A brand identity is what makes your brand recognizable and attractive. It’s important to be consistent—whether you’re crafting emails, creating new landing pages, or posting photos on Instagram. However, creating and maintaining a brand identity is easier said than done.
No matter the size of your company, there are plenty of brand identity challenges. You may churn out a number of digital marketing projects in one channel, and then everything may change by the time you move onto the next channel. Meanwhile, having so many hands in different buckets can create a very muddled brand identity.
The best digital marketing teams have systems in place to strengthen their brand identity. It’s not automatic—it takes devotion, diligence, and deliberate actions, not to mention time and persistence.
Maintaining a brand identity in digital marketing is essential. Here are 5 key steps to help you maintain and strengthen yours.
1. Create design guidelines
For most marketers and designers, a design guide is a no-brainer. Design guidelines are very popular these days (here are some examples) because they help in-house and freelance designers adhere to pre-conceived standards. The elements that are off-brand get sifted out. The guidelines ensure quality, no matter who is creating the design elements.
Design guidelines typically consist of logo iterations, brand colors, typography, and any images or iconography. These elements are great to start with and can help you to maintain brand identity as you complete digital marketing projects.
Macaroni Grill created an entire book to outline their design guidelines, which you can see below.
2. Develop voice and tone guidelines
A brand identity is much more than a design—it’s also a voice and tone. In the same way, you want guidelines for design, you also want guidelines for how to write like your brand.
These guidelines will help you with title and header conventions, the tonal approach your copy should take, how you write different types of terms, and other conventions. Alongside grammatical and technical considerations, you’ll also give writers an idea of voice and tone.
When creating voice and tone guidelines, it’s important to provide lots of examples. If you tell writers to use a “clever” tone, this is open to interpretation. However, if you give many examples of what a clever tone looks like in practice, it will be easier for writers and marketers to hit the mark.
Here’s an example from Asana of voice and tone guidelines based on values.
3. Create go-to email templates
This tip is specific to emails, but most brands send a lot of them. Plus, consumers still prefer brands to communicate via email. Email is a vital part of maintaining your brand identity–it’s important to get it right.
In order to maintain brand identity in email, it’s a good idea to create a set of unified email templates that can keep your design consistent for various types of messages. Here’s how:
Step 1: Create a list of the types of emails you send
The first step is to identify all emails that come from your company. Examples will range based on industry and focus, but here are a few to think about:
- Content newsletters
- Update newsletters or product updates
- Blog highlights
- Notices (like GDPR updates or privacy updates)
- Promotional emails
- Transactional emails (messages like receipts or sign up notifications)
- Automated series (onboarding emails, welcome emails, anniversary emails)
If you find yourself listing a bunch of one-off emails, like a Mother’s Day Sale, or Welcome Email, start grouping those together with other common types of email. You should end up with a handful of robust groupings that the rest of your emails can be categorized under.
Step 2: Create templates for each type of email
Now that you have a grouped list, it’s time to create some templates. Look through each category of communication and identify the elements that need to exist (e.g. two-columns, full-width banners, single item, multiple items in one column, etc.). Once you identify the needs, you can create templates.
The benefit of creating templates for each category all at once is continuity. You’ll be able to remember the style you made for welcome emails and inherit some of those designs into your newsletters or sales offers. Refer back to your design guidelines to make sure these templates are on-brand.
Step 3: Send emails from templates
Your categories are identified, your templates are made, and now every email you send will be consistent and on-brand. Operating from saved templates will also speed up the process of creating emails since you’re not starting from scratch each time.
4. Design consistently across digital marketing channels
Obviously, consistency is a huge component of brand identity, but it’s so important that it needs to be reinforced.
A large part of branding is meeting and informing your customer’s expectations when it comes to interaction with your company. As your brand becomes more identifiable, your audience will expect to see or read things in a specific way if it’s tied to your company.
This couldn’t be more true when it comes to design.
If you’re following your brand’s design guidelines, this key element shouldn’t be that hard—your designs should all be fairly similar. But it’s very easy to think about social media, website, product, and email to all be silos in the grand scheme of your digital marketing.
Instead, think of these channels as branches from a singular tree. Each branch has a different function, but is sprouted from the same center (your brand), and looks and feels similar from one branch to the next. This could mean using the same header image on your social media banners and your website or using the same set of colors in your emails that are on your blog.
5. Combine efforts across digital marketing channels
Yes, you should design consistently to enhance brand identity. But you should also think about how these digital marketing channels overlap.
The pairing of social media and email is a great example. While these are drastically different platforms, there are plenty of ways one can enhance or supplement the other. Take, for example, the method of following and signing up. If your emails point to follow on social, and your social accounts point to sign up for email, you could be doubling down on your efforts and creating a more unified experience.
Above is an example from photo editor VSCO highlighting a new preset pack via email and social. You can see similar language and photo tones as they promote across platform.
You can get more inspiration for combining social media and email in this infographic.
Brand identity can be a make-or-break experience for your customers. We’ve established how important it is to form your audience’s expectations and continue to deliver on those with your branding.
Begin implementing these key elements to not only maintain your brand identity but to strengthen it, causing your brand to stick in the minds of your customers and drive more engagement and sales.