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Brand management is one of the most important parts of marketing. It can be a time consuming process and require a lot of work to create a brand image that people like and trust, but in an instant, all that work can be completely undone.
Here are our top 10 common oversights which can severely damage your brand
1. You’re unaware what your customers think
By conducting market research, you are giving yourselves a head start in directly understanding exactly what it is your customers think of your marketing campaigns and how your business is portrayed as a whole. Find out what it is you’re doing right and what can be improved. In time, when you’ve made sufficient improvements for the general consensus to provide a positive review, you can then reap the rewards by sharing the reflective testimonials on your website and social media.
2. You have no logo
It sounds obvious but there are people who will avoid paying for a professional logo design so that they can invest in other areas of their business. In making this choice, you are wasting an opportunity to start raising awareness and building your identity. Although we advise against purchasing an off the shelf package which notoriously cost very little, you don’t have to blow your entire marketing budget for the year on a logo. You just need to realise that investing in an agency who take the time to learn and understand your business and your market really is money well spent.
3. There is a lack of cohesion
By setting simple standards within your business for your staff to follow in terms of a brand guideline, you will ensure the same message is consistently delivered to your clients when describing who you are and what you do as well as avoiding a less than professional looking image in important correspondence with prospects and customers.
4. Your branding is inconsistent
Over time, it’s inevitable that you’ll make changes to your brand. As your audience grows, you need to adapt. But don’t be tempted to make changes too often. You’ll undoubtedly have branded material in circulation and constant updates will render inconsistencies, leading to a weakening of recognition. The occasional refresh is okay but ensure when you do make updates, you implement these changes universally throughout your business wherever any of your branding elements appear.
5. You’ve not refreshed for a long time
Tired looking signage that you use at events or display outside your office sends out an unintentional message that your agency is not performing well. First impressions count for a lot so if these suggest that you lack care or attention to detail, you’re going to find it much more challenging convincing others to do business with a business that seems to have stopped caring.
6. You don’t have a branded email signature
Email signatures are another opportunity to increase recognition for your agency but are often undervalued as a part of your branding but if anything, they’re one of the most important. It’s highly likely that it will be circulated more than any other aspect of your marketing collateral so naturally, careful consideration should go how it appears. Keep it simple. Rather than listing every phone number or location, a small logo with the most important information will provide much more impact and clarity, ensuring people can quickly find it and connect with you.
7. Your website is outdated
In the digital age, an effective online presence is the backbone for any business. It therefore must not be overlooked or neglected at any point. You must commit to keeping it up-to-date and fresh. Fail to do so and you risk losing prospects to your competition. Arrange to have your website reviewed on a regular basis, consistently making it part of your regular marketing activities so you won’t miss updating stale or missing information.
8. You lack a social media presence
Similarly to your website, social media serves a crucial role in the digital marketing success for your business. Even if you have varying usage preferences for certain platforms, it would be foolish to totally ignore any all together. With all the options available, it is important to form a strategy to ensure it doesn’t become a drain on your time. Various tools are available that can help you manage your social media profiles to schedule posts ahead of time.
9. You lack originality
When starting out in business, it’s only natural to observe your industry and aspire to be like the guys at the top; the benchmark for success. Although you’ll be desperate to make your mark and get noticed from day one, using intimidating tactics by mirroring their strategies is not a good idea. Differentiating yourself on the other hand will accentuate what makes you unique and give you an opportunity to showcase why being different makes you better.
10. You’re trying to be everything to everyone
It’s understandable that you want to be known as a business who is there to help all; that you are a generalist – because you don’t want to lose out of potential clients. But the truth is this generalist approach means you are ultimately spreading yourselves too thin and will fail to convince potential new customers that you are experts at anything. If you want to hire any professional, you want to know in confidence that you are hiring the best in their profession. Identify a niche for your business and you’re much more likely to bring in more sales.
As we try to simply put to our customers, great design reinforces your brand. But a smart looking logo merely forms its foundations. Beyond that, there are many other areas to consider in order to build one of strength which speaks to you customers with confidence and power. Although not all aspects of marketing will initially appear to be applicable to your business, it is worth considering whether it would be advantageous if you invested in areas which haven’t already.
