.
In the meantime, I have had to figure out driving routes through our town that avoid passing any of the Target stores because whenever she sees that big red bulls-eye logo she is convinced she needs to stop and shop! Powerful branding at work.
- Britta Foster