Before “branding” was a buzz word, there was integrated marketing communications
When I began in the design and marketing business, in the early years of Creative Company (1978 to 1988 or so), the term branding was used to describe hot metal applied to a cow. And we pursued a process called integrated marketing communications.
In those early years, our work focused on a visually connected series of communications — anchored by a logo, fonts, and color palette — to create consistency for a business. The goal was to inspire instant recognition between all communications — ads, billboards, TV spots, stationery and business cards, brochures and folders, trade show booths, signing and vehicles.
Visual consistency demanded choosing a font system then using it (nothing else) on everything from brochures to signing. It also required defining a color palette of PMS (Pantone Matching System) colors and their CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) builds for full color process printing.
This was before computers took over marketing
So there was no need to define RGB or HTML colors, or use web safe fonts. And really, fonts were expensive to buy and license. Photography was expensive. Reproducing color photos required costly color separations.
Ensuring consistency meant standing over the press as a brochure or annual report was printing to check color saturation and match it to the swatches in a PMS book.
Yes, design and marketing communications were very different before computers came along.
Consistency created recognition between all marketing communications
Yet that consistency visually tied marketing materials together so people knew at a glance who the communications were from.
We built recognition for the companies we worked with, and helped them stand out wherever their message appeared. The integrated visual system created recognition. It built a personality for the company and supported how they wanted to be known.
Without that consistency, each communication had to reintroduce the company to each new audience. Follow up was less effective because there was no built-in recognition.
Integrated marketing communications is the foundation
Based on a visual system, and consistent design standards, an effective integrated marketing communications system visually connected all the places and ways a company would be seen. That’s the first tenet of great branding — visual consistency. Creating an integrated marketing communications system was the foundation for today’s branding.
Yet today, nearly 40 years later, the concept of brand has evolved much further. An article in Fast Company offers a quick summary — 10 Questions Every Brand Should Ask to Ensure It’s Simple Enough.
“… as our companies grow, so does their complexity. More offices and employees require more communications. Added product lines and services require more messages to larger and increasingly diverse audiences. And the evolution of digital technologies means there are new touch points and more communication channels through which to reach our customers.”
Why is this an issue?
Because keeping a brand simple and focused in this complex, multi-faceted, online and offline, constantly changing environment is tough, really tough.
To build consistency, a brand must go beyond the visual (although it’s still vital). In our work we focus on positioning, purpose and people … then build a visual and verbal brand which includes a defined messaging hierarchy to express the brand consistently.
Large companies fret over every level of the experience — how audiences interact with what the brand/company does or provides. Another article from Fast Company, titled Branding Once Meant Logos, Now it Means AI, the author states:
“The brand is undergoing a paradigm shift. It’s no longer a mark. It’s not even a voice. It’s an intelligent entity, a personality, an algorithm capable of learning.”
While we’re not ready to go this far now … though it’s likely coming … addressing the interaction your audiences have with your organization is essential to building the brand.
A brand is the sum of experiences
If your audiences — current or potential customers — have a bad experience which could be a rude response on the phone; or a murky and confusing website; or a disappointing product and that doesn’t perform as promised; those experiences will affect brand perceptions.
That’s why the concept of “brand” must be integrated into the entire organization. It must guide the design of products and services, and how they’re delivered and supported. It must integrate the organization’s purpose into actions that fulfill on that purpose. And yes, it must still include a visual identity as part of an integrated marketing communications system.
Where do you want to take your brand?
There are many options when you’re branding … whether refreshing what’s in place now, updating and upgrading an existing brand system with fresh colors and fonts, (brand refresh) or reinventing how you’re seen, recognized and known.
One thing is certain … your brand program will not consist of applying hot metal to cows.
And to have impact, your brand must be built around visual consistency and encompass a verbal brand to express key messages and ideas. Include integrated marketing communications and tight and rigorous management over the customer experience to create that consistent, visible and memorable brand.
Thinking about a rebrand?
Visit our website to see examples of new brands, brand redesign and brand refresh programs.
These blog posts will give you more insight into the rebranding process.
- What does rebranding mean?
- Rebranding for today’s audiences
- Rename and rebrand, ready to embrace the change?
- Rebranding checklist to guide your program
Our guide will help you decide if now is the right time to rebrand. Download it below.