Marketing and Collateral Materials
marketing materials probably have the most impact on the recognition
and image of your business of anything. Whether it's print, broadcast,
or your exhibit booth,
it should have a look consistent with everything else you are using. A
designer can help you set up the initial designs, but in the event that
designer is no longer around, you'll also want to have guidelines about
how new materials should be set up in order to blend with the old
All of the standards we talked out previously, such as fonts,
colors, paper stocks, etc. will also carry over to your marketing
materials. If you have locations that prepare their own materials,
you'll at least have guidelines for their printers and designers to
Pre-printed drop-in sheets
your staff have the need for low quantity customized "flyers," it may
also be helpful to have templates set up that they can use to enter
text and create professional-looking and customized documents on the
fly. These types of documents can be printed via laser printer onto a
pre-printed, but mostly blank, paper stock. The information that is
pre-printed onto the sheet could simply be the company logo and some
graphic design elements that pull the sheet into the standard look of
the other company pieces. This method is a very cost-effective way to
produce quick and inexpensive marketing materials. The pre-printed
sheets can be printed in bulk and distributed for use by anyone within
the company. The key is the use of the template files so the final
product has the same text formatting and look as everything else.
Spacing and fonts are very important.
Good instructions should be included in your written guidelines
outlining the proper usage of the drop-in sheets, as well as how to go
about doing it with various software programs. You should also set
guidelines about when the quantity produced ceases to be "small" and
should be printed professionally. Most offset presses have no problem
over-printing onto this type of pre-printed stock. In fact, you might
use this pre-printing technique for other types of literature needs.
Use your imagination. It's a good way to get more color into your
materials at a lower cost.
you'll order all of your promotion items like imprinted pens, mugs,
notepads, etc. from a central source and either store them until
needed, or distribute them among locations (if you have several
locations). This is another item that needs guidelines in the event you
have others placing their own orders for new items. If you will be
having several employees or locations ordering their own premium items
for trade shows or special events, then it's important to set some
boundaries. Those catalogs make you think you need all of that junk (I
First, assemble a list of approved types of items with the level
of description you think necessary to limit the items to what you want
Second, create a graphic guideline for how the logo should be
placed on each item and how it can be altered. Remember the example we
used about the logo shirts? If you have to reverse the logo then at
least you can feel comfortable with how it will look.
Third, set up an approval system that will ensure you have final
say over the ultimate design. This may seem a bit extreme, but remember
some of those "premium" items can be cheesy enough by themselves
without having your logo mangled upon them.
your company runs in newspapers, magazines, newsletters, or other media
should also have an established design that is strictly adhered to.
Determine layouts for several ad sizes and shapes that follow the same
design. Below is an example of some of the specifications you may want
Set up guides for each ad size and shape you expect to need.
Since most print media will have their own specific ad sizes, you
probably won't be able to set up standard ads that can be used
anywhere. If you do, watch out for publications that say they can alter
the ad for you. You may end up with a squished or stretched version of
the original! Have a new ad set to the specified size whenever
Though not quite
as important in layout as content, your press releases should at least
follow a standard press release format stating the release date,
contact information (yours), and the subject clearly at the top of the
page. We'll talk more about style guides and voice for written text
later in this article.
This may be
beginning to sound like a broken record, but.... yes, your product
packaging should not take a drastic leap away from the established
image of the rest of your company. It's possible the packaging is the
only thing some customers ever see of your company's "look." If this is
the case, and it will depend of course on the type of business you
have, then pay extra attention to the consistent look and design of
Don't stray from the color palette, although you may end up
having to expand the palette if you have an extensive product line. But
at least select colors wisely and make sure they complement the other
standard colors. Then, make sure any supporting literature and
advertisements for that product use the same colors. Color is a very
memorable part of our world. Research has shown that consistent use of
a color in the marketing of a product has significant impact on recall
of that product.
It's a good idea to
have presentation templates set up that employees can use for sales
presentations, training courses, or other presentation needs. These
templates can be part of your library of templates, documents, and
Photos, art, and images
important piece of the image puzzle is the photos and artwork that
accompany most pieces of literature, presentations, and other media.
Assuming you have unrestricted use of these photos and images, it is
recommended that they also be a part of your "library" so employees can
use them as needed. Again, instruction will be need be provided about
how to use the images along with restrictions of use such as
alterations or misuse.
You may have an extensive list of documents and materials that
you'll need to write guidelines about, but doing so will ensure you
don't have a lot of bad stuff floating around!
The signs and
other physical attributes that announce the location of your business
are another important area that must remain consistent in regard to
look and image. Particularly if you have more than one location, you'll
need to make sure that each has a consistent look. Some large chains
like Toys 'R Us and others make sure that every store is set up the
same way so that customers can quickly find what they are looking for
regardless of which location they are at. That takes a lot of planning
and attention to detail. You can do that too, even if you don't have
multiple locations in every state!
Exterior and interior signs
you have a single office location then you probably don't have to worry
so much about the layout, colors, and design of your company's signage
-- other than making sure it follows your established "image."
If you have several locations, either through acquisition or
simply expansion, then you do need to deal considerably with directing
the design, production and placement of signs outside and inside of
The first thing you should do is determine the material,
layout, size and placement that you think is necessary for your
business's signs. This would include deciding between aluminum signs
with vinyl lettering verses painted or even hand-carved wooden signs,
all depending on your business and its image.