At Creative Fire, our branding and marketing process is an intricate journey which carefully identifies where we feel your market presence can be improved. From the first design concept, to the final sign-off. Here is an overview of the services you can benefit from investing in to help transform your business into a market leader.
An effective, eye catching logo that fits your business model is crucial. It is a brand mark to represent your business and will be used countlessly in its day to day running. We will create a suitable identity for you to accurately and distinctively reflect the services you offer and your position within your industry.
Your brand needs guidelines in order for it to be understood. These guidelines act as your ‘bible’ to ensure consistency of application for everyone who works within it. They can be as brief or a detailed as you wish but will typically include examples of logo types, font application, colour ways, design layouts, tone of voice and image style.
Business stationery is an integral part of a business. When potential clients are introduced to your services, they are among the very first visuals they encounter so it is imperative that what they see sets a good impression and speaks for what you can offer as a business. It is important to not compromise or overlook this element of design when running a successful business.
Literature such as brochures, leaflets and posters are significant to the marketing your company. They can act as to lure to attract your target audience and when successfully applied, they should speak for you when conveying relevant information about your business including the products and services you offer. These are important assets in brand recognition which should support you in pushing your business in the right direction.
As with printed literature, exhibitions act as a means of attracting new custom and the key to a successful pitch is an effective display. Whether it’s a portable pop-up banner or a set of display boards, we will provide you with suitable designs to provide you with the right level of exposure to drive your business forward.
Whether it’s for a retail outlet, a fleet of company vehicles, a promotional banner or a point of sale stand, we can offer you signage design and application in many forms. As permanent fixtures, it is crucial that your brand is effectively understood in these forms as they help to re-enforce its identity.
In three dimensional form, a product’s packaging engages not just in a visual sense, but also provides a physical interaction too. The user experience is key and we carefully consider this when applying your brand in this format. From fast moving consumer goods to luxury boutique labels, we cater for all requirements.
In the 21st century, a website is the nucleus of any business. In order to maintain and improve your position within your industry, an impressive website is key to competing successfully with your rivals. We design bespoke websites, offering various packages aiming to meet your exact requirements. We ensure full compatibility with desktop computers, laptops, tablets and mobile phones and provide you with a full overview on the navigation and behaviour characteristics of your site.
Once the design, structure and content your website has been finalised, it’s time to assess the finer details to ensure it is reaching its target market and is well maintained. Search engine optimisation, content management systems and analytical reports are amongst the various added services we offer in relation to your website.
Pre-press Preparation & File Conversion
When it comes to printed design, the visual appeal of a design is key. But in order for this to be achieve successfully, it must go through an artwork or ‘pre press’ stage to ensure that what you see on a computer screen is accurately reflected when it is printed. Our designs will have this process incorporated into it from the initial creation. However, we also offer a service whereby if you inherited material that is not press ready or requires being converted into a different format, we can work our magic to ensure your needs are met.
In order to avoid any possible issues when your material goes to print, it is advised to request a press pass. We will be on hand to oversee the print process and with access to the files, will adjust if necessary. With this in mind, you can be rest assured that your project will be delivered exactly as it was on your signed off design.
At Creative Fire, we fully understand how important it is for you and your business to make a profit. In order to ensure you keep your finances looking healthy, you will obviously aim to minimise your expenses. Sadly it is all too common for the skimping to start with your branding and marketing.
Great design requires knowledge, skill and experience
It’s all too easy to have a go yourself. It’s possible to fashion a ‘logo’ in almost any software. Even MS Word has a WordArt facility which does exactly what it says. Adequate for some primary school coursework (though I would personally avoid it myself) but unsuitable for much more than that. So what’s the alternative if you’re not a designer?
You may have heard of a website called Fiverr; a place where you can get a logo, animation or unbelievably a website for as little as $5 (£3.60).
Seems too good to be true? Well, yes and no. You may get lucky and find someone who knows their way around Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop but they won’t know anything about your brand and all the intricate details that help to formulate it. It’s like meeting a stranger in a bar and asking them to look after your bag whilst you go to the toilet; it’s dangerous territory. Sure, your initial investment is minimal but do you really want to take that risk and lose precious time, ending up with a logo that doesn’t connect to the rest of your company’s identity?
