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Brand Recognition: Do you know who you want to be when you grow up?

April 24, 2012

Today’s post is courtesy of Mark Guarino of Guarino Design Group Inc. and Jennifer Shelby, CPSM, account director for Rhino Public Relations. Have a question? Just e-mail them at or, respectively. (  |

In our line of work, it’s nearly impossible to avoid hearing the word ‘branding’ bandied about. We all have a general sense of what it is and what it means. But, that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily easy to convince the people with the purse strings why it’s crucial to the perceived value of a business.You know who you were in high school: prep, jock, geek, Goth… the list, unfortunately, goes on. What you wore, how you spoke, and who you hung out with ‘branded’ you with these labels. They built your identity, for better or for worse, and that was who you were to those you first met. Perceptions can be changed, but a first impression is just that. It’s very hard to alter the way people view you, and it takes a lot of work on your part and theirs. This is why branding is so important to our business.

Put yourself in a client’s shoes. Two proposals come across his desk. One is visually appealing, has coordinating tabs, covers, and stationery, is organized well, and uses a style guide throughout. The other is more organic: no tabs, several different fonts, a cover without any unifying elements, and too many logos to identify the prime. The organic firm may be more qualified, but the first firm seems more professional, organized, and capable. This is the power of branding.

Branding, also known as a corporate identity, is much more than just a logo (although a logo is part of a corporate brand). It encompasses all manners in which you represent your firm, including visual presentation, culture, philosophy, strategic messaging, and community involvement, and it doesn’t evolve overnight. Branding takes time, persuasion, input from multiple resources, and, ultimately, leadership and staff buy-in.

A graphic standard is the foundation of a brand, and components include the logo; corporate fonts (preferably one sans-serif and one serif); a complementary palette of colors that can be used throughout a wide range of media; and a stationery package, among others. Most importantly, a corporate identity must include guidelines or standards for the systematic application of the logo and other graphic communications. These standards may include the orientation of your materials, the consistent use of typography, where you place logos on a page, the grid used, and how you utilize images and white space.

Standards define the elements of a branding program and apply to business papers, such as stationery; marketing collateral, such as presentation folders, brochures, direct mail, and holiday cards, etc.; sales materials, such as proposals and interview presentations; environmental graphics, such as building signs, vehicle signs, trade show booths, and construction banners; digital media including web site, e-mail marketing, e-mail signatures, computer graphics, presentations, and social media; and staff apparel worn on a job site or at a trade show.

By now, like it or not, we’re all grown up. To be successful we not only need to know who we are inside, but those we encounter need to have a good idea of who we are and what they are getting when they hire us. Of course, our work speaks for itself, and that is the ultimate expression of brand, work ethic, and professional reputation. In order though to first get in the door, and make a lasting and positive first impression, an investment in branding will go a long way. Because like it or not, you really can judge a book by its cover.

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