Company Branding: When Design is like Fashion

Company branding is more like fashion than one might think.

For example, clothes are functional for covering the body, but they also speak volumes to those around us. Similarly, a logo is essential in describing to clients who we are and what our companies do. There is power in color, line, texture, and the mixing of visual elements in both fashion and company branding. How are our logos and marketing assets silently communicating on our behalf?

Fashion and Company Branding Equivalents

Here are a couple of examples of company branding and fashion equivalents. Which one does your company most closely resemble?
lazy branding equals lazy fashion
#1: College Kid Roaming Around Target
Branding Status: No official logo, passing out printed Word document flyers

Fashion Equivalent: Your business is parading itself in public in its plaid pajama pants; pink, fluffy slippers, and college hoodie.

Results: Your product and service may be great, but it doesn’t come across this way to others. You may be a baby-company just getting up off its knees, or a college kid thinking it’s okay to rummage about in public in your night gear. Either way, the basic truth is you could do better. Don’t expect to be taken too seriously and don’t expect to gather in high-end pricing for your product just yet. Refined prices are for refined products.

Encouragement: It’s okay to be a beginner with a small budget. Keep it simple and consistent. Use one font family (with its variations in weight and italics) to easily produce a consistent look. Try Mailchimp for free e-newsletter marketing and check out my free graphic design tips for beginners. Continue to gather positive reviews as you deliver your great products and services. Soon you will have gathered enough in the budget to pay for professionally developed marketing assets.

groovy digs for companies stuck in the past
#2: Lovable yet Crazy Thrift Store Aunt
Branding Status: Inconsistent use of fonts and logo variations, inconsistent or odd imaging use, unsightly color combinations

Fashion Equivalent: Your business’s branding looks more something like your crazy aunt who is fashion-confused. You know the one; she’s precious but she wears 70’s retro bell bottoms with a fur vest as she’s mumbling about not being able to find her missing cat. All the while, she is rummaging through bags of thrift clothes. Is this your design department, sifting through outdated assets?

Results: Your product and service may be lovable but your marketing is inconsistent, visually confusing, and therefore unreliable. This will result in a decrease in customer recognition of your brand when they cross media (e.g. when they jump from social media to your website). This will mean a decrease in the momentum of sales. Customers may have a fond memory of your great product and an interest to buy again but no easy way for them to find you again.

Encouragement: Hire a professional to go through your marketing assets. Let them weed out the old assets that aren’t working for your brand any longer, organize the good you still have, create a refreshed and consistent logo, create a brand style guide (fonts, colors, content guide), and create refreshed and fresh marketing assets.

professional authentic business partner
#3: Professional yet Authentic
Branding Status: Consistent branding across all outlets (print, web, and social media): professional logo-use, mindfully chosen font-family secured, visual and content messaging that not only co-exist but work well together

Fashion Equivalent: Your business has a fresh yet reliable style; think smart professional, clean straight-legged pants, button-down shirt, with horn-rimmed glasses that fit the face just right. Professional yet authentic, not too stuffy. You’re giving off just enough engaging quirky personality for customers to be curious and enjoy engagement. They’re happy to run into you by accident because you keep it fresh. Yet, you also keep in consistent. What you present has a similar thread to it, so it builds rapport and recognition.

Results: Customers can jump seamlessly across media outlets and find you represented similarly. This builds rapport, recognition, familiarity, and friendly conversion.

Encouragement: You’re on the right path! Remember, once you find something successful you may be tempted to fall into visual ruts. Change is inevitable; in fashion and design. Change too but take your time. Be curious and authentic in your change. Enjoy it and, remember, all creativity springs from taking chances.

Putting Our Best Foot Forward

Every company wants to put their best foot forward. Yet, this is accomplished—not only—by delivering a great product or service with integrity, but also having it presented with excellence. For example, I remember how impressed I was with Apple packaging when I opened my first iPhone 4 years ago. The box was impeccably made, in clean fitting, white excellence. It made me excited for the content and the content did not disappoint either! Apple hit a home-run here.

Presentation is Important

In the same light, it’s said that in the Japanese culture the wrapping of a gift is almost as importance as the gift itself. So, the Japanese people often take extra effort in its presentation. Doesn’t it give you great delight to open something thoughtfully wrapped? This is the equivalent to your thoughtful branding and design strategy wrapped around your excellent product or service.

We all need to take a good, hard look in the mirror at different intervals in our lives and reevaluate how we are presenting ourselves. This is true with companies, too.

Here are some questions to ask yourself and the team as you hone your own authentic branding efforts:

  • Are we consistently showing up across all media outlets?
  • What does our color scheme silently communicate?
  • How does our font system display our company’s personality?
  • Do our images convey our messaging clearly?
  • Is our copy accurate, articulate, use the same tone, and easy to understand?