In the past year, a number of blog posts have broached this concept that “branding is dead.” While content may be king, this trending topic is ridiculous. Yes, the days of slapping a logo on display ads are done — but they have been for quite some time. Perhaps we’ve lost sight of what “brand” truly means. A brand identity is what defines your purpose for existing in the first place. It is not just your logo. It is everything from how you communicate, to where and when you communicate, to who you communicate with. So, with the explosion of content marketing and social media, a buttoned-up brand is now more important than ever.
Brands have acquired massive social followings. But with great followings comes great responsibility. Marketers now have a responsibility to not appear sloppy, inconsistent and thoughtless. This means that leading brands will always need to consider how their blogs, websites, social media channels, and content will be received by their advocates.
Let’s take our friends at Pepsi, for example. They have transformed their brand through incredible content, and I’m not just saying this because we power their homepage. What is so impressive to me is how their brand is woven into everything they do. Every visual post that peppers their website and Facebook page aligns with the pop-culture references that are at the core of their brand identity. The photographs are colorful and loud. The articles are laden with celebrity endorsements and fan showcases. And, everything is updated in real-time because Pepsi has placed their brand on the pulse of pop culture. The results? Affinity for the Pepsi brand and global recognition! Isn’t this what every brand dreams of achieving? After launching their new, content-rich homepage, Pepsi saw a 2700% increase in social referral traffic. This is way more than most companies dabbling in content marketing, and the reason can be attributed to global recognition, existing brand affinity and desire for pepsi content.
Take General Electric as another example. Of course I couldn’t write something without mentioning these guys. They have crafted a distinct visual style, which is carried across every single thing that they do. They use clean, compelling photographs that elevate their products as if they were works of art. Their brand identity almost resembles the New Museum or MoMA. While content nurtures an emotional human connection with the company, it is the marriage of branding and content that positions them as a category leader. It is the reason that you think of GE every time you see a compelling image of machinery or a scientific GIF.
So, how can you marry content and brand? Get started with these three steps:
1. Create in-depth brand guidelines
Your brand guidelines should not just be a style guide, and they shouldn’t only work for your design team. Every set of brand guidelines should standardize a company’s messaging, brand voice, grammar guidelines and design principles. All content marketing, and everything that you do, should follow these guidelines.
2. Embrace templates
Create standards for content. For example, creating a template for Facebook posts and creating a template for white papers. Not only will this minimize your production timelines, but it is really helpful in keeping your brand consistent.
(Do you think this was a happy accident? I think not.)
Content should be collaborative. Your community manager, content marketing manager, brand manager, and designer should all be a part of the creation process. By doing this, you form a human brand filter that provides a gut check for the content that is created.