Your website is a direct representation of your company’s brand. That is why it is crucial that your website is consistent, clear, and does a good job of representing that brand across all platforms and on the website itself. It can be quite easy to stray away from your brand with all of the new functionality or customization of websites these days, but it’s important to make sure that every part of your website, content, and social media all play with the same set of branding guidelines to ensure your user base receives the same level of quality across the web. Your goal should be to ensure that your website is built clearly to reflect your brand.
Every company should have a style guide. If you don’t, get on that. Within your company, you need to regulate your brand’s outward appearance, but you should also set the guidelines for external companies to use your brand properly. Even more importantly, you need to have a style guide for incoming and existing users and customers alike. Brand recognition is what drives sales and spreads your content around the web and material world.
All brand guidelines should include, at a very basic level, your brand colors, proper use of your logo, icons and images. It should also include any typography or fonts utilized by your company for web and printed materials. These can be as broad or as micro and specific as you would like. But the rule of thumb is the more specific the better, and the few outliers or one-off situations you may have can be resolved when the time comes.
I typically see two types of style guides, although they share many of the same parts. These are print and web style guides. A print style guide will include guidelines specific to the use of logos, colors, type, etc. for print media, billboards, pamphlets, business cards, and other print collateral. A web style guide will be presented the same, but the guidelines are specific to the web. This is because web and print are treated differently in units of measure, how colors are utilized, resolution, etc.
Always take both your print and online presence into consideration. Colors and fonts usually won’t look the same on digital devices as they do on printed materials.
The design and execution of your website hold weight, but the content on your website carries more weight in order to properly communicate your brand. The message that you spread to your users or customers needs to be consistent and work to improve and strengthen your company or product image. When people say that something is “on brand,” this is what they’re referring to.
If your content works against your brand or could potentially hurt your appeal in the eyes of your users or just doesn’t apply to your mission, it’s off brand. Users expect consistent content that is fresh or new and information from your company that reflects progress and forward momentum. I’m not talking about tweets or Instagram posts, but blogs, advertisements, reviews, testimonials, or any other content-driven brand exposure.
Keeping in mind that your content reflects your brand accurately, the design that accompanies it and delivery should also be in line with all of your basic design principles. Content is what keeps people around, but the design is what keeps your brand in the zeitgeist, which is especially marked in the world outside your website in places like social media.
Social media is a full-time job. It might not seem that way to someone not directly involved with internet communities, but it requires a lot of precision and dedication to grow your online presence and retain interest effectively.
Knowing what to post is less critical than knowing who you’re posting for and why you’re on the particular platform to begin with. Your brand is your brand and that won’t change, but the way you advertise to the public will be based on who you’re targeting. Facebook, for instance, is primarily comprised of women between the ages of 30-49 years, which has drastically shifted older in the last decade. So your strategy will need to accommodate that generation and group.
Twitter’s largest demographic are Millennials, who need a different marketing strategy and perhaps a different brand approach. To skew even lower, if you were to feel the need to advertise on Snapchat, you might find that you need to adjust even more, as their primary demographic is under 34 years of age with the vast majority being 18-24 years of age. Needless to say, you can’t expect the same strategy, content, or brand expression to affect every demographic in the same way.
Do your research and keep in mind that social media is targeted.
Imagery is, of course, a must. With the attention of most users being under seconds on average, imagery is a requirement to get a user’s attention and keep it long enough for your content to take hold. There are now dozens of free stock photography websites out there like StockSnap, Pexels, and Unsplash which can help provide a sense of consistent imagery on your website, but I’m inclined to recommend that these be avoided for the sake of your brand.
If your brand is reliant on some sort of imagery, that should be something handled within your company by hiring a professional photographer with a consistent photographic aesthetic. Your brand identity is what makes you memorable, but for general brand aesthetic (business, lifestyle, fun, serious, etc.), your imagery says a lot. That translates over to places like Instagram, if your company utilizes the platform. Consistency and quality are key to providing a great experience for your consumer that informs the content and extends your brand aesthetic.
Is your brand then, after taking into consideration your brand guidelines, target demographics, and brand aesthetic, accurately represented on your website? If not, contact us.
The goal to a consistent brand is really having your guidelines set in stone. There should be no wiggle room when your company’s reputation is on the line. Content, imagery, and social media help strengthen your brand aesthetic, memorability, and recognition only as much as your identity is managed properly. If you take only one thing away from this post, it should be that your brand’s style guide is a requirement for successful long-term branding.