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Branding Vs. Graphic Standards

How many times have you walked into a new marketing job or met with a new client and were handed the "binder" and told, "This is our brand manual. Learn it."

Fonts. Point sizes. Acceptable logo usages. PMS colors. Preferred phrasing. Taglines. This crap is not a brand. These are graphic and copy standards. They are a baseline for look. But they are not your brand.

A brand is a feeling. It's how your customer feels about you. And we're not talking about that Brand Hijack BS, because I think it's safe to say that it's been debunked. You still control the things that influence the way your customer feels. But in the end, your brand is the feeling a customer gets whenever they see your logo or interacts with a customer service representative or Likes you Facebook. And cultivating that feeling is the job of the marketer, not just making sure that the colors in the graphic standards manual are correct.

I think many of the problems with branding today stem back to this basic misunderstanding of the difference between brand and graphic standards. We get so caught up in establishing the yardstick and policing the standards, that we forget that branding is about emotions and heart. 

If you don't believe me, look at the Bank of America. They have done a stunningly brilliant job of establishing graphic standards and making sure that everything communicates the core message. Yet there is no heart. I still think of Bank of America as an uncaring behemoth with a maze of customer service issues. And when I look at Bank of America, I have conflicting emotions between their messaging and my memories of how they have treated me in the past. 

This is why I say over and over again here on the blog that a brand has to be a guiding objective of how we want customers to feel about us, and that objective needs to move beyond marketing to guide everything we do, say and make. Because if our brand isn't doing that, all we have is this year's binder with some color chips in it.

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