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Better Branding: Improve Your Company Image

Look at a dozen successful businesses and you’ll find they all have consistent branding in common. Coca-Cola, Fedex, AT&T and the rest have created images that you, the consumer, instantly recognize.

By combining a company name, logo, typeface and tag line to impart a unified impression, the big guys integrate themselves into our daily lives. This image is then driven home repeatedly using publicity, direct mail, print advertising, television, invoice stuffers, Internet banner ads…you name it.

Your marketing materials should provide an umbrella image, and should suit your personal style. An engineer I know writes everything using the Arial typeface – a sans serif typeface (i.e. it doesn’t have any of those fancy little pieces flying off the letters). Like him, the typeface is very straight and narrow. Alternately, a writer friend leans on French Script for his correspondence, feeling the fancy font has a bit of personality to it – much like he does.

Your company’s image speaks volumes about you, your product, and your service. High tech companies should leave a high tech impression. A shoe manufacturer might benefit from black ink on brown paper and a custom typeface where the letters all look like shoes. The options are only limited by your imagination.

Key to your umbrella image is the organization’s logo. It’s an image that instantly allows customers to identify your company, product and services. Like McDonald’s golden arches or the Nike swoosh, your company needs a logo reflecting your style of doing business.

That logo – as well as your company’s name, phone number, tagline and URL – should be pasted onto everything: Business cards; operations manuals; trade show booths; brochures; delivery trucks…the works. As the lead item in your corporate look, the logo constantly reinforces you in customer minds and, over time, is synonymous with your name.

A corporate image is important if you wish to be seen as a serious player. Consider the American Automobile Association, which demands that anything created for them must use “AAA Red”. They also have a three-inch binder full of rules and regulations for their designers and printers to follow. Address lines must be so many centimeters from the edge of the paper, and logos must be just so large for certain sizes of paper.

To ensure the same red is used by all vendors, AAA specifies its color from the Pantone Matching System – a system established to provide continuity between designers and printers, dictating how many parts cyan, yellow, magenta and black ink are needed to reproduce a color perfectly every time. Say “PMS 192” to any graphic designer or printer and they’ll all show you the same shade of red. And by combining their rules with the color system, AAA guarantees a consistent company look, whether letterhead is produced in New York or Los Angeles. Suppliers are expected to adhere to these rules without exception!

This may sound strict, but you’ll never see an AAA brochure in green. Their insistence on quality control helps maintain consistency and excellence.

If you just created a new brochure or catalog, design your stationery to have a complementary look. If you already have printed materials on hand that don’t coordinate, introduce the umbrella look with your next printing. Better yet, introduce your new look now, using the old stationery to pay bills and correspond with suppliers. They won’t care what your envelope looks like, so long as there’s a purchase order or check inside.

Finally, if you’re in startup mode, check out the matching pre-printed brochure shells, letterhead, business cards, and envelopes at the big box stationery stores. There are also online companies to be found with hundreds of other options if you Google “paper showcase.” Whatever style you decide to work with, keep it consistent across all your marketing materials. You’ll be amazed at how much more professional it makes you look.

Here’s the bottom line – There is no down side to having a consistent company image throughout your marketing materials. A uniform image gives you class and shows your company in the best possible light. It’s something that people who are serious about their business cannot afford to ignore.

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