Business-critical assets and publications are the canaries in the coalmine of brand. When these assets drift off-brand, it’s a sign that your organisation is losing confidence in its brand.
Take the university prospectus as an example. Part marketing brochure, part tourist guide, part course catalogue, the prospectus is the keystone of a university’s annual student recruitment campaign.
And the weight of responsibility placed on prospectuses shows through in their design. It’s clear that most universities take extra special care to make sure these vital publications have a big impact.
But treating important publications (or microsites, or campaigns, or apps) as special cases can damage the overall cohesion of your brand.
We’ve seen behind the scenes of enough branded design projects to imagine the process. Designers lay out the content, following the brand guidelines. Then people start wondering whether the on-brand designs will have the necessary impact. They ask for extra colours, typefaces and graphics to make the content stand out more.
The instinct to make sure a business-critical communication really grabs its target audience is a good one. And more often than not, the result is a high quality communication that’s sure to inspire change.
But when that impact isn’t matched by the brand’s other channels, its effect is severely dampened. This lack of cohesion can even be damaging, giving the impression of an organisation that cares about getting people in through the door, but not about giving them a quality experience once they’re inside.
If you’re looking at a draft design that follows your brand guidelines and worrying that it won’t land with your audience, that means it’s time to revisit your brand.
Maybe your audience has changed, maybe design trends have moved on, or maybe the brand has been the same for so long that it’s simply time for a refresh.
Whatever the underlying reason, it’s important to stop tinkering with that one design, get that back on brand, then pull back and consider what changes might be right for the brand as a whole. How would new or updated colours work on your website and in campaigns? How might new styles for impact stats interact with existing visual hierarchies – or enhance your social media posts?
Only once the refresh project is complete, and all changes formally documented with an update to your brand guidelines, should you start incorporating the new brand into your business-critical communications (as part of a full roll-out across all your channels).
Unless everyone’s on the same page, a cohesive brand is impossible.