The Louvre is known as one of the finest art museums of them all. If you have been lucky enough to make a trip to Paris, you know the number one attraction—The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. It is the most visited work of art in the world. Roughly valued at $850 million, the museum takes drastic measures to protect the iconic work. You may be surprised to hear that it is protected by bullet-proof glass and enclosed in a special box that protects it from heat, humidity, and vibrations. The painting is also closely guarded by museum employees throughout the day. How about your brand? Do you take the same precautions in protecting the most valuable asset your company has created? You should. Your brand is an intangible yet powerful representation of the essence of your company. As a brand guardian, it is your solemn duty to protect your brand with all of your might by wielding the three branding swords.
Branding Sword I: Brand Voice
As a company, you communicate daily with your clients or customers. This takes place through different mediums—your website, email, social media, paid search, billboards, television—just to name a few. In fact, it’s a pretty safe bet that you use quite a few, if not all, of the mediums mentioned above. Depending on the industry you compete in and your target market, the right mediums for your company naturally rise to the top. How much thought have you put into how you communicate through the written word?
As a brand guardian, the first branding sword you must wield is to develop your company’s brand voice. Your brand voice is the distinct way in which you communicate all that is unique to your company. Developing the right brand voice necessitates introspection and a deep understanding of your customer base. What makes them tick? What type of language will resonate with them? What are the principles that your company was founded on? What is your company’s culture like? By molding all of these ideas into a tightly knit package, your brand voice will emerge. You’ll understand how formal or how laid-back you need to be. From there, it will be up to you to make sure your brand voice is expressed with consistency.
One way to maintain consistency is to make sure that your brand voice is uniform across mediums. If your copy on your website is different than your copy through email and your copy through email is different than your copy on social media—you don’t have a brand voice. You have mumbo jumbo. Your customers will feel that something is off because they will encounter inconsistent experiences across different touchpoints. In a nutshell, what I’m referring to is integrated marketing. This concept seeks to create a seamless experience across all channels. You do that through consistency, authenticity, and a focus on emotion. We’ll touch on emotion to a greater degree later. Until then, it’s time to wield our second branding sword.
Branding Sword II: Brand Assets
Closely tied to your copy is your creative. If copy is analogous to brand voice, and creative is analogous to brand assets, you’ll see that the two are like peanut butter and jelly. A natural pair. Simply put, your brand assets are the visual aspects of your communications. They include the colors, fonts, and resources that work together to form your brand. Just like your brand voice, a lot of thought should go into selecting your primary and secondary brand colors, your brand font, and other visual standards. Color evokes emotion and different colors are associated with different emotions. It is no surprise that red is often the color of choice when it comes to romance. Or that green is used for environmentally-friendly pursuits. Justlike color can evoke emotion, so can fonts. They arouse simplicity, sophistication, or something in between.
Just as you do with your brand voice, it is critical that your brand assets are expressed with consistency. You can’t use every color under the sun and switch things up on a whim whenever you feel like it. You can’t start fresh with every campaign. There has to be a common thread and consistency in the look and feel of your creative that is seen time and time again. Only after repeated exposure will your customers or clients form lasting associations with your brand. By wielding the brand voice sword along with the brand assets sword in conjunction, you are creating an experience—and hopefully, a memorable one that has your target market coming back for more.
Branding Sword III: Brand Values
Now that you are wielding two swords at once, it takes great skill to add a third sword. The third and final branding sword, brand values, encompasses the values and purpose that guide both your short-term and long-term strategy. How you position yourself as a brand is a delicate exercise and one that can have dire consequences when done poorly. If your brand becomes associated with negative values in the minds of your customers or clients, changing those values is like swimming across the Atlantic Ocean. It’s just not a situation you’d like to find yourself in.
When making a decision, always keep your brand values in the back of your head. Short-term financial gain is never worth a negative impact on your brand if you can avoid it. It’s just not worth it unless you have no other choice. After all, your brand is your most valuable asset. Keeping your values and purpose top-of-mind will help you make sound strategic decisions.
When you wield the three branding swords—brand voice, brand assets, and brand values—you are serving as a true brand guardian. However, like most things, it’s one thing to understand something conceptually and it’s another to put it into practice. Especially across organizations that are all complex in their own ways. We will revisit the topic of brand guardians and how you, as the protector of the brand, can ensure that your brand receives the respect and integration it deserves, company-wide. Until then, know that your dedication to being a brand guardian is a responsibility and honor that would make the Mona Lisa smile.
Vlad Vidaeff serves on the board of AMA Houston as the VP of Communications. As a content creator, strategist, and leader, he specializes in areas of digital marketing including social media, email marketing, blogs, brand management, and web copy. With experience on both the agency and client side, Vlad has collaborated with companies in industries such as healthcare, retail, e-commerce, non-profit, hospitality, and professional services. He is an avid sports fan, a movie junkie, and a frequent live music goer.