Those of you who own your own business may know that customer
recognition of your business's name and logo is important. Did you
know, however, that the clearer your overall business identity is, the
more likely your business is to survive and thrive? In order for your
identity to be clear to your customers, it has to be unique, as well as
consistently displayed in every aspect of your business. People are
highly affected by visual elements. Remember the saying about a
"picture is worth a thousand words?" That is why using a consistent
visual image is so important for businesses. A sense of cohesion
concerning your business, what you do, who you are, what your culture
is, is very important in today's congested marketplace.
Establishing a clear and memorable identity is the first step,
and is probably one of the easier steps you'll be taking. The hard part
is maintaining that identity consistently, especially when your
business begins to grow.
In this article
we'll talk about some of the work that goes into establishing a
business identity, but we'll focus primarily on how to set up written
guidelines to ensure that image is displayed consistently to the
What is Your Position?
If you read our "Building your Marketing Plan" article then you probably have an idea of what positioning
is. In that article we stated that positioning is the perception your
target audience has of your product. Planning your product's
positioning must involve taking into consideration such issues as the competition and how their products are perceived, the needs and desires of your target audience, and the element of mystique or drama that your product or service naturally has about it.
In crowded markets it is very important to position your product
appropriately. Think about the advertising messages your audience is
bombarded with every day. In order to stand out, your product has to
have a clear position their minds. But how do you come up with the
positioning for your product?
First, you have to determine a broad positioning. This
means determining if your product should fall into a niche, be a
low-cost-leader, or a product differentiator. These are each very
different strategy highways, and will take you in different directions
when fine tuning your message. Think of the qualities of your product,
its strengths and weaknesses, the opportunities you've uncovered, the
pricing you've considered, and your target market to determine which
broad position you will be taking.
Next, you will have to determine specific positioning.
This could be based on a certain quality or benefit of your product
such as ease of use, durability, reliability, safety, convenience, etc.
In some cases you may even be able to position your product based on
two qualities. For example, think of Volvo. Safety and durability are
their primary and secondary positions.
Taglines and positioning statements
you have a specific position developed that fits your business, your
products, your goals, and your customers' needs, turn that position
into a single statement that can be used with your logo on everything
that comes out of your business. Sound hard? Of course it is. You have
to be creative and often getting help from an outsider such as a public
relations firm or ad agency is a good idea because it's a fresh set of
eyes looking at it more likely as your customers might look at it. Or,
at least get a good consensus from family, friends, associates, and
your employees. Talk to as many people as you can.
Your tagline isn't something you want to change. It will be
used in your advertising messages, on promotional items, posters,
banners, your web site... you get the idea. Make the right decision
from the beginning and stick with it.
business culture is also an essential element of establishing your
identity as a company. A business culture pulls in the total
experience, meaning the complete vision and mission for your company.
The culture has to be communicated and enmeshed with your style and
image. Your vision and mission must not only relate back to your
position, but should also dictate the manner in which you communicate
who you are to your customers.
statement is a business's guiding image of success, formed in terms of
their contribution to society. It is a more emotionally-derived
statement that elicits a visual image of the company's destination. It
is the dream that brought the whole thing to reality. Perhaps you saw a
problem and your vision is the solution to that problem. Your vision is
the final product. For example, an architect's vision is the final
product of his design. An artist's vision is the final artwork that he
Similarly, your business vision is the ultimate goal of what
you are trying to accomplish, or how you are trying to alter the
current landscape in your market to make it better.
Here are some examples of company vision statements:
- From a state department of education.
--Each school will
exemplify a community of virtue in which caring, justice and fairness,
respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, and service learning are
regularly expected, modeled, taught and celebrated as an integral part
of the curriculum and daily school operation. Working in partnership
with family and community, these practices will result in improved
student achievement, safe, orderly school environments, and citizens
that are contributing members of society.
- From the American Probation and Parole Association.
see a fair, just and safe society where community partnerships are
restoring hope by embracing a balance of prevention, intervention, and
- From a hotel chain.
--To be a premier hotel company
by exceeding industry standards through innovation and team member
excellence, ensuring the satisfaction of our guests and shareholders.
