Although logos are generally considered the entirety of a company’s brand, they are actually really more of the tip of the iceberg. A well-designed logo is important, but a brand’s visual identity includes much more. If you are contemplating a brand redesign, consider how a more holistic approach can add value and longevity to your overall brand.
Your logo is only the beginning
Your logo and visual identity system go hand-in-hand. A strong logo makes it easier for your target audience to recognize and remember your brand. But a less cohesive visual identity system can undermine a good logo. Since a logo (even a great one) is only part of your overarching brand, it can be equated with a poorly articulated visual identity.
What is a visual identity system?
A visual identity system is a collection of graphics, colours, fonts, icons and imagery that includes your logo in your brand guideline. When used and deployed consistently, these guidelines become the visual identity associated with your brand. Your logo is the first impression your audience sees, while your visual identity system is the personality behind your brand and logo that reinforces your message. Read about the importance of creating clear brand guidelines.
Best practices for creating a resilient visual brand identity
To ensure your brand is resilient over the long term, here are a few tips from Ext. Marketing’s creative team:
- Do some upfront work
• Brainstorm with your internal team to share your company’s vision and what you are hoping to achieve by creating a strategy document.
• Research logos and visual identity systems that you like (and why) to guide your creative team.
• Look at competitors and other creatives to see how they are being perceived compared to how you want to be seen.
- Bring ideas back to the strategy document
• The first step in creating a logo starts with a meeting between you and your designers. Before the designers can visually represent the brand; they need to understand your organization’s vision and personality.
• If you want a logo that stands the test of time, think beyond immediate timeframes, and focus instead on where you want to be in five years.
• Your logo’s value should address all key strategic elements.
- Try to avoid design fads
Some recent trends in design include “retro” concepts or gradients that might look great now, but they could quickly date your brand.
- Accessibility is key
People need to clearly see your logo. How discernible is it? Does it stand up with contrast checkers, across all mediums? Read more about the importance of accessible design.
Time for a redesign?
If you think your visual identity does not ideally encompass your brand personality, strategy, or your company has evolved and your logo is no longer an accurate representation of your company, this might be the right time for a redesign or refresh. This is especially true if your logo looks dated, or if there are technical issues and it doesn’t perform well either digitally or in print.
Although you can choose to completely redo your logo, a thorough logo or visual redesign could mean you’ll lose your hard-earned brand equity and recognition. You might want to do a refresh to elevate your logo, rather than a complete redesign. Or you might keep the logo as-is, and update the visual identity system for a brand refresh (while maintaining your brand equity).
Brilliantly designed marketing material – whether it’s a brochure, website, pitchbook or anything else – doesn’t just happen. Developing stunning visuals that truly differentiate brands requires design thinking, or a strong methodology for developing creative ideas.
Whether you are an emerging manager kickstarting your brand or an established firm ready for a redesign, Ext. Marketing is the financial services marketing and brand consultant that can help your investor-focused brand succeed long-term. Contact us today at email@example.com to get started.
Is your language opening or closing doors?
The words you use and the way you communicate is a personal choice. Your brand voice has considerable influence on your marketing strategy. Increasingly, marketers recognize the currency of inclusive language and its power to make a positive impact on a wider range of audiences. But what is inclusive language?
At its core, inclusion is about recognizing that your potential customers comprise diverse groups of people. In content creation, inclusion respects diversity in all forms, including ethnicity, gender identity, religion/spirituality, physical/mental ability and more. If your brand doesn’t convey a sense of inclusivity, you may inadvertently exclude some audiences. Millennials and Generation Z, with their substantial spending power, have done much to accelerate the inclusive language movement.1
Why it matters
Language is powerful — it can deepen and strengthen relationships, or it can confuse or even cause avoidable harm. Inclusive language encompasses words and phrases that can spark conversations with new clients and unlock valuable doors. Deloitte, Boston Consulting Group and Harvard Business Review research shows the same truth. Is your language tapping into that relationship-building potential?