It’s encouraging to see someone wanting to get involved with design. It’s pretty easy to get ahold of cutting edge graphics software these days. Many people are gifted with artistic flare and vision, but on that basis alone, does that mean they should design your logo? Many aspects need consideration during the design process such as your company values, your target market and your competition and without substantial research, your brand identity is simply going to come up short.
Along with this, it’s also important to consider that design has its limitations. Graphic designers understand the constraints and pressures that clients are put under to deliver. In the design world we are often asked two questions; “when will it be completed” and “how much is it going to cost me”. The reality is, as you are undoubtedly expected to deliver an outstanding piece of design and therefore add this criteria to the equation, it is impossible to be a combination of all three.
Great design takes time, planning and a budget
With investment in time and planning, you benefit from the application of the latest techniques and fine tuning. With a reasonable budget, the best ideas can be explored. But if you are really looking for something with brand power to help do the selling for you, you need to bring all of this together.
There are many small details a graphic designer has to know about, which when combined, can help create a strong logo for your brand. But neglect them and you can end up with the very opposite.
At Creative Fire, we identify the fact that giving your project some rigid structure will help us to deliver as efficiently as possible and for you to achieve the best possible result.
If an initial brief forms the foundations of a project, then the research, design, refinement and presentation is the structure that sits on top of this.
Every assignment we work on is a meticulously thought out process that involves many phases to ensure your visions are being realised and to give you confidence that you are getting excellent value for money.
A solid graphic design process is integral to ensure the needs of the client are met
Creative Brief: Understanding your needs, goals, mission & audience is what will elevate your design to the next level. The creative brief questions will help us to harmonise for what you want & need out of the results of the project. We schedule milestones to ensure that your deadlines are met.
Research: We now utilise what we’ve obtained from the creative brief by doing further research. We brainstorm, create mood boards and a brand strategy. We take the time to fully understand your business and goals whilst ensuring that we’re on the same wavelength. In turn, this should help to show that we make the best, most strategic decisions to reach your goals.
Concept Design: When we initially start developing ideas for your project, we like to strip back to simplicity by sketching ideas on paper. We find that this method help to keep our creative juices flowing and helps to ensure that each concept we create has it’s own bespoke personality. By keeping things organic at this stage, it also allows us to focus more on the idea and less on the refined detail.
Refinement: Once we are happy with the concepts we have sketched, it’s time to bring them to life. From the humble piece of paper that we create our sketches on, we take this and digitize them on screen. At this point, there is much focus on the finer detail to give a realistic impression for how the final piece will appear.
Concept Presentation: Following refinement, we have concepts that we are ready to share with you. Opportunity is taken to produce mockups of how your design could appear in its intended setting. We also help you to understand our decisions by including important themes from the initial creative brief.
Feedback: We consolidate all of your requested changes whilst considering the design and your specific goals. We present our ideas with the intended results to help you to understand our thought process.
Final Delivery: Our end goal is to leave you with a design which excites you; a design that you can be proud to associate with your product or service. As our client, we want you to feel valued by providing you with an awesome experience. We’ll supply all the assets you require going forward, filling you with confidence that your design will do more than simply serve its purpose.
So, you have a brand new, shiny logo. You’ve chosen a font to compliment said logo. You’ve set your brand voice. You’ve nailed your colour palette. Good to go right? Not quite!
Now it’s time to bring it all together in the form of your brand bible. This can be in printed form or digital form, or better still, both. But it must consist of a clear and concise breakdown of how you want your brand elements to be used and NOT used.
Why do you need brand guidelines?
Brand Guidelines are essentially built as a rule book for anyone associated with using your brand; company wide employees, suppliers, clients, etc. They ensure that whoever has access to your brand elements is maintaining consistency in their usage with material that has previously been produced.
They are generally created after you have established a logo, chosen fonts, a colour palette, brand voice and any other brand elements that you deem necessary to ensure everybody plays by the rules. They also establish how the different elements of your brand work together to form your brand identity.
Without these guidelines, it’s nearly impossible to keep your branding consistent and with inconsistency, you can’t establish an identity. But with a consistent brand, comes power and recognition as your consumers can easily identify who you are. Strong and consistent branding helps clarify what your business stands for, allowing you to communicate your purpose, your personality, and your promises. This, in turn helps to give consumers confidence in you brand.