A mission statement is defined as a business's guiding principles that
state what the company's goals are, what their values are, and where
they are headed. The mission statement defines the company's overall
plan in a succinct and interesting manner with a tone reflective of the
tone of the business itself. It should answer questions like:
- What needs does the business address? Or, what is the purpose of the business?
- How does the business address those needs?
- What are the principles and beliefs that guide how the company addresses the need?
Here is some examples of mission statements
- From a home healthcare company
"To improve the quality of our customers' lives."
- From a a big brother/big sister organization.
make a positive difference in the lives of children and youth,
primarily through a professionally supported, one-to-one relationship
with a caring adult, and to assist them in achieving their highest
potential as they grow to become confident, competent, and caring
individuals, by providing committed volunteers, national leadership,
and standards of excellence."
Employer branding is the image your company displays to potential
employees, and builds with employees once they're onboard. Much of your
employer branding will overlap with your corporate identity. In fact,
according to a survey by The Conference Board Inc., New York, the goals
of corporate branding and employer branding have significant overlap at
about 90% of all companies.
Employer branding helps employees internalize a company's
values and goals. By creating a unified feeling among your employees,
you can more effectively communicate that same message to your
customers. Effective employer branding also promotes good customer
service and a consistent message throughout your company.
This article should have given you some ideas about what your
business identity could be, or at least how take steps toward
determining the information you need to set up your business identity.
Now we'll go into how to put that information down on paper into
written guidelines for use by you and your employees, in order to help
achieve consistency in how your image is displayed to the public. After
all, you don't want to waste all of that time and effort you spent
coming up with your company's position by allowing a mishmash of images
to float out to your customers.
Even if your
company is small, it makes sense to write down guidelines about how to
use and display your business identity. Remember the importance of a
consistent "look." This means setting up a guideline document that
includes information like:
This document should be detailed and cover every area that might be
necessary for your business. For example, if you have locations that
might be developing their own marketing materials, it probably isn't
enough just to give them logo guidelines. You should also have a layout
template or guide, voice guidelines for the written text, color palette
and paper stock guides, and possibly even designated printing
- Logo usage
- Stationery usage
- Marketing materials
- Presentation materials
- Advertising materials
- Product packaging
- and more
Even if you don't have several office locations yet, you should
develop this document as if you did. This will provide a standard of
quality and a look for your materials and business that you can refer
back to yourself. You will probably find that it is difficult to
remember how something was done a year earlier. If you have this
document, you can simply refer to it and know you are staying within
your own guidelines.
Let's move on to the information and detail you should include in your document.
How do you keep the
look of your business consistent across different media? There are
several design elements that play a critical role in helping you do
First of all, your company
logo has to remain consistently displayed in color, size, and the
spacial relationships with the elements around it.
The color can be standardized by using a set color system such as the Pantone Matching System (PMS).
The printer you select will use a specific PMS ink color designated by
you and your logo designer. By always using this PMS ink color, you can
be assured your logo will be a consistent color in all of your
materials and documents.
Here is an example of some of the Pantone colors and how their numbering system works:
There are, of course, many more colors than those displayed
here. Your printer or designer should have a printed color chart you
can look at to determine the exact color you want to use. It is
difficult to select a specific color solely by seeing it on a computer
screen because computer monitors very greatly in how they display
colors, so make sure you see an actual printed sample.
Black and white versions
Because printers' inks are typically transparent, the
paper stock you use for your literature and stationeries will also
affect the way the color looks when it is printed. Even a subtle color
underneath will alter the color of the logo. Check with your printer
about how the color may be affected prior to printing a large job.
You should also check with your printer or designer
about changes to ink colors when you print using process color
printing, as opposed to spot color printing. Printing a brochure in
full color (or four-color) means that all colors are produced by
combining cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks. Often this produces a
slightly different color than your usual PMS ink color. Your printer or
designer should also have a printed color chart that will show you your
selected PMS color as it will print as a process color. If the
difference is too great, you can always add that color as a spot color
to the print job, making it a five-color job rather than four. You will
pay more for this, but if there is a big difference in color it may be
need to make sure your logo can be printed nicely in black and white,
as well as color. If you know you will be faxing and photocopying the
logo then you should also make sure it still looks good when produced
this way. You may need to have variations of the logo for use in these
types of documents. (This is something to keep in mind for many of your
documents such as letterhead, forms, etc.)
