05 Mar Does My Financial Branding Need Brand Guidelines?
Your financial brand is a valuable and – dare we say it – fragile asset. All of your communications, messages and interactions between yourself and your target audience need to be consistent, attractiveness and compelling.
Your perception and reputation hang on this dynamic, so it’s little wonder IFAs and other financial firms are anxious to protect their financial brand. That’s where brand guidelines enter the discussion.
Essentially, brand guidelines for financial firms contain your “corporate identity.” They outline clearly what your style, voice, look and feel are. This establishes a solid framework for you and your staff to work within, which enables all of you to communicate consistently and effectively with your prospects and clients regardless of the medium (email, social media, direct mail etc.).
However, it’s important that financial branding guidelines aren’t used as some form of straight jacket. On the one hand, they provide your personnel a set of appropriate rules so they can speak the same language. At the same time, these rules need to be flexible enough to allow your brand to “breath”, grow and develop over time.
The Benefits of Brand Guidelines In Financial Branding
As mentioned above, brand guidelines paint a clear visual picture for your prospects and client base. Design consistency provides a sense of comfort, familiarity, stability and professionalism to your target audience. It’s interesting how something seemingly as small as an inconsistent font can disturb people (e.g. sending a letter to a client in one font, but emailing them in completely another one).
Consistency promotes a sense of stability. People come to know what to expect when they experience your brand and communicate with you. This, in turn, facilitates trust in your brand, staff and services.
Eventually, when enough trust has been built, this can then lead to advocacy – which allows you to grow your business and revenue streams. People at this stage may even be willing to pay a premium for your services over your competitors. Such is the power of financial branding, done well.
A member of our team recently went for a private health check, and had an awful experience. They were passed from one person and department to another, costs were not clearly communicated, and different people seemed to be saying different things, in different ways, throughout the process. Needless to say, our colleague felt let down and certainly did not become a brand advocate of the business in question!
Brand guidelines for financial services allow businesses to promote clarity over their services, their brand values, unique selling points and value proposition. This builds trust and advocacy in the longer term, and client satisfaction and loyalty in the shorter-medium term.
Ultimately, financial brand guidelines saves time for you and your team. No longer do you need to waste time trying to figure out which logo, font or imagery to use for your letterhead, client services folder or email campaign. It’s all there in your brand guidelines, accessible to everyone, from the beginning.
What To include In Financial Brand Guidelines
The precise elements to include in your brand guidelines will vary according to your business size, the design contents you have at your disposal, and your brand goals. At a minimum, they should include:
- Colour palette
- Typography (fonts)
- Logo (specifications and usage guide)
- Brand message, spirit and values
However, a more expanded version of financial branding guidelines can also include:
- Company signage
- Email signatures
- Imagery and photography
- Website specs.
- Stationery designs and templates
- White space and positioning
- Co-branded elements
- Sub brands
- Tone of voice and copywriting
How To Create Brand Guidelines
Working with a financial branding agency, you can begin the process of designing your guidelines by strategically-mapping the elements most appropriate for your financial branding. A crucial part of this process will involve reviewing your current brand collateral – both old and new – and from there devising a flow chart / mind map showing all of the elements you use.
At this point, it might be helpful to amalgamate these different brand materials into one document. This could comprise photographs and screenshots of your current brochures, logos, stationery, email signatures and more. This allows us to see how consistent your current brand and collateral are.
Once these are all in full view, it is often clear to IFAs how inconsistent their brand is, and how helpful having financial branding guidelines therefore will be!
From here, we can then design the appropriate design elements which need updating. It might be, for instance, that your financial logo is strong but your brochure and stationery need a lift.
Once this work is completed, putting the brand guidelines together is actually quite straightforward. Similar to before, the updated brand elements are gathered together and designed into a beautiful, strategically-laid-out document which you and your staff can easily access and read.