Brand Image is in the Details
Dentists don’t often realize that their brand image is being abused on a regular basis. They look at the project in front of them and trust the designer that they are working with to do a good job. For example, they will often work with a local print company to create their letterhead. They build some envelopes and letterhead, and maybe a business card too. Each individual piece looks good, and they go together for the most part, but something might look a little off. Still, because they aren’t designers themselves, the dentist shrugs it off.
Then, a year later, there’s a local magazine that offers a great deal on a magazine ad. They offer to design the ad and everything. It’s a screaming deal. So the dentist says, “Sure, go ahead” and when the magazine company sends back the ad, they sort of tilt their head, maybe aware on some level that the ad doesn’t match their letterhead or quite project what their practice really focuses on, but they shrug it off again. After all, it was just a cheap little advertisement.
A year later, they build a website. The dentist is as far from being a web designer as you can get, and they try to save some money by hiring someone to build a down and dirty website based on a template. The web company asks for the practice logo, and the dentist sends them the business card that the local print company created. The business card has a glossy finish with shiny burgundy lettering. The web company translates this to a dark red version of the logo. It has the same words with a flowing font style, but no matter how hard the dentist squints, it just doesn’t look like the same thing.
The dentist calls up the website company and asks why the logo looks weird. They say that they did the best they could with what they received and that the dentist didn’t pay them to design a logo, so it is what it is. If the dentist has another version of the logo, they will gladly put that in the logo spot on the website.
Variations of this story happen all the time. It’s like the game of Telephone, where a message is passed around a circle, changing slightly or ridiculously along the way, but rarely ever coming all the way around without being distorted in some way.
Now imagine that the local print company, the magazine advertising people, and the website company all received the same logo files, with clear instructions on the colors to use, the fonts to use, and how the logo should be displayed. It’d be like going to each person in the Telephone circle, and whispering the secret phrase in their ear, then asking them all to repeat the phrase back on the count of 3. They’d get it, or at least there would be a much smaller margin of error.
A brand identity and style guide clearly describes all the details on how to maintain the integrity of the brand image. It even describes how NOT to use the logo: