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Brand Value & Pricing

How Graphic Standards Build Brand Value

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Graphic Standards Manuals, Brand Guidelines or Brand Standards are a critically important management tool for brand owners to insure their brand identity assets are correctly and consistently reproduced over all media channels.

Developing these documents is a big undertaking in both time and money. Naturally brand owners and managers responsible for insuring their brand assets are faithfully reproduced will insist that their creative services partners (ad agencies, design firms, PR firms and web development firms) take this document seriously.

Recently, a client was expressing frustration over an issue where their in-house designers where stretching the brand standards and guidelines for the sake of style and creative expression of a new marketing campaign. This is appears to be a common occurrence for marketing communication executives and managers charged with maintaining the integrity of their brand identity over time.

As a designer myself for many years, I have some sympathy for both sides of the argument.

Coloring Outside The Lines

As I wrote in an earlier post on Branding Strategy Insider, the discipline of creating visual identities has changed significantly over the past decade. The trend in corporate identity and brand design continues to move to more flexible, adaptable and experiential solutions. No longer can “identity” be a static marker stuck in the lower right hand corner of an ad.

Flexible and stylistically changing visual design is now baked in to contemporary corporate and brand identity programs. An early adopter of this trend was MTV. The iconic letterform of the MTV logo has a constantly changing visual motif allowing each generation to connect with the brand’s unique philosophy and highly emotional promise.

Another example of this trend for experiential identity design is Virgin. Throughout its vast business, the brand’s expression and visual language shifts and changes to suit its expressive needs.

Creative people (naturally) resist staying within the lines of strict visual guidelines. Graphic designers – although well meaning – seem to be the worst offenders. This new generation of creative professionals have a different worldview, as they have grown up in a world were the rules seem to change every minute.

Staying Within The Lines

Discipline is the key to freedom. When organizations are disciplined (maintain good habits), they can more easily execute on new and powerful ideas. Establishing the good habit of managing the expression of the brand’s identity in the marketplace is still a prerequisite for building lasting brand value.

Staying within the lines of the established visual design standards will continue to enhance the consistent expression of the brand’s primary asset – its identity. Brand experience is about creating a discipline of delighting customers. When customers become confused by a brand’s blurry visual identity, they’re no longer delighted.

Discipline is not an impediment to creativity. In fact, it enhances creativity through clarity. In our over-crowded, me-too marketplace, it’s essential brands express their value clearly and consistently. Graphic Standards provide the necessary guidance for creative partners to use the brand’s visual assets effectively across all customer touch points.

I can remember how one of my clients, having just retained our firm for a marketing communication project, required our team to attend a half-day seminar on the protocols and policies around their established discipline for reproducing their brand’s visual assets. We found this session to be extremely useful in our work. We never had a brand manager tell us to “make the logo bigger”.

If you find yourself working with a creative partner who is tempted to change your policy on matters relating to your brand’s visual expression in the marketplace, you might want to consider investing half a day to enlighten them.

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Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

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1 Comment

Jean Perez on July 01st, 2013 said

Thanks for this post, it is really informative and interesting at the same time….Humans in general are visual beings. If they love what they see, they’ll be curious to buy a product or subscribe to a service they do not even need just because they got attracted to a graphic logo design, creative giveaway or what have you….And you’re right, people have an insatiable search for something that is beyond usual whether it is color, font or design 🙂

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