3 Branding Secrets
Highly creative, excessively unique, or overly beautiful brand design elements can sometimes be too complex to use in real life.
Developing a new brand can be weeks of hard work. But once you look at your new logo on your business card, your redesigned website, or the new store sign, you feel the pride and the relief that often mark the end of an intense project. The memory of the many late-night video calls with your design team and the pressure of meeting impossible deadlines seem to be fading fast. You are thinking, "It's finally over, and I can have my normal life back."
In many cases, however, it turns out that creating the design elements that define your new brand is much easier and more fun than applying them diligently every day.
A particular font might not be available in an app you thought you could use, or you might need significantly more time to prepare a branded picture for your daily social media post.
What often happens in these situations is that you are looking for shortcuts. "Any shortcut will do, just for this one time," you might plead.
Out of despair, you could use a standard font instead of your unique branded font if your app doesn't have it. You could reuse the image or skip the social media post altogether. And what about the customer presentation you are working on? You could finish it without your branded template, which looks so sleek but might be too complex to use.
Shortcuts - even if well-intentioned and justified - can make your brand appear less coherent, which can easily translate into the perception of a weak brand.
On the other hand, strong brands excel in using their brand design elements consistently across all media and, in doing so, achieve a higher level of coherence. It is this coherence that people associate with brand strength.
Three Secrets of Successful Branding
For your brand to reach its full potential, you need to embrace these three secrets or principles of successful branding:
Simplicity. Albert Einstein famously said, "Creativity is intelligence having fun." And inventing new things, new designs, is a lot of fun. However, unfocused creativity can also lead to a lot of complexity. In brand design, intricate logos, rarely used typefaces, and unique color choices that might look great on screen but become discolored in print can make the consistent application of all brand elements a time-consuming challenge.
A simpler, less intricate design using well-established typefaces and an easy-to-print color scheme can make all the difference when you need to finish your social media post or your customer presentation.
But simple does not mean plain or unimaginative. Instead, a simple design means a design that is reduced to its primary function or purpose. It is crisp and concise, explicit and clean.
Achieving this level of simplicity will take a lot of highly creative work. Steve Jobs once remarked: "Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains."
▶ Discover the Power of Simplicity
Consistency. What you may have noticed about successful brands is that their brand appearance is always the same. An ad on TV, on social media, or on a billboard along the highway uses the same brand design elements you will find in their stores. They use them again and again.
Whether you interact with these brands as a customer or as a random passer-by, this constant repetition helps you memorize their brand design elements and subconsciously associate them with their brand. After a while, you can already recognize their brand just by seeing their font, the shape of their products, or a particular color combination.
Strong brands achieve this level of recognition by consistently applying their brand design elements across all media and channels.
▶ Why Consistency is the Key to Successful Marketing
Persistence. Strong brands make the consistent application of their brand design elements seem effortless. The opposite is probably closer to the truth. It is hard work where shortcuts are no way out. You have to be very persistent and highly disciplined to build your brand. Even then, it can take a while to make visible progress. But once you do, the return on your investment can be significant.
"Which of these three secrets or principles is the most important to get right?" I was recently asked this question by a client.
Imagine simplicity, consistency, and persistence, each representing one leg from a three-legged stool. If all three legs had various lengths according to their degree of importance, the stool would tip over or become very unstable. To increase its stability, you could think about increasing persistence by hiring more staff. But that wouldn't be very cost-effective. A less costly strategy might be to simplify your brand design elements further to make it easier for your team to apply them consistently, thus reducing the need for more headcount.
Strong brands have found a balance between simplicity, consistency, and persistence, a happy medium they can sustain for a long time.
As in show business, perseverance might be the fourth secret because building a successful brand usually takes more than one show. It often takes several seasons.
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