Evolve with your customers
What’s great about language is that it’s flexible, expressive and evolves over time. Ultimately, we understand the bottom-line value of keeping pace with changing demographics and preferences. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary added 370 new words in 2022 and suggested that when many people use a word in the same way over a long enough period, that word becomes eligible for inclusion.
Make it a brand practice
Everyone’s brand is unique. By considering how inclusion fits into your brand, you’ll expand your reach and visibility into the future, earning audience loyalty and trust. The key is to make inclusive content an ongoing process that adapts with your stakeholders and audiences.
Ways to make language more inclusive
You might want to start with ensuring your marketing materials, websites and all your other assets reflect the varied population and voices around us. Here are some inclusive language options to consider:
Use plain language versus jargon
- Rather than “piece of cake,” say “straightforward,” “easy” or “simple”
- A phrase like “in light of” turns more succinctly into “because of”
- We are not “in the loop” but we “are aware”
Pay attention to pronouns
- According to The Associated Press Stylebook, it’s preferable to refer to a person as “they” instead of “he” or “she”
- Rather than “man” or “woman,” use “person” or “individual”
- It’s not “his” or “her” document, but “their” document
Put everyone in the picture
- Make sure your images and emojis include a wide cross-section of people and groups
- Consider using both colours and labels in design for people who can’t distinguish hues
- On websites, use both images and text so that everyone gets the message
Adopt gender-neutral family labels
- Use “parent” or “guardian” versus “mom” and “dad”
- Replace “husband” and “wife” with “spouse” or “partner”
- “Pibling” has become popular when referring to aunts and uncles (stands for parent’s sibling)
Be mindful of accessibility-inclusive language
- Commonplace expressions like “turning a blind eye” could be perceived as insensitive
- A person is “hard of hearing” rather than “hearing impaired”
- Rather than “wheelchair bound,” a person “uses a wheelchair” to assist with mobility
It’s a good idea for companies and their brands to craft their own approach toward using inclusive language to create messages that resonate with each audience segment.
Interested in learning more? Let Ext. help you integrate inclusive language so you can connect with more people, communities and opportunities. Contact us today at 1.844.243.1830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your company’s tone of voice is an essential component of your brand strategy, so how do you communicate it? Achieving brand recognition isn’t simply about visual representations, logos or even targeted messaging. It’s also about the way you speak and deliver your message. Have you developed a recognizable tone of voice?
If you’re talking to your customers in digital spaces, you have likely already embraced the power of your website. It’s your conversation tool. But how well does it convey your brand? Don’t underestimate the emotive appeal your tone can deliver. Many of us might think tone of voice is intuitively addressed in our messaging. But more often, it’s an approach not fully explored.
Why tone is important
Tone of voice is essentially the way you express your feelings or mood to your readers. It is not just about the words you use; it’s how you weave in your personality. It reveals the way you think about a subject, and the better you are at exuding your personality, the more you can influence readers and help them deepen their relationship with your brand. Ultimately, the goal is to connect with your reader based on a shared and receptive understanding of who you are and the value you represent.
Breaking it down
On a superficial level, discussions about tone tend to recommend the obvious. Try to avoid obligatory terms, use power words, convey vulnerability and demonstrate warmth. But to do those things, you need to dig deeper. First, you have to decide what impression you want the leave with the reader. That is your tone strategy. Here’s a list of four main approaches that can help frame your tone of voice:
- Funny or serious – do you want to add humour, or must you speak deliberately?
- Formal or casual – can you communicate casually, or is it necessary to use precise language?
- Respectful or boldly sarcastic – should you speak courteously, or is it okay to be cheeky at times?
- Enthusiastic or plainspoken – do you want to elicit excitement, or must you be more stoic?
Differences in tone
Financial institutions or financial technology companies are in a unique position. If you are a financial services marketer, you typically communicate complex concepts, technical data and sensitive investment details that demand clear messaging and formal language. That doesn’t mean your tone always has to follow a rigid approach. In fact, it can adapt according to the medium or content.
Tone of voice can be intricate and meaningful. Often your brand might embody multiple tones in different contexts. Here are a few examples to show how you can vary tone – even in the same communication.
