Brand Guidelines to Set You Up for Success

August 17, 2020Sparxoo


Imagine reading a really engrossing novel. You feel connected with the characters, you’re into the story — and then you realize someone has ripped out the last 50 pages and you’ll never know the ending. Now picture reading a news article where you’re learning fascinating information, but the author left out “who” and “where.” In any great storytelling medium, there are rules and guidelines to follow that make a story satisfying and memorable. It’s no different for brand storytelling. Best practices can ensure that you capture your audience, and don’t leave them hanging. Rob Kane, the president of Sparxoo, has lots of experience in crafting amazing brand stories, and he’s come up with his own set of best practices to really rock a brand campaign.

“At Sparxoo, we think about brands and the brand narrative from three different aspects,” Rob says. “First, there is the brand platform, which is made up of your core values. It’s the value proposition — what you do differently, and better than any of your competitors. And it’s the reason to believe. What are the reasons your clients should care?”

If you’re worried your brand isn’t “different” enough, never fear — Rob says it really comes down to a combination. “A lot of companies say to us, our core differentiators aren’t different from other companies,” he says. “Companies can do things quicker, faster, or more creative, but usually what we find is that it’s the combination of the three or four top qualities. For Sparxoo, it’s the fact that we take really beautiful creative and great ideas, and marry it with performance. In our space, we feel that’s different — we take big, beautiful ideas and make it an efficient campaign. Find your own combination.”

The next aspect to consider is your visual identity. Now that you’ve identified your differentiators and why your audience should care about them, it’s time to select what colors, fonts, and imagery best represent them. Consistency is going to be key here, so make sure you vet these choices and feel really good about them before you move forward.

Finally, the third aspect to consider is your linguistic identity. “Consider what the tone and voice of brand will be,” Rob says. “Do you want to be articulate, intellectual, more approachable, comical? There’s a million different ways. It’s important to have that conversation so that no matter who is creating content, there’s a good understanding of what that tone is.”

Once you have outlined and defined these three key areas of your brand, it’s time to build your brand campaign. One such campaign that Sparxoo participated in was for Bainbridge. What started as a collaborative brainstorming meeting directed the Sparxoo team to select three main words that the client wanted to encapsulate the design, language, and overall story of Bainbridge.

Follow-up conversations led to further definition and clarity, until the brand campaign came together in its current form.

When your campaign is ready to live out in the world, how will you measure its success? This is where your brand analytics will come heavily into play. Decide how you’ll be measuring brand awareness, and what the right brand awareness kpi’s are for your business. Rob’s guidelines around these brand analytics breaks down into two primary categories: qualitative measurements, and quantitative measurements.

“From a qualitative perspective, it’s important to understand how your brand is perceived by your current customers, and how it will be perceived by prospective customers,” Rob says. “80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. That statistic alone should drive you to put out formal or informal survey questions. Ask things like, when you see this, what do you think of? What would you like to see from our brand?”

In addition to understanding the views and desires of your customers, it’s important to track quantitative data that can enrich this information. “Website traffic, and website as a front door to your business is important to keep tabs on,” Rob says. “What’s the role of organic traffic to your website? What is the stickiness of your landing page, and the bounce rate? People make judgments within three seconds, so what is their first impression? Are they finding relevant info, and does the look and feel match what is driving them to your site?”

Despite the necessity and immense value of these kinds of stats, Rob warns against overvaluing anything in particular. “I think the misconception about analytics is that there’s no silver bullet,” he says. “Everything has to be taken in context. While you’re thinking about something like bounce rate, you also must be cognizant of where the traffic is coming from. Is your bounce rate high because you’ve done more on paid media, and you’re reaching a broader audience who are less familiar with your brand? You have to look at metrics in relation to others.”

On the other side of the coin, there are two brand awareness kpi’s that Rob feels are undervalued. “When it comes to branding metrics, I think return is undervalued,” Rob says. “Visitation to a website is very interesting. As a business, if you can get into the psychology of what keeps people coming back, you can do more of what’s working and less of what’s not. That’s the biggest key for me, especially when it comes to branding. You can get someone in your door the first time, but to keep them coming back — that’s a real testament of branding.”

In addition, Rob says there is a benefit to understanding the lifetime value of a customer. “If you understand how much it costs to acquire a new business lead or customer, you can figure out your break even point,” he says. “It’s that old shark tank ethos — know your numbers. Return visitation and lifetime value of your customer are slightly more difficult to capture, but it’s worth the effort.”

At Sparxoo, one approach Rob likes to follow is starting with a 90-minute work session where clients will put all of their ideas and thoughts on the table, and then the Sparxoo team can help refine from there. A great example of this strategy in action is with the logo Sparxoo designed for Williamson Design Associates.

Our team aims to understand the key words that our clients want to embody their brand story. From there, sketches are drawn and refined down to a beautiful final product.

Perhaps the most important guideline for crafting your brand story is to consider the future. As Rob says, “When you’re creating your brand, you want something that has longevity.” If you make conscious, intentional choices while you build your brand story, release your campaign and track your results, you’ll get more than just leads — you’ll build your legacy.