Is this on brand?

“Is this on brand?” A question I’m asked a lot. I like the question because it shows the person is trying to do good work why not try these out. Unfortunately it can be a really difficult question to answer.

When evaluating if something is ‘on brand’ you need to look at a variety of factors, both tactical and strategic.

Strategically you need to ask does this make you feel like it’s produced by the company you represent. Does it sound like us? Does it look like us? Is it pitched at the right audience? Does it reach the quality we want to achieve? Does it serve the purpose? Does it make me feel something?

Then you can look at the details: Is the logo right? Is the URL right? The hashtag? Is that image from our picture library, if not, why not? Are our product names used correctly (or is there too much of a focus on the product name and not enough on the products benefit or use?) Are you using the right colors?

People often think of the Brand team as police ready to slap you on the wrist for using the wrong Pantone. They think it’s about the tactics. The real value is a brand team who partner and guide – who can help with the strategy.

Sure, tactics are important. A brand person should know the guidelines inside out. Be able to spot incorrect font use a mile away. But they need to be able to explain the strategy. Why we use our own font. Why we want to use our own imagery. Why you might be asked to change it to a slightly darker shade of blue.

They need to know what styles other companies are using. What the latest trends are. And what’s already over exposed. (To quote a colleague: once Weird Al’s parodied something, we should not be doing it!)

But a good brand person should be able to, at an early stage, guide and direct a piece of collateral to look and sound like the company. And if your brand is good it follows that your collateral should be good too.

Thousands of man hours and dollars go into brand research. Interviews with customers, partners, industry analysts. It’s been approved by your CEO, your CMO and sometimes your board. They want the company to look and feel a certain way because that’s how our customers expect us to.

So let’s stop asking if this is “on brand” and start asking how can we make this look and sound more like us? How can we make this deliver for our customers?