Inflationary pressures and market volatility are hot topics that can worry readers. The central message is usually about current conditions and how to navigate them. Whether you want to inform, reassure, or explain, there are various ways to communicate the details people need. Consider this news statement:
“Attention homeowners: the value of what is probably the biggest single investment you will ever make is falling.”1
The comment is not trying to make people feel good. It plays on valuation concerns to communicate the gravity of declining home prices. It is a serious, formal, bold, and matter-of-fact warning. But the title of the article in which the statement appears is a little more casual and reassuring:
“Market corrections are just part of life — embrace the correction.” 1
That statement is direct, serious, and respectful. If it were edited slightly to read “let’s embrace the correction,” the shift to a plural first-person pronoun would convey “we” are in it together, and the message becomes even more casual and conversational. Now take a look at how the author changes the tone with a more enthusiastic, positive mood further on in the article:
“The good news is owning a home probably remains the best investment you will ever make over the long term.” 1
Again, consider how a few minor changes, more reassuring words or even a metaphorical statement could change the way a reader aligns with the message and how they view its personality:
“Don’t sweat cooling housing prices. Owning a home is still the best long-term investment you can make.”
It’s all about the brand
Deciding what tone works best for your company’s brand strategy always comes back to the personality you want to convey. In financial contexts, it is probably not a good idea to be overly exuberant or cheeky because it could diminish your credibility or seem disingenuous. Consider what you want your audience to feel when they read your message. How do you want them to perceive you? If you’re not sure which tone strategy you should pursue, try A/B testing a few in a controlled setting.
Don’t forget the contractions!
Yes, contractions play a vital role. It used to be that writers frowned on the use of contractions as overtly casual and not appropriate for formal contexts. The fact is contractions (e.g., merging “it is” to “it’s” or “we are” to “we’re”) are conversational and their use can add the relatable tone you need to convey your personality. You will want to determine if they work for you.
Remember, your personality should be consistent but flexible enough to adapt to the subject and align with your reader’s needs. For example, you might adopt a conversational tone across your website but avoid adding colloquial or humorous references except where you want to showcase your culture, people or social settings. Since design and graphics are a big part of any brand strategy, you should consider how they can best support your chosen tone. Imagery needs to complement, not compete with, your brand personality. If your tone is clear and direct, you’ll want to match it with a design system and elements that aren’t in stark contrast. If you’re focused on conveying trust, warmth and reassurance, consider design attributes that support that aim. Above all, be consistent and authentic. Readers will notice contradictions.
Need help defining your brand voice? Ext. Marketing can help you create effective brand appeal by identifying the tone strategy that works best for you. Contact us today at 1.844.243.1830 or email@example.com.
A strong set of key messages is essential to any effective communications strategy. Robust messaging frameworks consist of memorable key messages that are illustrated by proof points, facts and figures. These are more than just another set of talking points; they encapsulate the most important ideas you want your stakeholders to know about your organization.
Strong messages have lasting benefits, like building client trust and long-lasting relationships, as well as heightening your brand loyalty, which, in turn, can lower client acquisition costs and increase sales.
Since organizations and the clients they serve evolve over time, key messages tend to have a modest lifespan and should be reviewed consistently and revised as necessary. When your key messaging starts to sound like elevator music – still recognizable but not quite true to the original – it is probably time for a refresh.
How can you tell when your messaging goes from mighty to meandering? Here are some signs:
1. Your organization has grown or transformed
Large business transformations, acquisitions, strategic pivots – any of these are likely to render your current messages stale and in need of a touch-up or complete overhaul. As you work on your change-management communications, make sure to carve out time to bring your broader corporate key messages up to date.
2. The market has changed
New opportunities, competitive pressures, regulatory forces and technological advances can all have profound impacts on your businesses and customers. Your messaging needs to keep pace with changes in your industry, the economy and/or across our broader society.
3. Lack of resonance
You can’t put your finger on it, but your messages aren’t landing with the same force that they used to. Whether a by-product of innovation, inertia or inactivity, your messages just aren’t working for you or your brand ambassadors, such as your salesforce or employees. This is a sure sign they need re-energizing.
