Consistency in Documentation and branding
This paper considers the importance of documentation and formatting as a part of creating and maintaining a strong brand identity. In particular it reflects on the effort involved in making sure that documentation is consistent, and that legacy documentation in Microsoft Word for example is included.
Identity and branding
Successful organisations recognise that creating and maintaining an identity forms a vital part of the value perceived by others. This identity should normally be based on a set of values that distinguish the organisation from others.
This is then related visually to a set of images and other stimuli in order that the customer, prospect, user or other interested party associates particular messages with the organisation. This whole is termed brand, and there are numerous companies which support and assist organisations in defining the images and appearances that will help reinforce the values sought.
"A strong brand position means the brand has a unique, credible, sustainable, and valued place in the customer's mind. It revolves around a benefit that helps your product or service stand apart from the competition." Scott Davis,
Elements of Brand identity
An organisation undertaking brand development needs to consider its own strategy, the strategy of any competitors and the likely customer reactions when trying to develop a distinctive identity that resonates with the customer.
Some really innovative brand research has been derived from Lindstrom and his "Brand Sense" concept. The constructs of his theory are that Sensory branding:
u Stimulates your relationship with the brand
u Allows emotional response to dominate our rationale thinking
u Offers different dimensions of a single brand
u Helps achieve a strong, positive, loyal bond between brand and consumer so the consumer will turn to brand repeatedly
u Assists emotional engagement, so there is a match between perception and reality
The essence of Lindstrom's work lies in what he terms the "Six Sensory Steps." These include (1) sensory audit, (2) brand staging, (3) brand drama, (4) brand signature, (5) implementation, and (6) evaluation. Through this discovery method, an organization can unveil aspects of its current offering or find new avenues to exploit. This process, according to the author, will enhance brand loyalty and deepen existing relationships.
The Step that is of most relevance here is the "brand signature" those elements which when combined provide a unique combination indicating the organisation. This part maps onto the actual deliverables of a traditional branding exercise which will consist of elements which provide sensory signals to a customer. Thus visual signals such as colours, images and logos are a primary part which may be supplemented in some cases by sound, touch, smell and taste signals ( e.g. retail / leisure organisations ). According to Lindstrom the best brands will have elements that exist in their own right, and recognition can be triggered by one element on its own.
In this context it is worth observing that not all of these stimuli are available at the same time. For instance a professional organisation may be restricted initially to visual signals ( advertising, documentation, flyers ) with other signals only forming part of the customer experience at a later stage ( e.g. during visits to offices ). For documentation the elements should include not only a logo but also the typefaces and layout to be used within reports and a Microsoft Word Template is often included as an attempt to ensure that their documentation reflects the results of the branding exercise. Sadly as we will see below this often proves insufficient.
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