How to Speak Branding

November 9th, 2009

I won’t lie. Cool stuff has been happening lately. Launching my Web site and blog et al was pretty exciting. Changing my e-mail signature. Getting a design for my Twitter page. Sending the launch e-mail. Nerve-wracking, thrilling stuff.

But I think maybe the coolest thing of all was getting my (mini) branding guidelines from my fantastic, awesome and amazingly talented graphic designer, Janee, founder of Swing Creative. I strongly recommend Janee for design work and good company for taco lunches. Seriously, she’s the real deal, a consummate professional with big agency experience and a great sense of humor who delivers the goods.

[Audience participation: Go ahead – click on the image to take a closer look, especially if you’ve never seen branding guidelines up close and personal. You know you wanna. I’ll wait.]

pic of guidelines

OK, so what’s so cool about getting your own branding guidelines? Um, everything! I’ve seen many of these over the years – for tech start-ups (fun), huge corporations (very not mini, more like multiple three-ring binders), even an agency team (I still have nightmares). Now having guidelines for my own business makes things feel – legit? Grounded? Protected?

Protected? Yes. I definitely felt a great sense of relief and security – possibly emotions that only folks who’ve worked with branding would recognize in this context. Because what is the purpose of branding guidelines if not to protect the brand?

Yeah, so what’s all that about, anyway? Why do some people get so bent out of shape over fonts and colors? Because among other things, “branding” is a communications system, a visual language, which helps explain my fascination with it. So when you use Arial instead of Trebuchet MS, you’re speaking Greek to a Roman. When you randomly change a logo color, you’re speaking blasphemy, making innocent babes blush.

And when you’re creating a proposal on your new letterhead, like I did a few weeks ago, and want to incorporate a logo color, the guidelines translate “Red/Orange” for you.

More audience participation – follow along now and be amazed. To make the header of a table “Deb Arnold, Ink. Red/Orange,” do these easy steps:

Select cells, then

Right click > Borders and Shading > Shading > Fill > More colors > Custom

Now, take a look on the branding guidelines in the box under RED ORANGE. See the numbers next to RGB (yep, Red Green Blue)? Back at the dialog box, make sure RGB is selected as the color model. Then enter the three numbers into the corresponding boxes.

Click OK.

Voila. Magic. Branding.

So what’s the point of this show-and-tell? Branding is a communications system, a visual language. It only works when everyone speaks it, follows the rules, understands that the guidelines are there to guide, to create order and predictability, comfort and stability.

And every communications system works the same way. How about your internal and B2B communications? Do you have a system? Does it have guidelines that make it orderly and predictable, comforting and stable? [Don’t think communications can be comforting? Try sending out the weekly update to 8,000+ retail associates three hours late and see what kind of discomfort you create.]

If your communications guidelines don’t tell you the equivalent of how to make a header row RED/ORANGE, contact me today.

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