4. Recall notice
The best messaging frameworks are built around key messages and proof points that are strategic, succinct and sticky. If consumers can’t quite remember or summarize your key points after reading or hearing them, consider exchanging them for something punchier and more memorable.
5. Here, there, everywhere
Good messages translate well from the written page to the spoken word and into your other communications collateral. This is even more important in the age of social media. If your messages don’t work across different media and audiences, it may be time to explore different approaches that allow you to leverage your messages more effectively.
Maintaining your messages
Like any good relationship, a bit of upkeep will go a long way toward keeping your messages evergreen.
Audit each touchpoint along your customer journey to make sure that your branding and messaging are on point. Speak regularly to your employees, customers, suppliers and other key stakeholders to help ensure that you are addressing their needs and concerns while conveying your messages of choice. Once you’ve settled on the core concepts you wish to include, experiment with sentence structure, word choices and proof points for maximum effectiveness.
Many businesses find it difficult to translate their ideas, activities and proprietary jargon into powerful, accessible messages that resonate with stakeholders. This is where it pays to partner with a company whose communications and marketing experts can help you develop and maintain messaging with true staying power.
Looking for support in refining your key messaging? Ext. has the expertise you need. Contact us today at 1.844.243.1830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A style guide helps to bring clarity to a company’s brand voice. It ensures all your writing has quality and consistency and can reinforce your brand. This is particularly essential when you are scaling your content and marketing efforts beyond just one author or content team. And it doesn’t stop at printed materials. If you plan to publish copy across digital media formats, it’s important to include some of the unique considerations for those platforms.
A brand is a living entity with a personality and values. As a company, you want to exude those values, not only through the exceptional products and services you offer but also through a distinctly creative and consistent depiction of the same. While it’s important to craft your logos and graphics carefully, you shouldn’t neglect your copy.
Implementing a defined writing style shows who you are and what you stand for by the way you express yourself. Setting your tone and style helps nurture and enlighten your audience so that readers can clearly and confidently align their needs with your solutions.
A style guide is useful not only for writers in the marketing department, but also for the web team, client relations, media relations, the sales team and more – basically anyone who creates marketing materials, web copy, letters, emails, and other types of content. They are all ambassadors of your brand.
How to get started
Start by determining which style conventions need to be included. What mistakes or style missteps do you often see? What style questions do others frequently ask? Seek input from colleagues across the company. Review marketing materials, email messages, advertising and web copy for inspiration. Consider how you want to be perceived. Do you want to communicate conversationally, or should you take a more formal approach? What do you want the reader to remember about you? Come up with keywords that characterize your brand values. Use them to help structure your brand voice.
A few tips
Editorial style guides can be simple or comprehensive. Often, they don’t just delve into style conventions, but provide guidance on how to represent your brand to the world. Some are a single-page style sheet (for example, a quick reference on web conventions), others run 30 pages or more (if you are putting together a comprehensive style guide for a large corporation).
Consider including some or all of the following in your style guide:
- Common grammar rules
- Preferred spelling of words and terms
- Frequently misused words and terms
- Spelling of fund/product names, index names, etc.
- Glossary of common terms, defined
- Explanation of industry-related acronyms and abbreviations
- Best practices of style –address formats, font preferences, how to express numbers, bulleted list styles, Canadian vs. U.S. spelling, active vs. passive voice, serial comma
- How to write a letter or email (e.g., salutation, body copy construction, call to action, signature line)
- Guidance on the use of inclusive, non-biased language
- Style standards that are unique to your company
- A link to a general reference guide such as the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook, the Canadian Press (CP) Stylebook or another based on your industry, such as the American Medical Association (AMA) Manual of Style
A thoughtful and comprehensive style guide helps ensure brand consistency. It is a living document that should be updated when rules, preferences, and other circumstances change. Refresh it every year and store a digital version that’s easy to access and edit.
Looking to strengthen your brand with a style guide? Ext. can help you create a style guide that adds clarity and structure to your voice. Contact us today at 1.844.243.1830 or email@example.com.
