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Perspectives on Branding and Identity from Franke+Fiorella
Issue No.44

Global Brand Identity Systems

As the world has become smaller through global expansion, we have seen and helped many organizations establish a consistent expression and common voice for their brand, worldwide. Organizations have relied on identity guidelines to reinforce the consistent use of their corporate logo or brandmark, but not always for their brand identity systems. This is changing.

As those who have developed them know, brand identity systems extend far beyond the consistent use and application of the logo. They incorporate defined color palettes, typography, graphic elements, imagery styles, layouts and templates for communications and writing styles to create cohesive systems that trigger emotional connections with their audiences and establish a unified presence.

While developing a global brand identity system does require investment, the benefits of a well-executed brand identity system are far-reaching and long-lasting. They include:

1. Consistency. Throughout the world, one consistent set of messages can be communicated and reinforced through the development of a common visual and verbal language. Examples of this in practice include Apple, BP, GE and 3M. All have established a common approach to communications that are immediately recognizable, even if the logo were to be absent. White outlined imagery and faceless, colorful people have become synonymous with Apple and feels cool/cutting edge; yellow and green bursts immediately conjure images of BP stations; and in the B2B world, richly layered montage imagery on a field of white is beginning to define 3M.

2. Efficiency. The use of templates and an established brand identity system enable communications to build on each other, reinforcing a common set of messages. Additionally, the use of templates for basic communications such as sell sheets, spec sheets and newsletters increases speed-to-market and the ability to achieve consistency without the investment needed to develop new design systems.

3. Stronger relationships. Brands are relationships between organizations and their audiences. Taking our cues from interpersonal relationships, brands must act appropriately in order to develop long-term, healthy relationships. They need to have a defined personality, be relevant and consistent. And, while not all people are trustworthy and dependable, a brand must be to survive.

A successful brand identity system helps brands achieve these criteria by enabling them to act consistently, which is a key component in developing familiarity and trust. An excellent example of this is ING Direct, a bank with more than 21 million consumers worldwide. It has built relationships online through consistent execution on a well-defined brand strategy. Other than the few internet cafes throughout the U.S. and the telephone, there are no personal relationships involved. Consumers do not have a banker in the traditional sense, nor is there a “brick and mortar” building consumers visit. Instead, ING’s customer relationships are defined almost entirely by the company’s communication with their customers – website, e-mail, advertising, promotion and regular correspondence. Consistency is the cornerstone of building familiarity, favorability and trust. ING has done it well.

So, what does a well-developed global brand identity system look like? In our experience, to be effective it must be:

1. Reflective of the brand strategy. The system needs to communicate the right messages both visually and verbally to support the long-term objectives of the brand, and ultimately the organization.

2. Flexible, adaptable and relevant. To enable regional customization with respect to imagery, color and local-language translations, global brand identity systems must be designed to allow for the expression of cultural nuances while maintaining overall visual consistency and reinforcing a common voice.

In these challenging economic times, all businesses are seeking ways to be more efficient. Establishing an effective global brand identity system is one way to achieve consistency, efficiency and strength.

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