You should come up with
guidelines addressing the placement of you logo on patterned or colored
backgrounds. The background can detract considerably from the look and
impact of the logo and should be limited to white or whatever you feel
looks the best.
Sometimes it is
necessary to reverse your logo in order to print it on a dark
background. For example, if you have company shirts made, you may want
to use a dark color that would require your logo to be stitched in
white. Make sure you have reversed versions of your logo specifically
for these uses. Sometimes the reversal process changes certain elements
of the logo such as shaded areas and gradations. By creating these
versions initially, you'll have it set up in a usable format from the
start and can address those changes without being in a rush for some
special event and ending up with a surprise.
Size and space considerations
minimum, as well as maximum, sizes for using the logo in typical
documents and materials. Often the logo is reduced to fit a space and
ends up being illegible in the final document. This creates a bad image
that only becomes worse if the document is then faxed or photocopied.
In addition to size, it is also important to set requirements for the spacing around
your logo. Look at the examples below to see what we mean. The document
on the right crowds the logo and looks unprofessional.
Illustrate, in your guidelines, the required white space on all
sides of the logo. This will ensure that the logo has the impact and
look you have worked so hard to develop. These examples show how this
can be illustrated.
Incorrect uses of the logo
Set up an
example page of incorrect uses of the logo. This is especially
important if you have other locations that may be creating their own
materials. Making an electronic version of your logo available to
others can be helpful or harmful.
Examples of incorrect use may be using wrong colors,
stretching, squeezing or otherwise distorting the logo. Here are some
Instructions for using logo files
is a very good idea to have instructions about how to use electronic
logo files. If you make the logo available electronically to your
employees then you will very likely have a lot of questions about how
to use it. The first thing you hear will be, "I can't open the logo."
This will always be the case unless your employees have graphics
programs that can read the file formats that your logo will be in. Most
likely you will have .pcx format or .bmp format for use in everyday
word processing documents. Your employees will need to know that, in
order to use those files, they have to "place" or "insert" the logo
file as a graphic or clip art file onto the document in the position
where they want it to appear.
For example, in Microsoft® Word, to place a .pcx logo file into
a document, you simply go to the "Insert" menu and select "Picture"
which gives you a pop-out box that let's you tell it what type. There
they would select "from file" and then direct it to the location of the
logo file on their hard drive. This will place a scalable copy of the
logo graphic on their page.
Other logo file formats should be available. For example, your
printer or designer will need the logo in an .eps (encapsulated
postscript) format or a .tif format. Your web designer will use a .jpg
or a .gif format. You may also want to make the .gif or .jpg formats of
your logo available to your employees for use in computer
presentations. These files are designed for on-screen use and are
typically smaller in file size.
An element that can have
almost as much impact as your logo on the recognition of your business,
is the font face you use in your marketing materials, documents, and
other printed collateral. Select a standard font family and use it
consistently in all of your documents. Consistent font usage has more
of a cumulative effect on how your customers recognize and perceive
your company. This level of attention to detail contributes to both the
recognition and the perceived image of your company, as well as the
professionalism your company displays to the public.
As with the guidelines for your logo, you'll also need
to set up guidelines for the fonts your company will use, as well as
how and where each style should be used. Here is an example of how you
can set up standard font faces and the guidelines for their use.
Make sure you also have rules against alterations to the fonts
just as you did with your logo. This would include restricting things
like changing width (the actual width of the letter) or kerning (the
spacing between the letters) of the font, or using odd spacing between
lines of text. All of these things effect the look of the document.
your company uses will obviously be dictated by the color you chose for
your logo. There should be, however, additional colors selected for use
in media and documentation that can support it. By selecting a color
palette for your company to use, you can ensure that the hues and
shades of colors used are complementary to the logo color.
If your company has different divisions or areas of business,
you may even want to set up a standard color for each to establish a
sort of sub-identity for that area.
Remember to consider the emotions that different colors evoke
and make your selections accordingly. For example, green has a calming
effect, while red has a more intense and exciting effect. Blue tends to
bring about a more sober and contemplative feeling, while purple brings
about a regal, dignified and even a mystic feeling. Yellow and orange
elicit more feelings of joy, energy, and cheerfulness. While these
associations are not absolute, they can be used as somewhat of a guide
for color selection.
Some examples of color combinations that can work are
shown on the right. Use your imagination when thinking of colors to put
use. Many of these samples may not be something you would think could
work together, but when they're used in marketing materials or
presentations, they can provide good impact and a professional image.
The paper that your
stationery, business cards, brochures, and other materials are printed
on have an impact as well. You should make your paper selections based
on color, texture and weight, as well as cost. Keep in mind that if you
choose a color other than white, your printed inks will also shift in
color. Also keep in mind that all white stocks are not created equal.
There are many varying levels of brightness for white stock. Typically,
the brighter the stock, the higher the quality and, therefore, the more
expensive. This may not always hold true, but can be used as a rule of
There are many paper producers and hundreds of styles of
papers. Visit a printer and look through their sample books to get an
idea of what you like. Or, if you use a designer to design your
materials and identity, they will probably also have some good
suggestions and samples you can look at.
Papers will be available in several different weights within
the same style and color family. There may also be variations of
shading within a specific texture family. This may work well for
differentiating various segments of your business, as we mentioned
above in the color palette section.
Once you have determined the stocks and weights you want to use
for your materials, you should make sure you identify those styles in
your written identity guidelines. If you are a small business, this
will help you keep track of it down the line and stay consistent when
you need reprints. In many cases, your printer will keep a record of
what you used in the past, but don't depend on them solely to keep
track of details. If you have other locations, detailing this
information in your written guidelines will provide them with the
information they need in order to have their own materials printed.
Now, let's move on to your stationery design and how you can maintain a consistent look across all of your documents.
stationery consists of letterhead and accompanying unprinted stock for
additional pages, envelopes, mailing and shipping labels, note cards,
business cards, and more. Each of these documents should be designed
using a consistent layout -- meaning the same consistent "look."
In your written guidelines, show examples of each of these and
set standards for how they should and should not be used. For example,
you may want to restrict the use of your letterhead for
non-business-related correspondence, or you may want to show exactly
how letters or reports should be formatted. (We talk about setting up
standard document templates below.)
You should address how each printed piece should be used. For
example, if you have company note cards, you may want to describe the
types of things those should be used for such as invitations to open
houses, thank you notes, or other types of client communications.
document templates for things like letters, memos, reports, proposals,
and presentations, you can ensure a higher level of consistency for
what leaves your office and finds its way to your customers. A template
is simply a blank formatted file that has imbedded styles that can be
used for each section of the document. For reports or proposals that
have many similarly worded sections, standard introductions, or other
areas that do not change, you can create a "boilerplate" type document
that has these elements already entered correctly.
These documents should be saved as "templates" under the "save"
"options" in your software program. By saving them as templates rather
than just the regular document, you protect the original document. When
you open a template, you get a new untitled document that is based on
the original. It is very easy to forget to rename a new document and
overwrite the original one if you're not using a template!
Formatted electronic masters
standard printed items include fax lead sheets, memos, and office
forms. These documents can be set up in either word processing
programs, or converted to PDF (Adobe's Portable Document Format) files
that maintain the exact formatting you've set up. PDF documents can't
be altered without the Adobe Acrobat Software, but can be read and
printed with Adobe's free Acrobat Reader Software. This software can be
downloaded from the Adobe Web site.
If you don't have Adobe Acrobat to create these documents in, check
with your software manufacturer or Adobe about exporting documents from
your existing programs to the PDF format. It can be as simple as saving
the file as a "PDF" or selecting a PDF option under your "print"
Create a library of documents
often helpful to have an established directory on your network or
intranet (if you have one), or simply a diskette or CD-ROM that
contains electronic logo files, formatted masters, and document
templates for use by you and your employees. If you have a Web site,
you can even have an unlinked or "hidden" download page that contains
links to these documents for download. By setting it up this way, you
can easily keep the documents updated when you update your Web site. To
keep visitors from coming to the page, you can set up a password
protected page. Your webmaster should be able to do this easily.
Regardless of how you distribute these documents, it is
important to make sure you have them set up correctly, and that you and
your employees know how to use them. Therefore, within that library
it's a good idea to have files explaining "How to use electronic logo
files," "How to use document templates," and "How to use document
masters." You can even have a copy of your Identity Guidelines
available for download.
There is also the option of putting the written guidelines and
right on your Web site with links to downloadable documents, templates,