The Green Sheet Online Edition
October 11, 2010 • Issue 10:10:01
Brand messaging and corporate identity
During this past week, two very different payments industry companies approached me about what I believe to be the most important marketing initiative they could undertake to improve their businesses and fuel growth. Executives from each of these companies are contemplating significant marketing spend and are considering enhancing their websites, sales brochures and presentations; engaging in advertising, public relations or direct marketing; and even jumping head first into social media
My response to these companies was simply this: Get your brand messaging and corporate identity solidly in place. Then create guidelines for your marketing team, employees, freelancers and agencies so they can deliver a consistent image and message across all marketing channels and tactics.
Why brand identity is important
While the big, bank acquirers and card brands typically have brand and corporate identity down pat, many players in our industry don't understand the power that a consistent brand message and corporate identity can have on their businesses. How well and consistently you deliver on your message and identity determines the value of your brand and, ultimately, the level of your business success.
Before any company embarks on executing a slew of marketing programs and tactics, it should have a solid strategy with a brand promise, positioning and messaging in place that articulates who the company is, what it does, what it stands for, the value it delivers and how it is different from the competition. It also should have a strong corporate visual identity developed that properly reflects the brand promise, positioning and messaging. This requirement sounds simple, but you'd be surprised how many companies don't complete this essential, primary step.
Often, various people throughout the organization, external resources, and sometimes even friends and family, create a mishmash of disparate marketing communications materials such as logos, brochures, presentations, websites and advertising, with no clear message or common visual look and feel. The result is confusing and ineffective communication to critical audiences such as employees, stakeholders, merchants and the payment marketplace. It also limits the ability to build significant brand equity.
Taking stock of your brand
So what can you do if you find your company in this situation? Revitalizing your brand is a reasonable approach to build on what you already have in place.
Do-it-yourselfers should take a look at some of my previous articles in The Green Sheet. "Clarify Your Brand and Use It," Feb. 8, 2010, issue 10:02:01, and "Developing a Relevant, Compelling Value Proposition," March 8, 2010, issue 10:03:01, which contain tips to jumpstart the process of developing a sound brand promise as well as compelling and succinct messaging and positioning.
Then take a look at your company's visual identity. Are your logo mark, color scheme and corporate style professional? Are they suitable for the payments industry, and do they reflect the true nature of your business and offerings?
Know that you can enlist professional help to shore up the visual, verbal and written manifestations of your brand. Often, outsiders with strong brand expertise have a clearer, independent view of your company and can quickly help you identify and fix any issues.
Once you have these elements in place, a set of brand guidelines that specify how your brand should be used can be created. This gives everyone in your organization, and even outsourced resources, relevant instructions on how to properly apply your brand across marketing communication materials and tactics for a consistent brand experience.
Components of brand identity
A brand guidelines document typically refers to these resources and concepts:
- Brand promise: A succinct articulation of your company's promise of value
- Brand attributes: Key words that identify how you are different from the competition
- Brand positioning: A statement of the problem you're trying to solve and for whom, what business you are in, what you stand for and how you differentiate yourself from the competition
- Brand messaging: Messages created specifically for each of your company's audiences (typically employees, stakeholders, merchants and the payment marketplace) that expand upon the brand promise, attributes and positioning
- Tone of voice: The conversational style that indicates your brand's personality
- Logo specifications: The acceptable size limits and adjustments for your logo and recommendations on how to use clear space
- Logo applications: Specifications on when to use the color, black, white and tagline versions of your logo and how they should be applied on various backgrounds, from photographs to corporate apparel, gifts and tchotchkes
- Color palette: Primary and secondary Pantone, CMYK, RGB and web colors
- Typography: Acceptable primary and secondary fonts available; font size and style for titles, headings, body copy; bold and italicized options; and capitalization rules
- Trademarks: Definitions of when and how to use trademarks if any are specified
- Imagery: Standard, approved photography and art available for general use, plus guidelines on selecting alternative imagery for specific marketing applications
- Iconography, patterns and design elements: Icons, patterns or design elements that allow your brand to convey a simple message at a glance
- Email: Examples of email headers and electronic signatures
- Templates: Templates available for use, such as electronic letterhead, fax cover sheet, memorandum, internal communication form, report, proposal and PowerPoint presentation
- Stationery: A list of stationery items available for use such as letterhead, envelopes, mailing labels, pocket folders and notepads
- Implementations: Examples that demonstrate the correct application of the brand guidelines across a wide range of communication materials
Reaping the rewards of a strong brand
A brand's power and success largely depends on how consistently you present your corporate visual identity and articulate a common voice across all audience touch points. Brand guidelines are designed to help you do just that.
Whatever you may think, people do judge books by their covers. Having a professional, appropriate and up-to-date brand and corporate visual identity indicates a professional company. This is something that should not be underestimated, because good brands depend on a compelling corporate identity that builds positive messages wherever the brand interfaces with its employees, prospects, customers, stakeholders and the marketplace in general.
The strongest brands leave no doubt as to what they stand for. Use your brand and corporate visual identity to deliver a consistent image and message to the marketplace about what they can expect. Use brand and corporate identity to differentiate your company from the competition, add value to your products and services, engage better with prospects, create a preference and build customer loyalty.
My recommendation still holds firm for all payments industry companies. The single most important thing you can do to improve your business and fuel growth from a marketing perspective is to have your corporate messaging and identity solidly in place with brand guidelines that guide your brand's application and execution across all marketing activities and initiatives.
Put brand to work for your organization and experience its power through greater recognition, enhanced reputation, increased sales and a sustainable competitive advantage.
Peggy Bekavac Olson is the founder of Strategic Marketing, a full-service marketing and communications firm specializing in financial services and electronic payments companies, after serving as Vice President of Marketing and Communications for TSYS Acquiring Solutions for more than five years. She can be reached at 480-706-0816 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about Strategic Marketing can be found at www.smktg.com.
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