James E. Laero marketing / communications / business development

ARTICLE: Use Your Image to Build Customer Comfort

When it comes to building your image, consistency is everything.

Business-to-business and consumer customers are creatures of habit. Customers buy-in when they are assured or comforted by whomever is marketing to them. Our human comfort level is reached when we “personally identify” with a product. Your image (identity or brand) is critical to gaining that customer comfort level.

Every business has a brand. Even if they don’t believe they do. Many small businesses don’t think much about branding, but that doesn’t mean they are not branding themselves to their markets. From mom & pop’s corner store to the Fortune 500 corporations of Wall Street, every company presents an image just by being in the market.

Branding is either something that occurs naturally or by design. When branding occurs naturally it is still branding but it is usually bad branding. If you stop for a moment and think on one small business in your community, what comes to mind first? What they look like of course; what their logo looks like, what their store sign looks like, how the store feels inside. The more professional their image, the more comfortable you are to buy from them and return to make more purchases. In today’s market more than ever a consistent clean image is critical to attracting and retaining customers and holding off the competition.

Build Your Identity Package
Many small businesses and corporations take the simple rules of image communication for granted. Do you have a company identity package in place? A small business, or corporate, identity package is the set of standards you use to communicate your image to the world. It is the foundation upon which you build to ensure a consistent visual presentation of your image and your message. When it comes to building your image, (your brand) consistency is everything. As previously stated, customers are creatures of habit. Your identity package should define exactly what your visual presentation will look like across multiple media platforms so that every time a customer, or potential customer, sees any of your marketing communication materials they immediately identify with you. This builds buyer comfort level.

At the very least your identity package should include: font standards, color standards, graphic layout standards, graphic resolution standards, file format and print standards. These standards will ensure consistency across the many platforms you will use to communicate your business message, such as; logos, letterheads, mailers, business cards, brochures, sales materials, packaging, catalogs, faxes, emails, website media, photography and videography.

Developing your identity package is a process best accomplished in partnership with a good Communications Design person who possesses the ability to combine your business communication needs with corresponding media design standards. If you already have a basic logo and color scheme for your business, a good design professional can produce a small business identity package, or a small corporate identity package, in a relatively short period of time. If you are starting from scratch, or wish to redefine your image, the process may take a bit longer. Here is a list of the key parts to an identity package that have the most impact on your image, and some basic advice on building each.

1. Color Standards
Keep your company colors to white (or black) backgrounds plus one or two other colors. Too many colors are distracting. A red logo on a white background seems simple but it is effective. Remember, you are trying to burn your image into your customer’s minds. Simple colors, especially with logos, are faster and easier to see and easier to remember. Also, keep in mind when choosing color standards that there may be instances where you may need to reverse a company logo, meaning that rather than a white background it may need to go onto a black background for certain media uses. In graphic design, colors are defined by numeric values. If you are a novice at design you can find a good online CMYK color chart to help you find the CMYK values for the colors you select at: http://www.december.com/html/spec/colorcmyk.html

2. Font Standards
Choose one font for your logo. Avoid choosing unusual fonts and custom designed fonts for logo unless you do not mind laying out unnecessary cash for design and redesign fees in the future. Choose one title font and one text body font for marketing materials and advertising copy. Do not mix fonts in a body of text. Do not use un­usual fonts in a body of text. Commonly used print fonts are: Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman, Franklin Gothic. Commonly used web fonts are: Verdana, Lucida, Arial, Helvetica, and Sans-serif.

3. Graphic Layout Standards
This involves applying standard measurements for your print materials: Distance from the top of the page for your logo. The minimum top, left, right, bottom margins on letters, brochures, white papers, etc. Border thick­ness or margins on images. This may seem insignificant but it is important to keep all of your image building tools in unison. If you are not sure of which measurements to use for each item contact a good Communications Design person or your local printer. But, as a rule of thumb for letters keep your top margin at 1/2” to 1”, your left and right margins at 1.25”. Keep your logo centered at the top and to the far left at the bottom. Leave .15” to .25” around images.

There is much more to the process of building a consistent image but these standards will get you on your way to communicating a comfort level to your customers.
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