What sticks in the minds of your customers is the experience they have when they interact with your business – the taste of the food you make, the smell of incense in your store, the voice they hear on the phone when they call you.
A successful brand reminds customers of that unique experience and amplifies it.
But in order for that to happen, your brand must be something else first. Something much more fundamental.
It has to be consistent.
A Consistent Brand = A Simplified Brand
While talking with our Brand Director, David Sadowski, about how to simplify a brand, he was reminded of a story about the Coca-Cola bottle.
As told on Coca-Cola’s website, after the drink became wildly popular, copycat companies became a dime a dozen. These copycats went to crazy lengths to mimic Coke’s label in order to sell their cola drinks.
This sparked a challenge for Coke: How could they make their product’s packaging so unique that it couldn’t be imitated?
Coke issued a brief to several different glass companies across the country to create a “bottle so distinct that you would recognize it by feel in the dark or lying broken on the ground.”
And thus, the iconic Coca-Cola Contour Bottle was born.
Much like the shards of a broken Coke bottle lying on the ground are still distinctively Coke, so should your brand be consistent enough to be recognizable in every fragment – e.g. commercial, label, billboard, webpage or ad.
3 Signs That You Should Simplify Your Brand
Brands can become fractured over time. New employees start, others leave, changes occur in leadership and direction – all of these things can slowly shatter a brand. Simplifying your brand can glue the bottle back together and make it stronger.
How do you know if your brand needs work?
Here are a few telltale signs.
1. Your Materials Are Mismatched or Inconsistent
Take a sampling of your recent advertising or promotional materials. Open them up, watch, listen or read each piece in one sitting. Notice the colors, the fonts, the arrangement of information, the tone of voice.
Do they feel like they’re all part of the same collection? Or do they look like a random assortment?
If it’s the latter, it’s time to simplify your brand.
2. Your Customers Are Confused About Your Brand
Your customers are a great way to gauge whether your brand is hitting the mark or falling short. Recently, Swim worked with the Northeast Minnesota Office of Job Training (NEMOJT), whose customers were experiencing confusion about their brand.
First off, their name was difficult to say or remember.
“They had a six letter acronym of NEMOJT and it meant Northeast Minnesota Office of Job Training, which doesn’t really roll off the tongue,” David Sadowski, designer on the project, recalled.
During a branding session, a revelation came out.
“One of the employees in the meeting said, ‘Can’t we just change our name to Jet?’” David remembers. It turns out that employees at NEMOJT had already been calling the company “Jet” for short.
Instead of scrapping the name entirely, David proposed that they embrace the shortened name.
Now JET stands for: Jobs, Education, Training.
On top of the tricky name, NEMOJT also had several sub-programs with individual logos and materials – and each program was doing their own thing.
“People didn’t realize that certain programs were part of NEMOJT,” David said, “and it was diluting the NEMOJT brand and so suddenly, people didn’t even know that they even existed.”
David was challenged to create a consistent look and feel for each of the programs, while still making them unique. But in order to do that, Swim had to tighten up the parent brand first.
After the name change was landed, David began working on a new logo and brand standards in order to create a consistent, solid foundation for the parent brand.
Then he moved on to the sub-programs.
“In this case,” David explained, “I just did all the logos and showed how I used the same fonts, kept the same navy blue and used an element of a triangle somewhere in each logo.”
By carrying the same unifying design elements throughout multiple logos, it created a cohesive presentation that reinforced the parent brand, rather than diluting it.
For JET, their customers’ confusion was a clear sign that they needed to simplify their brand.
3. Your Employees Are Doing Their Own Thing
Is your team a unified pack working together? Or are they a collection of lone wolves, each creating things autonomously? If it’s the second, chances are you need to work on your brand.
Since the crux of a simplified brand is consistency, there needs to be a shared understanding of your company’s brand identity AND guidelines on how to execute that brand correctly.
Read on to find out how to get your team in alignment.
3 Steps to Start Simplifying Your Brand
Much like reconstructing a shattered Coke bottle piece by piece, the task of simplifying your brand may feel impossible at the start.
Don’t get discouraged, because there is a way — and it’s much less painful than gluing glass together.
Ahead are a few steps you can take that’ll help you start simplifying your brand.
1. Evaluate Your Brand
Before you can simplify your brand, you need to take a careful look at it.
Try to be objective and really see your brand for what it is today, not what it was three years ago, or what you hope it will be in the future.
Get input from your employees, colleagues and customers to see how they feel about the brand.
Take note of any instances where your brand may have gone off track. Some examples are:
- Incorrect usage of your logo (stretched, altered, blurry, etc.)
- Using copy to explain a tagline (if you have to explain it, it’s not working)
- Ads or commercials that don’t match your brand’s tone of voice
Once you’ve evaluated your brand, you’re ready to move onto the next step.
2. Keep What’s Working, Rethink What’s Not
Think about what’s working well with your brand and work with what you’ve got. You probably don’t need to scrap your brand entirely; changing or adjusting may do the trick.
A great example of this? NEMOJT’s name change to JET. The full name was too long and confusing, but the shortened name they were already using internally worked perfectly.
3. Get Everyone On the Same Page
Unifying your company’s culture around your brand is hugely important and what’s more, there’s a lot to be gained.
Confidence, pride, efficiency, fewer power struggles and shared understanding are just a few of the benefits of getting everyone in on your brand identity and vision.
Start by holding a refocusing session to get everyone re-acquainted with your brand. Include a clear brand promise, vision and persona or archetype. Talk through any needed changes and create an action plan going forward, so everyone is in alignment.
Unification is the key to developing consistency and that’s where a simplified brand lives.
Call in the Professionals
Branding is complex. Don’t be afraid to call in the professionals. Email Bill Nelson to have a conversation about how Swim can help.
Simplifying brands is what we do and we’re ready to help your brand become as unique and recognizable as a Coca-Cola bottle.
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