What do brand guidelines consist of?
As every brand is unique, the elements included in your brand guidelines will appear different to another brand’s guidelines. In one industry, the set brand voice will be more stringent whereas in another, it maybe the usage of colour. However, whatever the priority, there are essential elements which should always be present:
- The different versions of your logo design and how they are to be used.
- The colour palette that your brand uses.
- The different typography associated with your brand including the various typefaces and families.
Considerations for guidelines
Who are the guidelines for?
Keep it simple
Design the guidelines in your brand style
Show clear examples of your brand in use
Keep track of where your brand is used
Make your materials available
Educate your staff
Introduce a sign-off process
Review your guidelines regularly
If you’re ready to create your brand identity guidelines, then you need a strategic marketing team to help you define your brand’s elements and the best uses for them.
Contact Creative Fire for more information. on how we can generate an effective, powerful and engaging brand for you.
Effective marketing for your business is essential in order for you to make it succeed. At the heart of it should be your brand; without one, it will struggle to compete and reach its full potential. Why is this? Well, for a business to meet the requirements of its clients, it is critical that you fully identify and understand their needs. The seedling of your brand will be your logo but to fully realise the identity of your business, you have to go far beyond this.
By incorporating all aspects of your business into your brand, you are providing your customers with an experience.
The key benefits of having brand power
• promotes recognition
• sets you apart from the competition
• tells people about your business DNA
• generates referrals
• helps customers to know what to expect
• represents you and your promise to your customer
• helps you create clarity and stay focused
• helps you connect with your customers emotionally
• provides your business value
• helps you build trust
• can boost employee pride and satisfaction
• can help to build trust in your marketplace
• supports your advertising efforts
• it is the best strategy to attract top quality talent
A successful brand will use a unique set of values to help drive a successful business strategy. We call these ‘The 10 commandments for effective branding’. The consideration of all 10 are crucial if you are going to convince consumers to choose your brand over your competitors. But with the correct measure, over time they will develop a trusting relationship with you are what your product has to offer.
The 10 commandments for effective branding
Unify: Branding links your name, logo, online presence, product/service and appeal to the masses. Ensuring that all of it is consistent is key. Not only will it brings a united and clear message to your customers but it will also demonstrate how methodical and concise your services are.
Value: A brand is an asset. What you present to the public is a vast amount of your business. It holds just as much value as revenue and sales. A lot is at stake; finances, creativity and time is on the line. Branding will make the difference between revenue and debt.
Attract: A brand counts for nothing unless it persuades potential clients to work with you in the first place. Everything from the visual appeal of your logo to the experience you provide them throughout your brand is vital. If the message is effective and sufficient to attract them in, it can make all the difference to your business revenue.
Deliver: Branding is a proclamation. You hereby state that you will deliver on your promises and claims the company makes. Everything the company stands for should be spread throughout the organisation too. Otherwise the company will be disconnected and customers will be confused and grow distant. If you are not willing to make promises you can’t keep, don’t state it on your brand.
Honesty: Branding gives companies a chance to let customers see the business for who we really are. This is the chance to be honest and open about what this company represents. The look, feel and message conveyed will separate you from the pack.
Preference: People are more attached to companies with a brand than companies that doesn’t. Brands create a bond filled with good memories and good times, and customers will never forget it. That connection can’t be strategised; it just happens.
Loyalty: A good branding will create customer loyalty. Loyal customers will continue to support you in good and bad times. They will spread a positive message to people they know. Their influence will introduce new people to your company.
Trust: As customers get to know your business they will begin to trust you.
In order to build trust you must give customers a reason to test you out.
The branding must be spot on as the first customers will determine how many more (or less) you will receive. Exceptional customer service, experience with the product/services and positive online communication on social networks will keep them coming back for more.
Extend: Branding can reach so many people in so many outlets. It reaches people offline, online, mobile and niche markets. It reaches the many products and services you currently sell and plan to sell in the future.
Protect: Branding protects you from competitors who want your success. Without it they will have no problem making copycats of what made you popular and claim it for themselves. They can carry the same or similar products but they won’t be able to take your style and originality away.
