Category Archive of brand identity

3 Ways to Know Your School’s Brand is Expired

When someone mentions expiration date, you might think of a carton of milk or eggs — not your school’s brand. But just like fridge staples, brands don’t last forever, and when you get a whiff of one that’s gone stale, well…it’s pretty obvious.

But how do you know?

We wish we could give you a concrete number that would communicate just how long your brand elements will last. For some schools, it’s five years. For others, a brand can last a decade or even longer before needing a revamp. It really all depends on your unique audience, your specific challenges, and any changes that take place within your school or community.

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5 Key Questions for Choosing a School Mascot

If I were to say to you, “Lions and tigers and bears,” you’d likely respond with “oh my!” and have a yellow brick road in your mind’s eye. However, if I were to say “Detroit Lions, Clemson Tigers and Chicago Bears,” you’d likely either growl or grin, depending on your loyalties. And your mind’s eye would likely picture an energetic mascot surrounded by crazy sports fans. 

I daresay everyone has a favorite mascot, whether it’s from a local high school, a collegiate team or the insurance gecko. A mascot is a visual representation of a group’s culture, and today, we’re talking about school mascots.

Source: North Star Marketing

Mascots should generate excitement and inspire loyalty from parents, alumni, athletes, middle schoolers, and kindergarteners. Fans should be proud to proclaim, “I’m a Hillcrest Raven!” because the mascot gives them a sense of belonging to a greater group. Read More

The Power of Pantone – How We Make Sure Your Brand Always Matches

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to land on the Moon. This historic journey required countless tasks of impressive intellect and skill, perhaps the most significant of which was simply not missing the Moon altogether. Four days before the monumental landing, the crew of Apollo 11 launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as the Earth orbited the sun at a speed of over 66,000 miles per hour, with the goal of ending up on the Moon, which was orbiting the Earth at over 2,200 miles per hour. It was like trying to shoot a quarter from a moving vehicle into the next county over. A miscalculation of just a single degree could mean completely missing the Moon and hurtling into the vastness of space. While one degree may seem insignificant at first, it can quickly escalate to wasted resources, diminished credibility, and a failed mission.

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The Difference Between a Good Brand and a Great Brand? Consistency.

Every company has a brand, whether they make it a priority or not. Simply defined, a brand is what people think about you – the impressions they have when hearing or seeing your name. In most cases your brand is reflected initially in your logo mark, then supported by your messaging. These experiences influence attitudes and opinions about your company, nonprofit, school, product, service, etc.

A good brand is built over time and requires thought, strategy and consistent implementation. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume you have a “good” brand, or at least the beginnings of one. But hopefully you want more than just a good brand.

To take your good brand to the next level, let’s take a look at a great one.

Coca-Cola is a great brand.

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In 2010, Coca-Cola spent $2.9 billion on advertising. By 2013, with a budget of $3.3 billion, their CEO began laying plans to increase that amount to $4.3 billion by 2016.

He called it “Brand Building Initiatives”

From the name to the logo, from the product to the messaging, everyone knows Coca-Cola. It has been said that “Coca-Cola” is one of the most widely recognized terms worldwide, eclipsed only by the word “okay.”

Interestingly, their logo has remained largely unchanged since the 1900s. The script font and classic red are recognizable all over the world, even when displayed in different languages. Even with a massive ad budget, the sheer scale of this branding phenomenon would be unsustainable without an unwavering commitment to consistency.

For Coca-Cola maintaining “brand consistency” is a strategic commitment that is in many ways just as vital to their success as their secret formula. In fact, exporting their messaging is so important to Coke that they spend more on branding annually than Apple and Microsoft combined – all so we, the consumers, will prefer their brand. This consistency extends across every medium, every advertisement, every package, every bottle, every aluminum can.

Does consistency matter to you and your brand?

I don’t know for sure, but I would guess that there are probably two rules at Coca-Cola that, upon being broken, would result in a very bad day for the offender:

  • Don’t change the formula.
  • Don’t change the brand.

I assume your marketing budget is slightly smaller than Coca-Cola’s. However, as you evaluate your brand – your logo, your messaging, your reputation – what can you learn from Coke’s commitment to consistency? Here are a few insights from this designer’s perspective to get you started:

  • Consistency helps you manage perceptions. By thinking carefully and deliberately about your brand you can shape how people perceive your organization. Consistency connotes professionalism, purpose and stability.
  • Consistency conveys your outlook and attitude. A focused effort to establish and maintain consistent branding will deliver a very specific set of impressions: Are you serious? Are you intentional? Do you follow through? Are you focused?
  • Consistency eliminates issues surrounding brand confusion. For many companies, their branding is actually more of a hindrance than a help. A consistent brand should instill confidence rather than engender confusion.
  • Consistency protects your investment. Without established brand standards, many organizations spend thousands of dollars crafting a logo and building a message, only to have it degraded by inconsistent, sloppy application. Build equity in your brand by being consistent.
  • Consistency builds upon previous successes. No one has to guess, “I wonder what this Coca-Cola will taste like?”

Bear in mind your brand is not for everyone. It’s intended to be effective with only a specific segment of the market. These are the people who value what your organization does, makes, delivers, etc. These people will sit up and take notice of organizations that value consistency. They care about the promises your brand makes to them. They make buying decisions everyday based on their perceptions of brand quality. For these reasons and more, it’s easy to correlate the significance of brand consistency.

“Draw the Coca-Cola logo,” I said.

I asked every member of the North Star team to draw the Coca-Cola logo as best they could from memory. I wanted to see for myself how well their investment in branding was paying off. The results were interesting.

