Think of your favorite musician. When you hear one of their songs, even if you’ve never heard it before, you can probably recognize it as theirs. The song may be new, but because you’re familiar with the musician’s sound, you’d know their music anywhere. Thanks to that consistency, you know you can count on your favorite artist to create songs you’ll love.
This concept also applies to brands. Building brand recognition and familiarity is key to creating loyalty among your audiences. As president of Mustang Marketing — Ventura County’s largest full-service marketing agency — I always tell our clients this: if someone looks at any element of your marketing campaign from across the room, they should be able to instantly identify that it’s your brand.
When everything your company produces — from your packaging and print ads to your website and videos — has a consistent, unique look and feel, it’s easier for your audiences to remember you and differentiate you from the competition. Mix that with excellent products and services, and you’re well on your way to the top of your industry.
Of course, developing a consistent look and feel for your brand, especially one that truly resonates with your audiences, is easier said than done. Like most things in marketing, you’ll need a strategic approach to succeed. That’s why at Mustang, we work with our clients to not only develop RoadMaps (which outline the marketing strategic plan to define the audiences, messages and marketing vehicles that will best position them to reach their goals), but also develop BrandMaps (which guide the creative elements that will be used as marketing materials are designed).
Depending on your needs, your BrandMap might include visual components such as fonts, color palettes, photography style, graphics and digital design components. It might also include brand “voice” characteristics and examples of writing styles. These various elements all work together to create a comprehensive example that shapes and inspires all future creative marketing efforts.
Creating a BrandMap requires identifying your key brand attributes (in other words, your brand’s personality), considering the likes/dislikes of your target audiences and researching what others in your industry are doing. An ideal BrandMap aligns with your brand’s personality and audiences’ tastes, while helping you stand out from the crowd in a positive way.
The value of BrandMaps is best illustrated with a real-life example. Recently, Mustang helped one of our clients hire a brand-new in-house marketing team. Prior to hiring this internal team, numerous people throughout their company created marketing materials, without any real strategy or consistency. As a result, the company’s brand didn’t always come across as clearly as it could have. To help prepare the new marketing team to create compelling collateral — collateral that was on-brand and easily identifiable from across the room — we worked with the company to create a BrandMap.
With this BrandMap as a guide, not only has the company found that their marketing efforts are more consistent, but they’ve also discovered that projects take less time since everyone is on the same page before design efforts begin. Plus, when the company gets busy and hands projects off to the Mustang team for help, we’re able to step in seamlessly, using the BrandMap as a guide.
Of course, it’s important to remember that BrandMaps are only the beginning. Many times, you will also need to create editorial and/or graphic style guides to further spell out how your brand’s materials should look. Unlike a BrandMap, which is more conceptual, these guides offer specific usage rules, such as exactly where and how your logo can be placed, photography do’s and don’ts, correct spellings for common industry terminology, and beyond.
When it comes to building brand awareness, the four C’s — clarity, consistency, continuity and creativity — make a tremendous difference. And a BrandMap, supported by thorough style guides, provides a great foundation for making sure all four C’s are present in every project.
This article was published in the San Fernando Valley Business Journal on Monday, June 10.