In order to maintain this fulfilment of trust, you must ensure that you keep on top of your reputation by meeting your clients’ expectations. So, regularly reviewing your brand identity and ensuring it continues to run parallel to the product or service that you offer is essential.
Creative Fire is the re-incarnation of BenBen Design which was founded in March 2012 by Julie Francis. Creative Fire was launched with a simple philosophy; to provide our customers with a clear and straightforward user experience through streamlining the design process. By speaking directly to your creative partner from initial brief through to the completion of your project, not only do we save you time by removing unnecessary stages but it’s also extremely cost effective too because our operating model means you aren’t paying for anything more than you need. Our partners Julie and Greg explain what it is about the creative industry that makes them tick…
My passion for great aesthetics, a love of clean, punchy and simple design and most importantly, the feeling of empowerment that being able to create a ‘double take’ moment, where you just can’t help take a second look at what’s in front of you, is what led me to study design and make it my profession. My work has spanned several organisations both in-house and agency-side; in broad and diverse B2B and B2C sectors. For over 18 years I have been involved in a multitude of projects, from simple logo design to entire re-brands or a national marketing campaign, all of my experience has given me a commercial understanding of what drives businesses to demand creative, dynamic and effective design. I wanted to step away from the confines of working with single brand and in a diluted capacity in a traditional agency and realise my dream of creating a design and marketing agency with a difference.
Creativity is something I have always had a hunger for. The care and consideration that goes into design is something that must not be underestimated. Being part of a project that you’ve meticulously worked on and then seeing the finished piece can be so rewarding, especially when the client is reaping the fruits of your labour. I love being the problem solver when it comes to effective design. The experience I have developed over the past 17 years has been vital to get me to where I am today. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to experience this industry from various perspectives and different capacities but I knew when the time was right to spread my wings and take on the challenge of running a company, taking everything that I have learnt throughout my career and harnessing that together to take forward with me to Creative Fire.
The logo, identity and brand of a company are often confused, misunderstood and used interchangeably. All are connected and associated with one another but it is important to realise that they are also all very different. If you imagine your business in the image of a person, we can help to explain the fundamental differences between each of them.
What is a logo?
A logo is the face of your company. It identifies your business in its simplest form. It will usually consist of textual and/or graphical content and should be created using a specific colour palette. A logo can also be referred to as a brand artefact. Determined by any sensorial cue used to project the relationship between you and your audience, brand artefacts come in all different forms. A logo is in its visual form. As it is the first connection you will make with a potential customer, it sets a first impression. It should also symbolise the values, quality and promise that you as a product or service offer. But beyond this, there are many other aspects that form your brand.
What is an identity?
An identity is the visual presentation for your company, communicated through a collection of tangible expressions. This could be through collateral such as stationery, brochures and signage. There may also be written content such as your key messages and mission statement.
For a logo to become more than just a graphic device, it must acquire meaning in the mind of the consumer. An identity is formed of the physical aspects of the business that the customer engages with. It is what the customer comes directly into contact with. The identity is an extension of your logo; multiple assets that can be presented in the same way. It is the expression of what your organisation stands for.
What is a brand?
A brand is far more than a name, logo or symbol, it is the personality of your company and it is ultimately what forms the relationship between your service or product and the consumer. It forms the foundations of your business and is the basis of a logo and an identity, a concept of your business that makes it different from the competition. It also provides your customers with an experience, encompassing expectations, personality and perception. If a logo is present without a brand, once the visual symbol is removed, the business is unrecognisable. A consumer’s relationship is rarely with your product but with your brand. It is there to evoke emotion to help them build an attachment with it.
Connecting All Three
If a brand is the relationship, then a logo is a projection of that relationship, but as we have covered already, a logo is just one form of brand artefact.
The challenge is to find artefacts that tell your story and engage people in a familiar and meaningful way. That means ensuring that when consumers engage with them, they are consistent in their appearance, use, size, scope, colour, feel, etc. Consistency allows your audience to build a memory structure around who you are and what value you have to offer.This memory structure becomes the identity of your organisation.
It is important to create shared value with your audience, not by trying to stand out with just a logo alone. It must be connected to something much bigger than itself – the relationship.