How to build an unbeatable brand toolkit

brand toolkit

Naming, tone of voice, logos, values and behaviours, signage, marketing material, websites and communication documents are all part of your brand.

Bringing them all together is the hard part. 

With multiple platforms and uses, each element of your brand is a puzzle piece ready to be put together to create one clear image to your audience. Your brand toolkit is your complete jigsaw. Your weapons room of effective tools to connect with your audience in a meaningful way.

Your toolkit allows you to be unique, to stand out and represent yourself to your audience, you’re their leader and you need to make sure that comes across in every single communication you have with them.

Digestible messaging

Whatever format they come in, communications are essentially messages. You need to use language and design that your audience understands. Keep jargon and BS terms away from your branding and speak in the language your audience uses but stay authentic.

KFC is a prime example of understanding your audience. Their advertising and messaging has evolved over the years to stay current, their “What the cluck?” campaign was banned by the advertising standards authority for causing offence. Causes offence to who? Those who it wasn’t intended to reach. The demographic and audience the campaign was aimed at got it. And that’s all KFC needed.

In order to get a message across sometimes you have to alienate groups who aren’t in your audience. Remember back in chapter five I said it’s good if not everyone gets what you do, this is why.

Be authentic to your brand and use messaging your audience connects with, forget about those outside of your audience. It’s not for them.

Perform a communication audit

Communications planning can be complex and time consuming, but without a plan in place your communications strategy is going to fall flat.

Before you start designing social headers, adverts and websites first map out all of the possible communications you’re likely to make as a brand to know which need to be added to your brand toolkit.

What channels are you going to communicate on? Will they be a mix of offline or online? What documents do you or your sales team need? What do your communications look like currently? Do they need updating?

Give your brand the tools it needs to serve your audience.

Your communications audit should bring together every single piece of literature and messaging you’ve sent out in the last 6 months. By putting all your content in one place you’ll soon see inconsistencies and areas for improvement.

Is the message consistent across all of the communications? Are you using the same tone of voice and language? Does imagery look consistent across all of the documents?

This might take some time but it’s a worthwhile exercise to ensure your brand is consistent online and offline. There is nothing worse to its audience than a brand that says and does different things, it’s a sure fire way to lose trust and loyalty.

Template your communication

If someone joined your friendship group and spoke differently every time you spoke to them you’d probably start hearing alarm bells in your head. The same goes for your brand, if you’re not communicating consistently with the same tone of voice and personality, your audience is going to start to lose trust in you.

The easiest easy way to produce on brand content every time is to template your communications. Have set processes and templates in place for different types of communications.

If you’re running a social advertisement, have a template in place that tells whoever is designing the ad where brand assets should be placed. Have content writing templates in place. Have a best practice example of each document to compare against once you’ve produced new material.

Visual document templates like poster design templates are great for saving time and being consistent. Having logos and formatting already templated within a document means one less chance for inconsistency.

If you haven’t already got brand guidelines, start working on them. Consistency is key to an impactful message. Depending on your role, you’ll likely be working with people outside of your brand whether it’s news publications, designers or web developers. Your guidelines are a set of rules for everyone who uses your brand to abide by, they allow you to protect your brand and keep it consistent wherever it’s used.

Take guidelines one step further and produce a brand manual, top brands like Nike use brand manuals to onboard new employees and suppliers to make sure they live and breathe the brand.

Consistent digital & print communications

Digital and print might be two completely different communication mediums but consistency is still key.

Things like colours will need to be tailored for on screen and print use, not all colours work well in print and not all colours can be shown on mobile devices because of screen capability and limited colour palettes.

A lot of brands struggle with bridging the gap between digital and print but it’s an essential job as a marketer. You need your audience to get your message and know it’s your brand communication straight away, whether they’re seeing it digitally or offline.

The power of design

Design says a lot about your brand. Effective design not only makes communication easier, it also builds trust. When your audience sees you have invested in design, they feel a sense of encouragement and trust that you’re a progressive brand.

Great design is at the heart of every successful brand and your brand toolkit. From product design to user experience design and graphic design. Brands like Adobe and Apple have centred their businesses around the power of design.

Design thinking makes communicating easier. Dieter Rams’ famous quote says “Good design is as little design as possible.” He’s not wrong. Most brands over complicate design and forget what it’s there to do. Design is a communication tool.

The fonts, colours and imagery you use communicate an image. Use design as part of your toolkit to deliver impactful messages with less words.

What are your moments of truth?

What is a moment of truth?

Capturing your audience’s attention is vital to the success of your brand. How long do you have to make an impact? This is an example of a moment of truth. You need to give your audience a reason to stick around in that moment or you’ve lost an opportunity to start a meaningful conversation with a potential customer.

Aftersales is often treated as an upsell opportunity in business – what else can we flog you while we’ve got your attention – but it’s often forgotten as part of a communication strategy.

Customer service is part of your toolkit

When we think about customer service, we usually think of call centres and people sat managing social media support handles on Twitter.

Customer service interactions are also part of your communication plan. How do you speak to your customers? How do you respond to queries on social media? The way we respond to feedback and questions tells your audience a lot about what sort of brand you are, it forms part of your brand toolkit. A way of showing your customers who you are.

When something goes wrong, it’s okay, nobody is perfect. However, marketing and the business as a whole needs to take responsibility and learn from mistakes.

Successful marketers take responsibility for delivering on the brand’s promise from start to finish of a customer journey. Marketers must take responsibility and make sure all customer touchpoints match with ethics and deliver on their audience’s expectations by being responsive and proactive.

Being honest with your brand

Consumers are more trusting of brands that are open and honest. Consumers like brands with personality, ones they can connect with on a meaningful level. By being honest about where you’re at, you seem more human.

At an event recently I heard about one sustainable cosmetics company’s struggle to find a non plastic alternative to its shampoo bottles, they had tried cardboard but it kept disintegrating and other environmentally friendly options just weren’t feasible for their size of business at the moment. By being honest and sharing the process of trying to find and test alternatives, people are much more forgiving and buy into the journey the brand is on towards achieving their purpose.

Two of the biggest weapons in your brand toolkit should be honesty and transparency. They’re extremely valuable assets.

The power of repetition

At the time of writing this book, it is election season in the UK. Tag lines are in full swing and the party lines are being wheeled out like the karaoke machine at Christmas.

Why do they do it? It’s often said in marketing that someone must see or hear a message 7 times before it sinks in. That’s 7 times of hearing the dreaded meaningless election taglines before they get stuck in your head.

Whilst it might be annoying and frustrating, repetition and frequency of messaging are important in communications. Sending out one email or social media post isn’t going to land your message. You need to use repetition.

Having said that, it’s important to know when enough is enough. Having an armoury of messages and ways to communicate is essential, but move away from taglines and move towards a diverse brand toolkit.

The easiest way to communicate with your audience is to live your brand purpose, as every decision and action your organisation takes sends a message to your audience. Make sure that message aligns with your brand, its reason for existing and your audience.

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