Brand matters. It sets you apart from the competition and helps entice a targeted audience to buy from you. This is one of the elements that sets a sports watch apart from an heirloom timepiece and, in many ways, one hedge fund apart from another hedge fund. Indeed, it could be argued that hedge funds and luxury brands have a lot in common.
Here are five ways hedge funds can be marketed like luxury brands:
1. Targeting the right persona
Hedge funds and luxury brands have similar buyer personas. That persona is affluent, accredited, cultured, well-educated and well-travelled. Specifically targeting these individuals – versus other retail investors – with your marketing efforts can be the difference between success and failure.
2. Being relevant
While luxury brands often have a “classic” feel to them, they’re never out of date or stale. Their websites, brochures and social media presence are relevant to today’s consumer and always focus on living the good life. Your hedge fund needs to convey a similar timeliness and relevancy.
3. Telling their story
Luxury brands are couched in stories of quality and exclusivity and hedge funds need to tell their story in the same way. Providing background information through adept storytelling weaves a compelling narrative, while helping investors make an informed decision about your fund.
4. Positioning matters
Hedge funds are the tools that build and protect the wealth of the same people who buy luxury brands. As such, they can be positioned as a part of your clients’ overall perception of success.
5. Having a robust digital marketing strategy
McKinsey & Company reports that nearly 80 percent of luxury sales today are “digitally influenced,” meaning people research online before making a purchase.* Hedge funds can reach that same key target audience by having a robust digital marketing strategy.
While hedge funds aren’t watches, cars or clothes, this type of thinking sheds some light on what’s possible. Investors in hedge funds and luxury brands share many of the same buyer persona traits. Understanding that demographic can help you better tailor your message to their specific needs and goals. That, in turn, can help you to better attract and retain customers.
Whether you’re an emerging or established hedge fund manager, Ext. can help you to create an effective marketing strategy for your brand. Contact us today at 1.844.243.1830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about how Ext. can help you: Raise capital in a competitive environment.
Key messaging helps you articulate the core message you want to convey and hones your story, so your marketing is focused on the right story for the right audience. It also succinctly describes what it is about your firm that sets it apart from its peers, and ensures everyone in your organization is telling the same story.
This is especially important for financial services firms, which typically offer abstract or hard-to-explain products, operate in an industry that people find intimidating and face the unfortunate challenge of being perceived as overvalued.
Here are three reasons to create key messaging:
1. People don’t know what you do
While the above statement may not be entirely true, we think it’s good to act as though it is. “Distilling your story so it is short, authentic and memorable is key,” says Laurie Lupton, Ext.’s Vice President of Accounts and Client Strategy. “Understanding how you differentiate yourself from your competition is critical too.”
“We often work with incredibly talented people running successful businesses. Yet their websites and pitchbooks, for example, may not clearly tell their story. Key messaging describes what you do succinctly so your clients and prospects will understand what you do,” says Lupton.
2. People in your firm may describe what you do in different ways
If your business is being described to others in multiple ways, it can cause confusion and lost opportunities. After running many key messaging projects, Lupton says she’s no longer surprised when she hears a client say, “I’ve never thought of that before,” or “I wasn’t expecting that, but you’re right.”
As your business evolves over time, your marketing can become stale. What or who you were five years ago, might not be who you are today or what your business may evolve into in the future. “If you don’t know how to articulate what you do,” says Lupton, “how will anyone else understand it, let alone purchase your product or service?”
3. Marketing is easier once you complete your key messaging exercise
Your key messaging is the framework for all your marketing, from websites to brochures, pitchbooks and social media posts. If you’re ever in doubt about something you’ve written or designed, you can refer to your key messaging and ask yourself if you’re delivering on its promises. It acts as a “source of truth” to help you stay true to your brand and messaging.
To create effective key messaging, you need to confirm your goals, outline the framework you want to work in, interview key stakeholders and separate the wheat from the chaff (not everything you uncover will be useful). You then need to integrate the messaging across your marketing.
Looking for help with your key messaging?
