Branding: Why Bother With Brand Standards?

Brand Standards

Recently, McKnight’s Senior Living reported that there is an oversupply of senior housing, resulting in almost $20 billion in capital that is not earning returns — and this trend doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon. What does this mean to you and your senior living community? It means the senior living market is getting crowded. Since seniors now have seemingly endless choices, they need help finding the community that fits their specific needs. But you can’t assume that your next resident will just find you and move in. You need to communicate to them where you are, what you offer and what makes you different and unique — you need to communicate your brand.

Without a brand, and brand standards to keep that brand and your business’ messaging consistent, you run the risk of confusing your audience and, worst of all, getting lost in the crowd.

Branding is more than your name and logo.

When it comes to advertising and marketing, it’s much easier to effectively reach your audience when you’ve already established who you are. For your audience to know who you are, they need to know and recognize your brand. Myth buster: your brand is much more than just your business’ name and logo. Sure, your logo is part of your brand, but there’s a lot more to it: voice and tone, colors, images and photos all work together to convey your business’ message.

That said… your logo is important.

The reason most people use “brand” and “logo” synonymously is because a logo anchors a brand. Considering this, it’s important to have a powerful logo — one that looks good across media channels. Establishing a set of rules for how your logo is used is important for maintaining its integrity. Have you ever seen an ad where the logo looks stretched? Or maybe you could barely see a business’ logo because it was placed over a busy photograph? Those branding faux pas happen when someone’s not paying attention to brand standards. Sloppy use of your logo and inconsistency in branding across channels conveys that your company isn’t professional, and who wants to do business with a company that’s not credible?

Voice and tone: don’t lose them in translation.

You need to communicate your brand values through a distinct voice and tone. The message you send in ads, brochures, radio spots and on your website needs to sound like it  came from the same place — a place your audience recognizes and has learned to trust. Seniors are looking for a community that matches their lifestyle and needs, so you want them to know who you are and that you’ll be a good fit for them in the long run. They can’t make that decision if you’re not consistent with the messaging you deliver.

What many don’t realize is that your business’ voice and tone have a look — and that look should adhere to your brand standards. It’s often too easy for your staff to get carried away when it comes to using all those fun-looking fonts in Microsoft Word. The type and fonts used to create your collateral are just as important as what you say. Establishing a clear set of guidelines and rules for how to use type will help your team maintain brand standards when they create the collateral used to represent your community.

Color: it’s not up for discussion.

Everyone has an opinion when it comes to color. Some people may love the color orange, some can’t stand it. Let the battle begin — better yet, stop the battle before it starts. Creating a color palette for your brand takes subjectivity out of the equation. Choose colors that align with your values and messaging, and be strategic. The colors assigned to your brand should go beyond the ones used in your logo. You should have a set of primary colors that can be used in most situations, but it’s also nice to have a secondary set of colors. This gives your brand flexibility and keeps those who design collateral for you from going rogue because you didn’t give them enough options.

Images and photos: avoid a free-for-all.

This is a big one. Someone could have a field day picking photos from a stock photography website when tasked with creating a postcard. We know — been there, done that. Do you want a photo of a senior who looks sad, tired or grumpy? Do you want an illustration of a senior wearing goofy pajamas? Consider your brand and select images that convey your brand standards. If your brand is associated with luxury and class, maybe don’t pick that illustration of a senior wearing goofy pajamas. Always consider your brand values and make sure that your designer adheres to brand standards and uses the same photo and illustration style for all of your marketing pieces.

When it comes to branding, consistency is key.

Once you have brand standards, make sure you communicate them to all of your team members. Everyone, from marketing director to receptionist, should know your brand’s look and voice. Brands are communicated from the inside out — you need your whole staff to thoroughly know and understand your brand if you want the public to recognize it, because your team will be the one spreading your word.

And if you hire a designer or agency, definitely send them a copy of your brand standards. Creative people are just that — creative. If you don’t give them a clear set of guidelines, they’ll almost always color outside the lines.

Establishing a strong brand (and that includes cementing those brand standards!) is the foundation for building a smart advertising and marketing strategy. If you don’t already have a strong brand, now is a great time to review your brand standards and update them if necessary; and if you don’t have a brand at all — time to hit the drawing board.

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