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  1. I immediately knew which of my friends were artists and which were not. Clearly some do not have a future in graphic design whatsoever. (Don’t worry, we won’t let them work on any of North Star Marketing’s client logo projects…)
  2. Without exception, everyone knew and recognized the brand. No one asked me, “Now, who is Coca-Cola, and what do they sell?”
  3. Interestingly, despite a $3.3 billion budget and probably having seen the logo thousands of times, no one drew the logo perfectly (though, one was very close).
  4. The majority of people could recreate the brand in a fashion that was generally recognizable.

All of these responses are a direct result of intentional, purposeful brand initiatives. If consistency is that important to Coca-Cola, then surely we can learn some valuable lessons from this global brand that executes with remarkable precision.

A few helpful tips to help you maintain brand consistency:

  1. Don’t read “consistency” as “boring.” Do you think working on Coke ad campaigns is boring? Consistency actually paves the way to creativity with impact.
  2. Communicate to your team the importance of your brand. Start the conversation by asking them to name a few companies they admire and why.
  3. Create a “Brand Standards Guide” – the guidelines that map out how your logo, fonts, colors, tagline, etc. will be used. Make it visual with proper and improper usage examples. It has to be simple and easy to follow, or it won’t have the intended impact.
  4. Go through the Brand Standards Guide with your entire team and provide print and PDF copies for them to reference as needed.
  5. Provide access to the proper logo file types to anyone who needs them. Your team members shouldn’t be  recreating your logo on the fly.
  6. Hold your people accountable and retrain if necessary. It’s okay to appoint some team members to be the “brand police” who flag down offenses and keep the peace.

Consistency is a crucial step towards brand success

When something works well, you almost don’t notice it – sort of like the best referees. You’re so into the game that you can almost forget they’re on the court or field. However, when something doesn’t work, doesn’t fit, everyone feels it. It’s the same way with your brand. You can cause yourself and your team a lot of long-term problems simply by not paying attention to brand consistency.

So, protect your brand. Set in motion a structure for keeping it sharp and consistent. Value what it represents for your organization.

Coca-Cola’s tagline in 1993 was “Always, Coca-Cola.”

You don’t have to be in marketing (or spend $3.3 billion annually) to recognize the value and importance of that.

Does Your Brand Need Direction?

Designing, developing and managing a brand can be a daunting task. If you need help getting your brand in place or just need some direction, contact us North Star Marketing today. Our team of creative professionals can help keep your brand on the path to success.

My Business Comes Via Word of Mouth. Why Do I Need a Marketing Consultant?

Micah Fox - Business DeveloperIt’s true for nearly every company, school and nonprofit we work with: most of their customers (or students or donors or volunteers) come from positive word of mouth. In fact, it’s not even close. Word of mouth beats the socks off of paid advertising.

So, it’s worth asking the question: “Why do I need to market my business if almost all of it comes to me via word of mouth?” Working in sales, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that question over the last five years at North Star Marketing. It’s a valid question. But is it the right question? Read More

Rebranding Mebane – It Started With A Sign

watertower2It’s a strange to think of a city as a brand. There’s no storefront, no salespeople, no products on shelves. While you may not get a receipt, choosing a city for your home or business is one of the biggest “purchase” decisions you can make, and the greatest competition is the next closest mailing address.

Last year, Mebane’s city council set out to come up with a few new wayfinding signs, looking to polish the town’s curb appeal. The process started by developing a tagline to communicate what their city has to offer, but fully encapsulating an entire city is more difficult that it seems. Along the way, it became clear they were missing an essential piece of the puzzle… a logo. Read More

When Marketing Projects Expose Deeper Issues

Andy Lynch - PrincipalIt’s been several years ago, but I remember like it was yesterday a conversation I had with the Head of School at a small, private school in Greensboro, N.C. “We would like to talk to you about some public relations projects. We might freshen up the logo a bit,” she said. “There are a lot of misperceptions about our school.”

It was a conversation that sounded like so many others I have had over the years – a lack of clarity around the brand and the message. In this case, a private school focused exclusively on serving students with learning differences didn’t feel their story was really getting out into the local market. Read More

Strengthening Your Brand: Finding Your Voice Through Design

Bryan blogBranding is a curious word, an anachronism in our information age, commonly used but seldom explored. It reaches far into antiquity when ownership was recognizable by a mark, permanently seared into the surface of an object by means of glowing metal or fiery wood. Farmers and merchants; stonemasons and carpenters would each design unique visual symbols in order to identify their goods. Although our tools have significantly changed, the same practice continues today in what we continue to call branding.

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North Star Graphic Designer Creates New Logo for the North Carolina Cotton Producers Association

Q&A with North Star Senior Graphic Designer Rob McDorman and Development Manager Micah Fox (by Elizabeth Travers, Copywriter)

BURLINGTON, NC – (June 26, 2012) – Last week, we posted a link on our Facebook page to the newly designed website for the North Carolina Cotton Producers Association (NC Cotton). The link was fairly popular, so we’re following up this week with an article on the creation of the new brand for NC Cotton.

I sat down with Rob McDorman, the graphic designer who developed the new NC Cotton brand, and Micah Fox, the account manager for this project, to ask them a few questions about the design process for the branding project. Read More

Behind the Brand: Friendship Christian School

Friendship blogBURLINGTON, NC (July 19, 2013) – Friendship Christian School (FCS) in Raleigh, N.C., recently introduced a new academic logo, designed by North Star Marketing.

Administrator Ric Nelson initiated the branding process in January 2013 in an effort to standardize the school’s representation in the community, in promotional materials and internally. The new brand aligns the school’s visual presence with the superior educational value it has offered since the time it opened its doors in 1970. The brand standardization process also includes the design and implementation of a new athletic logo, which will be introduced for the 2013-2014 school year.

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