Ext. Marketing has developed a framework we’ve refined over many years and projects. Our experience plays a crucial role in identifying gaps and drawing out the best insights for the future success of your firm.
Contact us today at email@example.com or 1.844.243.1830 to learn how we can provide you with the support you need.
If you’re working at a smaller financial services firm, you may not have a brand guidelines document yet. The ideas and rules may be in your head … or they may be in constant flux. Either way, it’s time that changed.
Here are 11 good reasons why you and your company need to create clear brand guidelines. A brand guidelines document will:
1. Boost output
Enable different team members, especially in the marketing department, to work more effectively together.
2. Improve consistency
A brand guideline will help ensure that there is consistency across all of your firm’s communications, from internal HR emails to client-facing microsites.
3. Spread the word
A formalized and well-designed brand guideline will highlight the importance of the brand in relation to your firm’s public image.
4. Provide direction
Provide practical instructions on daily usage, so you’ll have to answer fewer questions. Your coworkers will thank you for this clarity.
5. Strengthen reputation
An inconsistent look and feel can weaken your firm’s reputation. So provide guidelines that reinforce a positive perception of your company.
6. Guarantee look and feel
Little things, like the regular vs. the narrow version of a font, can have a big impact. Help ensure everyone is using the right font, colour palette, graphics, etc.
7. Build relationships
Build relationships with different departments by working towards a common goal.
8. Increase output
Boost creative output by focusing everyone on the message, not the design details. You can save your design team many hours by cutting down on the number of revisions they need to make.
9. Educate coworkers
Provide a quick education on brand for new members of the marketing team.
10. Speed up changes
A well-thought-out brand guideline can make brand updates plug-and-play as any question can be addressed.
11. Stay ahead of your competitors
You can help your company maintain a leading edge by creating a strong, recognizable brand.
It might seem difficult to find the time to create a clear brand guideline for your firm, but it’s worth the effort. So schedule some time over the next while, and enlist your team and Ext. Marketing Inc., to get it done.
We can help you craft your firm’s brand guidelines. Contact us at 416.925.1700, 1.844.243.1830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the biggest misconceptions about creativity is that it can’t be constrained – that creativity must go wherever it wants.
That sounds good, but it’s not necessarily true, especially when your goal is to produce something of practical value. If you are launching a new product or solution – with corresponding microsite, brochures, presentations, emails, etc. – remember that structure can actually help ideas flourish.
If you’re a project manager running a brainstorming session, here are a few ways to make the best ideas see the light of day.
1. Split up time
Try not to schedule gruelling, three-hour meetings with a “no one’s leaving until we hash this out” mentality. People will run out of steam and your team’s ideas may stray too far, or just stop.
Try scheduling three shorter meetings instead. Thirty minutes, if run well, is a good length.
- Your first meeting can act as a brief introduction that closes with some high-level idea generation. The outcome should be a few strong options for the team to reflect on after the meeting ends.
- In the second 30-minute meeting, the team can generate more ideas based on the strongest options from the first meeting.
- In the third meeting, the team can refine, and then choose, the best ideas to keep.
2. Help people generate great ideas
It’s easy to tell when you’ve run a great brainstorming session. If the table is messy, if people are exhilarated and if the walls are filled with ideas, you’ve done your job well. Here are a few things you can do to help make this happen:
- Inspire people to say their wildest ideas, especially during the earlier sessions. These ideas can serve as fuel for later sessions.
- Don’t judge anything that is said. People need to feel safe to speak up without being judged. If someone is too negative or judgmental, ask them to keep their comments positive and maybe think twice about inviting them to your next brainstorm session.
- Record everything and keep all the ideas from your brainstorming sessions. Bring sketch pads and sticky notes, and get ready to write. To keep things moving fast, forget about spelling and neatness.
If the table is messy, if people are exhilarated and if the walls are filled with ideas, you have done your job well.
3. Invite people from outside the creative team
If you’re looking for a truly big idea, invite people from different teams and departments. Think about bringing in someone from production, sales, research or IT. Outsiders bring fresh perspectives, so they may provide that “something different” you’re looking for.