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The Importance of Brand Collateral

In the first two parts of our series on brand strategy, we gave some tips on how we tend to create the messaging guidelines and visual identity systems involved in brand development. Those steps typically result in internal documents that inform product positioning—or defining where your business fits in the market and how to communicate your worth to your audience. The higher the perception of that worth, the greater your brand value. So how do you ladder those aesthetic guidelines up into brand collateral that feels unified yet agile enough to work across a range of formats, from logos to banner ads to business cards? Read on to find out.

Defining a Brand Strategy

The phase of distributing collateral should only arise after you’ve built the brand—finding your why, tightening your positioning statement, concepting your logomark suite, and agreeing on your imagery and graphical elements. A lot of that work is in the bailiwick of the creative department, but you’ll also need to tap the expertise of the strategists and the metrics people, the professionals who make it their job to have a bird’s-eye view of the market and know where these assets should be placed in the world. Brilliant as your copy and design may be, if no one sees them—or if people who aren’t your customers see them—then they’re effectively worthless. (From a numbers perspective, at least.)

Think of those internal documents that we said were the end-result of the first two stages of the brand development process—pinpointing the words and the visuals—as something akin to an instruction booklet. They provide the marketing teams with a set of directions on how to communicate, which comes in handy when twenty writers and designers and brand managers are working across a bevy of channels. Someone’s on social, someone’s in PR, someone’s doing paid ads, someone else is handling a print brochure. These people need to understand the larger purpose of the strategy, which each piece of collateral should support. Without that sense of continuity threaded throughout all of the creative assets, your brand may slip away from you, and you’ll end up babbling at the market in twenty voices—generating clatter and cacophony that’ll probably confuse customers and lose business.

Mastering Product Positioning

When people hear the phrase “brand collateral,” they often think of traditional media like one-sheeters and white papers. But brand collateral could refer to anything. Videos, websites, landing pages, Twitter posts, sponsored bike races—it’s all brand collateral, which is just the advertising vehicle to reach your audience. Once you know your brand communication strategy, the step that lies before you is to position your product or service through external messaging that conveys a cohesive brand personality.

“Cohesive,” by the way, is not the same as “inflexible.” Personalities change, even though, as the truism goes, people stay the same. Apply that adage to a brand like KFC. Colonel Harland Sanders opened his first restaurant in Corbin, Kentucky, in 1930. Today, KFC operates over 24,000 outlets in 145 countries; in that time, its brand image has changed substantially. The logo has shuffled around, true, but the collateral is even more versatile than that. Actors from Norm Macdonald to Rob Lowe to Jason Alexander have played the Colonel. He’s also been portrayed in a soap-opera mini-movie (A Recipe for Seduction). And he’s even shown up as the heartthrob in the KFC-commissioned dating simulator, I Love You, Colonel Sanders! 

Yet it could be argued that KFC’s core graphical elements have stayed consistent throughout these iterations. Whether he’s in a Lifetime movie or a Super Bowl ad, the Colonel is still silver-haired and donning a cravat and a red apron—remaining the instantly recognizable icon no matter how the brand evolves.

Increasing Brand Value

Here’s one more reason why brand strategy—including messaging, visual identity, and brand collateral—are so important: They boost your brand value. Before the Big Bang of mid-century advertising, the worth of any given company was usually staked on the value of the products and services that it provided. But now we live in the era of brands, which can command huge asking-prices but still often remain nebulous concepts, since gauging their equity can involve marketing abstractions like customer loyalty and perception. Perhaps the most straightforward way to measure brand value is to ask other businesses what they’d pay for your brand. Suss through the figures, arrive at an average, and that may be close to its fair market value.

But the point here is that all the pieces of collateral that you create—the headlines and the color palettes and the types of photography, even the abstruse effect that a brand has on our subconscious—they all add up. They expand brand awareness, establish a positive customer experience, even turn your company from a niche or small-scale operation into a cultural icon (whether he’s a kindly Bluegrass cook or a salt-and-pepper-haired cad). Sales are vital. Market caps are paramount. The bottom line is the bottom line. But a messaging and visual identity that consolidates into a relatable brand will do immeasurable behind-the-scenes work for you—one piece of collateral at a time.

You’ve reached the terminus of our three-part blog series on brand strategy. We love talking about brands, so reach out today if you want to talk about yours.

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