How Flexible is your Brand?

How Flexible is your Brand?

June 2018 | Digital Marketing

Brand guidelines are often very strict. Yet there is still more room for mixing variety and consistency than many brands assume.

I've seen a lot of brand guidelines in my time. It's inevitable working agency side. Generally, they're pretty predictable affairs. You might occasionally get a brand whose guidelines aren't an enormously long PDF, but instead are the topic of an entire website. They all look as though the designer spent more time on the brand guidelines than anything customer facing.

As an agency staffer, I'm generally looking at 3 things from the brand guidelines:

  1. Brand Colours
  2. Brand Fonts
  3. Tone of Voice

Of these, Tone of Voice is merely useful, and can be worked out from the company website.

The rest is irrelevant to me, and exists only to indicate to designers which sections of the guidelines can be broken and which can't.

The Cardinal Rule

Then there is the one firm rule applied consistently across every brand I've worked with: don't mess with the logo.

Almost all brands devote the first dozen pages of their guidelines to introducing the logo, and a long list of restrictions about it's usage. Sure, this is important. Nothing upsets brand owners more than incorrect usage of their logo, and with good reason. The logo is the most visible mark of brand identity. It's the one thing that customers instantly recognise about you. Having a clear and unmodified logo across all marketing collateral builds a connection with the audience and proves ownership of the message.

But do brand guidelines really need to repeat all this stuff, given that they're virtually the same for all brands? If you've ever read a brand guidelines you'll know the score. Those dozen pages boil down to three things:

Permitted Variations

Then there's Lenovo. If you go to their website, the logo changes orientation and style depending on the screen size. On desktop, the logo is vertical. On mobile, it's horizontal. If you scroll on the page, it's replaced completely with a brand icon.

At least the colour is consistent. At all screen sizes the logo is red. Except when it's green, or blue, or orange. In the settings app on my laptop it's green. I'm led to believe that there are rules about which colour variation should be used when. However, I've not read the guidelines which detail the usage of each colour.

Logo variations are not a new idea, almost every brand has them. However, the sheer number of logo variations available to Lenovo is dizzying. The brand pages on their website include a zip file with 28 different logo variations. Plus a similar number of brand icon variations.

Brand Impact

The multiple variations don't seen to harm them. They're still a successful and instantly recognisable brand. I doubt your average consumer or corporate IT buyer would have trouble identifying them on the basis of variations in the logo colour. They might not even notice. Which raises the million dollar question. Is there a difference in conversion rates or email click rates as a result of the different colour schemes?

It's widely believed that colours do have an impact on brand perception, and thus conversion rates. There are plenty of studies which claim to prove them. If Lenovo do have numbers on this topic, I am curious to see them. I doubt we ever will. We can only judge this by whether they remove some off the logo variations from public usage.

Written by
Marketing Operations Consultant and Solutions Architect at CRMT Digital specialising in marketing technology architecture. Advisor on marketing effectiveness and martech optimisation.