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How Building a Business Identity Works

        Money | Marketing

Marketing and Collateral Materials

Your marketing materials probably have the most impact on the recognition and image of your business of anything. Whether it's print, broadcast, or your exhibit booth, it should have a look consistent with everything else you are using. A designer can help you set up the initial designs, but in the event that designer is no longer around, you'll also want to have guidelines about how new materials should be set up in order to blend with the old materials.

All of the standards we talked out previously, such as fonts, colors, paper stocks, etc. will also carry over to your marketing materials. If you have locations that prepare their own materials, you'll at least have guidelines for their printers and designers to use.

Pre-printed Drop-in Sheets

If your staff have the need for low quantity customized "flyers," it may also be helpful to have templates set up that they can use to enter text and create professional-looking and customized documents on the fly. These types of documents can be printed via laser printer onto a pre-printed, but mostly blank, paper stock. The information that is pre-printed onto the sheet could simply be the company logo and some graphic design elements that pull the sheet into the standard look of the other company pieces. This method is a very cost-effective way to produce quick and inexpensive marketing materials. The pre-printed sheets can be printed in bulk and distributed for use by anyone within the company. The key is the use of the template files so the final product has the same text formatting and look as everything else. Spacing and fonts are very important.

Good instructions should be included in your written guidelines outlining the proper usage of the drop-in sheets, as well as how to go about doing it with various software programs. You should also set guidelines about when the quantity produced ceases to be "small" and should be printed professionally. Most offset presses have no problem over-printing onto this type of pre-printed stock. In fact, you might use this pre-printing technique for other types of literature needs. Use your imagination. It's a good way to get more color into your materials at a lower cost.

Promotional Items

Most likely, you'll order all of your promotion items like imprinted pens, mugs, notepads, etc. from a central source and either store them until needed, or distribute them among locations (if you have several locations). This is another item that needs guidelines in the event you have others placing their own orders for new items. If you will be having several employees or locations ordering their own premium items for trade shows or special events, then it's important to set some boundaries. Those catalogs make you think you need all of that junk (I mean stuff)!

First, assemble a list of approved types of items with the level of description you think necessary to limit the items to what you want to approve.

Second, create a graphic guideline for how the logo should be placed on each item and how it can be altered. Remember the example we used about the logo shirts? If you have to reverse the logo then at least you can feel comfortable with how it will look.

Third, set up an approval system that will ensure you have final say over the ultimate design. This may seem a bit extreme, but remember some of those "premium" items can be cheesy enough by themselves without having your logo mangled upon them.

Print Advertisements

Print ads your company runs in newspapers, magazines, newsletters, or other media should also have an established design that is strictly adhered to. Determine layouts for several ad sizes and shapes that follow the same design. Below is an example of some of the specifications you may want to include.

Set up guides for each ad size and shape you expect to need. Since most print media will have their own specific ad sizes, you probably won't be able to set up standard ads that can be used anywhere. If you do, watch out for publications that say they can alter the ad for you. You may end up with a squished or stretched version of the original! Have a new ad set to the specified size whenever possible.

Press Releases

Though not quite as important in layout as content, your press releases should at least follow a standard press release format stating the release date, contact information (yours), and the subject clearly at the top of the page. We'll talk more about style guides and voice for written text later in this article.

Product Packaging

This may be beginning to sound like a broken record, but.... yes, your product packaging should not take a drastic leap away from the established image of the rest of your company. It's possible the packaging is the only thing some customers ever see of your company's "look." If this is the case, and it will depend of course on the type of business you have, then pay extra attention to the consistent look and design of your packaging.

Don't stray from the color palette, although you may end up having to expand the palette if you have an extensive product line. But at least select colors wisely and make sure they complement the other standard colors. Then, make sure any supporting literature and advertisements for that product use the same colors. Color is a very memorable part of our world. Research has shown that consistent use of a color in the marketing of a product has significant impact on recall of that product.


It's a good idea to have presentation templates set up that employees can use for sales presentations, training courses, or other presentation needs. These templates can be part of your library of templates, documents, and master files.

Photos, Art, and Images

Another important piece of the image puzzle is the photos and artwork that accompany most pieces of literature, presentations, and other media. Assuming you have unrestricted use of these photos and images, it is recommended that they also be a part of your "library" so employees can use them as needed. Again, instruction will be need be provided about how to use the images along with restrictions of use such as alterations or misuse.

You may have an extensive list of documents and materials that you'll need to write guidelines about, but doing so will ensure you don't have a lot of bad stuff floating around!