Maximizing Budgets with Identity Management

May 1, 2015

by W. James Forward

Everyone has their own tricks up their sleeve for how to stretch budgets to the absolute limit. Desperate times have called for desperate measures, and it's amazing how crafty we can be when things get tight.

But before you proceed on your pennywise path, consider the payoff of investing those precious dollars in self-evaluation, and help your company build a brand whose efficacy is effortlessly self-perpetuating.

It all begins with brand fundamentals and understanding that a brand is far more than just a logo. Instead, it's comprised of a complete set of attributes and tools, or "identity elements," that give the brand a unique identity.


Identity System Elements

  • Name - At the core of a brand identity is the name, outliving ad campaigns, tag lines, and even logo treatments. Descriptive names such as Intel and Quick Books work because they immediately suggest positive attributes, while key associations for coined names such as Kodak and Exxon have been crafted over time.
  • Logo - Almost all of the world's strongest brands have distinctive, memorable logos. For Chevrolet and Nike, the symbol has become so synonymous with the brand that the name does not have to appear for the correct identity to be communicated. These logos have gained value through constant and consistent usage over time.
  • Graphics - Some brands adopt specific graphic elements and/or styles, like Scotch Tape, which is easily identified by its distinctive plaid pattern. Graphics are also effective as a field for the application of color, enhancing impact and helping to visually organize complicated offerings.
  • Positioning Copy - Many brands have a tag line that creates positive associations. "Just do it" and "Melts in your mouth, not in your hands" are well-known slogans that communicate a basic strength or intended market position. These statements are the single best opportunity organizations and brands have to explicitly tell their audiences exactly what they stand for and why they should be preferred.
  • Imagery - Some brands choose to adopt particular image subjects and/or styles (either photographic or illustrative) to help create additional impact and meaning in their communications. Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren are all-American examples.
  • Type Conventions - Type/font is an excellent means for establishing a personality for a brand, and the selection of an appropriate font can help create an image that is formal, technically savvy, or fun and light-hearted. Such type conventions can quickly convey recognizable traits that often take time to build and are difficult to articulate any other way.
  • Colors - Color is one of the most immediate means to signal the presence of a brand. John Deere is green. Kodak is yellow. Apple is white. UPS is brown. A brand should have a standard color palette to make its identity more consistent and recognizable, while also offering the flexibility to organize and sort various offerings and communications.
  • Structure - Some firms have developed physical structures that have become symbolic of their brands. The Coke bottle is the most famous example. More recently, Apple's iPad physically expressed a company that "thinks different." Structure also presents opportunities to differentiate packaging and collateral from the flood of materials audiences see every day.

Collectively, these elements create the personality, voice, and heart of a brand. Once identified, the next step is to manage these elements systematically to earn your business the following hallmarks of an effective brand.


Brand Attributes

  • Impact - As the essential visual expression of a brand, the identity must clearly differentiate it from the competition. And to ensure your brand gets noticed in increasingly crowded selling environments, it must do so with impact, relevance, and appeal. Think Axe men's products -  a product that was developed to stand out and stir the the pot in a very complacent category. Bold packaging and racy ads helped give this product a real impact.
  • Memorability - If customers like a product or service, they want to be able to easily find it again and look for other choices from the brand. An effective identity features visual and/or verbal "hooks" and cues that enhance recognition, easing the effort required to recall and refer a brand. Yellow Tail wines are a great example -  easy to say, easy to remember, easy to identify in a store of understated labels.
  • Meaning - The core of a brand's strength lies in the perceptions it holds with the public. An identity system that communicates proprietary advantages and creates positive associations will help shortcut the effort required to build understanding and preference for a brand. The shampoo aisle is chock-full of self-explanatory "meaning" examples: Herbal Essence, Pantene Pro-V, Head and Shoulders.
  • Protectability - To ensure you maintain the brand equity in which you are investing, your identity must be unique enough to trademark and legally protect from infringement. Distinct visual elements (including graphics, colors, and images) must be used consistently to deter knock-off products and "me-too" competitors. The name Kodak in tandem with their trademark yellow are powerful tools used by the company to protect their innovations.


Maximizing Budgets

To maximize your return on marketing investments, the complete identity system needs to be executed consistently across all touch points -  packaging, advertising, collateral, web, point of sale, and even physical environments - managing the total message being delivered to your audiences, and orchestrating the entire portfolio of communications strategically, intelligently, and consistently. Such consistency will visually link impressions, enhancing and expediting the cumulative effect they have on consumer's awareness, recognition, preference, and loyalty. Of course, fewer impressions means fewer dollars spent.

On the development side, marketing templates and standardization techniques remove the need for constant costly reinvention and frees managers to actively identify strategic opportunities, mobilize, look professional, and land deals.

Through production, identity management also allows companies to select the right vendors and forge purposeful partnerships - people who know how to work within the parameters of your system to help you cash in on evolving equities.

But the real value of identity management comes into play when you marry it with your business strategy. Aligning these two mechanisms brings life to your brand internally as it becomes a powerful asset in achieving specific business goals.

For any kind of business person, the brand's identity system is your #1 sales tool. It's the visual shorthand mechanism that makes your ideas tangible, allowing others to understand and clearly conceptualize just what you're trying to achieve. Now that's priceless.

Brand Development by Design