There may also be restrictions by building landlords.
Check with them prior to setting your standards, or allow for
exceptions for certain locations. Some towns and cities also have
restrictions about the height, size, and even the colors of business
signs. Check town ordinances regarding these issues.
Once you have nailed down
the design details, and know the restrictions about what you can and
cannot do, then you can move on to setting up your guidelines. You can
consider either having all signs created by a central sign company and
shipped to each location, or selecting a national vendor who can
produce the same product in all the cities in which you have business
If you go with the latter, you need to have sign material
guidelines such as backing material and letter material, specific color
selections (you probably won't be able to indicate a PMS color for sign
shops), font selections, size, and layout. Most sign shops can work
from a computer-printed sample layout that indicates sizes, layout and
other specifications. Some can even take electronic logo files and
output machine cut versions for your signs. Interview some sign shops,
find out their capabilities and requirements for art.
Where you place the signs
is also an issue that should be addressed in your identity guidelines.
As we mentioned above, however, you may be restricted by your landlord
(if you have one) and others so make sure you check first.
Other things that should (or can) be standardized
details, details. The more attention you give them, the more
professional and organized your business will come across to customers.
Obviously, different types of businesses will have very different
details they need to deal with. Below are some details that may play a
part in many businesses.
Some of the other issues you should consider standardizing include:
While this is certainly not an all-inclusive list, it does
give you a starting point. Your business will have its own needs and
Phone messages - Phone etiquette is an often overlooked part of
business. How your locations answer their phones, set up voice-mail
messages, and even leave messages for clients can have an impact on
your overall business. Guidelines for these areas, particularly if you
have several locations, can help create expected and consistent
communications to your clients.
- Protocol and policies - Protocol guidelines for
unexpected events can also be helpful. For example, if your business
has an inclement weather policy then there should also be protocol for
how customer interaction and communication is addressed during these
weather-related closings. You might, for instance, establish a protocol
that instructs employees to put a specific message on their voice mail
systems, direct callers to a central number in another location not
affected by the closing, or even establish a designated emergency
home-based number for clients to call.
- Vehicles - Company-owned vehicles are another area
that might need consideration. Do you have employees who travel to
client locations in company cars? Do those cars have proper signs
identifying them as being part of your business? Would this be
necessary for your type of business?
- Uniforms - Employee uniforms may or may not be
specifically "issued" pants and shirts. It may simply mean a type or
style of dress for specific occasions such as exhibiting at trade
shows, or conducting seminars. It may be as relaxed as requiring khaki
pants and a company logo-imprinted polo shirt. This is just another
area that might need some thought and some type of established
Voice and Style
forgotten, but still important, image aspect is the style and voice of
your written materials, correspondence, and advertising. Does your
company want to put forth a light, humorous image, or a stoic,
dignified, and perhaps more professional image? The word choices and
syntax of your written documents, and even the phrasing of market- or
industry-specific issues may need to be examined and standardized.
Do you have employees performing training seminars that use
different pronunciations for industry buzz-words? That is something you
may need to correct. Use your own judgement and get as nit-picky as you
need to. It does make a difference over the long haul in how your
customers perceive the cohesion of your business. This may, in turn,
effect how they perceive the overall quality of your business.
What is voice?
Voice is the tone
that your written statements relay to the reader. It is the feeling and
often emotional impact that the word choices and phrasing evoke. It can
be conversational, formal, informal, colloquial,
and can fall into various levels of each. The intonation you use is
important, as well as the sentence structure. Think about how
differently a news story is written from an editorial story. Of course,
the purpose of the editorial is to relay the opinion of the author, but
there is a distinct difference even when comparing the descriptions of
the basic information of the story before the opinions take over.
Should your business voice follow a more formal, institutional
voice that strictly adheres to the facts and leaves out any emotion or
personality? Or, should it follow more informal patterns as in
conversation and spontaneous speech? The decision will lie, once again,
in your type of business, your level of relationship with your clients,
and what types of written materials you produce. Are you a consultant?
If so, you may have more of a personal relationship with some of your
clients. This might lead you to decide that a more conversational tone
is needed in your written materials. Do you write "How-to" books? Then
you should definitely use a more conversational tone. You don't want
your readers to have to translate what you're saying into everyday
language. Make it easier on them.
Of course, many businesses can't operate that way because using
more conversational tones may lead them to leave out some detail that
might leave them vulnerable. For example, the legal industry must make
sure every written statement covers all of the bases and doesn't leave
anything to a potentially incorrect interpretation.
Look for answers to these questions when determining the most
effective voice for your type of business. Then clearly describe the
voice and tone you expect. Give examples and offer a point of
assistance such as a company spokesperson or communications manager.
Don't forget about style details such as:
Set up a guide that addresses each of these style questions and state your requirements clearly.
- how your company name is written out -- Do you use ", Inc." after
the name, do you put periods after any initials, do you spell out the
word "and" or use an ampersand (&)? This also applies to other
industry- or market-specific phrases.
- optional spellings of words you use often
- titles and designations of employees and managers
- use of trade marks and their symbols
Once you have established your written style and voice, make sure
that they are incorporated into all of your written materials
- all marketing communications
- your web site
- your newsletter
- all proposals, letters, and reports
- public relations releases
- published manuals, books, and users' guides