When Is It Right to Ignore Your Brand Guidelines?
Brand guidelines are increasingly crucial for businesses.
Establishing a strong brand that people recognise has a vast array of benefits from working as a marketing tool and encouraging repeat business, to promoting loyalty in staff and setting standards for the way that your company operates.
However, there are times when it is preferable or even necessary to ignore brand guidelines.
Here we take a look at how brand guidelines can sometimes cause issues for your business, and when you should consider ignoring them.
Allowing branding to get in the way of conversions
Yes, it is essential to establish brand guidelines to stick to them to make your business recognisable and add value to the company's identity.
However, it is also important to remember that the goal of your website is to convert and make sales.
If your branding gets in the way of doing this, then it could be time to change things up.
For instance, many sophisticated brands have opted for a minimalist style on their site.
While this can be very visually striking and nod to the prestige of the brand, it can also make it harder to convert.
Specialists in conversion rate optimisation (CRO) often stress the importance of colour and the difference that it can make.
One popular phrase is ‘complementary contrast' in which a colour is chosen for a call-to-action button which stands out against the rest of the site, but doesn't clash or look ugly.
Case Study: Childsplay Clothing
Luxury children's clothing company Childsplay found that their site was not converting at the rate they wanted – but was initially reluctant to step beyond their brand guidelines to improve the situation.
“We were sceptical about changing the colour of our ‘Add to Bag' button from black and white,” says Moby Latif, Head of Business Strategy & Development at Childsplay “however, since making the button a brighter colour, the results have been excellent – we have seen a significant increase in conversions”.
Using your branding on other brand icons
One issue that can confuse brand guidelines is using the logos of other companies on your website or marketing materials.
One of the most common examples are social media buttons – such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – which are often placed on a site, email footer, or promotional material to encourage users to follow your brand on these platforms.
Many brands choose to stylise social media buttons to match their branding, but this is problematic for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, it is probably against the rules of using those logos – many large companies are strict on how their logo can be used.
Secondly, because those logos are more instantly recognisable in their original form and you are more likely to get people to follow you on these sites if you use the real versions.
You should avoid applying your branding to other, more famous companies.
Case Study: Joy
One example of this is clothing website Joy, which currently has five social media buttons on the footer of its homepage (including the no-longer-available Google Plus – but that's a separate issue).
All of the buttons have stylised to match the Joy brand guidelines, and while this might look good for the site – it makes them harder to distinguish, and less likely to be clicked.
When pushing a brand extension
Many businesses believe that when they expand their business into a new market, it is crucial to take branding with them.
While it can be useful to bring the power of the brand into the new area of the company, it can also confuse customers and could even weaken the brand as a whole.
Many reputable brands have struggled or even weakened themselves when trying to expand their business into something new.
Be very careful when you consider moving into a new area of business, and consider keeping the branding separate at least for a while to reduce confusion amongst your customers.
Case Study: Virgin
Richard Branson's Virgin Group is an example of an operation that has expanded into a massive range of marketplaces and taken the branding with them.
Of course, Virgin is a very successful business, but there have been many attempted brand extensions that have ultimately failed or cost the company money.
Branson himself admitted that he kept Virgin Megastores open for far too long because losing the brand presence in Times Square and Oxford Street would have made the business appear weaker.
This mistake would cost the Virgin Group a significant amount of money, with reports of the company haemorrhaging £260m in two years.