Beyond Consistency: A New Approach to Identity Standards
Strong brands are built on more than rigid adherence to a set of rules and regulations. They have personalities and soul. And there’s an opportunity to express that soul at every touchpoint—whether it’s print, electronic or interpersonal communications, a trade show or a promotion. As one of the first expressions of a new or revitalized brand, identity standards should convey the brand’s true essence. They have the ability to generate enthusiasm and unleash the creative spirit.
Identity standards are meant to “guide.” They need to go beyond a set of tightly prescribed rules in order to engage, enlighten and inspire. No longer are they the static list of “absolutes” they were in the past. The web-based and electronic tools available today enable standards to be re-evaluated and easily updated over time to ensure effectiveness and relevance in a world of constant change.
While we believe that consistency is a critical success factor, identity standards don’t need to be dull and devoid of personality to communicate this. They should motivate people to produce effective, emotionally engaging communications that are on-brand.
Below are six ways we suggest approaching the development of identity standards for maximum effectiveness:
- Start with a core set of do’s and don’ts for valuable assets that need to be tightly managed, like the logo or brandmark and trade dress elements.
- Inspire with identity standards that leverage compelling design and copy. Showcase how you want your brand’s communications to look and feel. If your brand is funky, your standards should be funky. If your brand is elegant, your standards should be, too. Use powerful imagery. Rely on visuals to communicate rather than long blocks of copy. Make it easy to navigate and find information.
- Encourage creative expression within the confines of your identity system. Throughout the standards show a variety of communications and applications. Provide additional tools such as desktop reference guides, electronic templates and training programs. When 3M launched their revitalized identity system, we developed a PowerPoint® tutorial for them to help users design montages, a key component of their identity system.
- Create a dialogue with users. Encourage feedback and designate certain areas of the standards that are updated regularly. Send ongoing e-mail updates sharing tips and best practices.
- Enlist the standards to help engage your audience. If online, offer a web-based quiz to “test” knowledge. Encourage participation through a contest. One of our clients, Cargill, did this and received phenomenal response. Are their employees engaged? Absolutely.
- Showcase exemplary work in an online examples gallery or through a separate program such as an annual yearbook. Applaud people for succeeding. Tap their competitive spirit. We don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to be recognized for excelling.
Engage with well-designed standards, enlighten through knowledge sharing and inspire with examples that convey the full potential of your identity system. And always keep in mind the purpose of identity standards is to help people create more effective communications that connect emotionally with your audience to build a truly great brand