Imagine for a moment that you are in the market for an accounting firm to handle the finances for your business. A friend recommends their accountant, so you setup a meeting. At the end of the meeting, they hand you a business card: it has a nice color scheme, a company logo, their name, etc. In other words it’s professional, and you feel pretty confident trusting your finances to this firm. But when you go to the website listed on the card to learn more, you have to double check the URL because what you see on your screen looks nothing like the card in your hand. How confident do you feel in their services now?

brand identity design
Brand identity design by smashingbug for Jasmine123463

In this article, Sarah Matista, marketing communications manager for Vistaprint Digital, will provide advice about creating a cohesive brand both online and off. Because as a business owner, you are being judged not only by the quality of your online presence, but by its connection to the representation of your brand in the physical world.

It’s common knowledge that an unprofessional website can sink your business with potential customers. Not only are 34% of consumers unlikely to shop with you if don’t have a website, but 45% are also unlikely to shop if the site you do have is poorly designed. That speaks volumes about the effect of a professional brand on consumer confidence. And a big part of having a professional brand is ensuring that it’s represented consistently across the board.

And what exactly do we mean by ‘across the board,’ anyway? Small business expert Steve Strauss summed it up pretty well in a piece on this topic:

“People are far more likely to understand—and remember—your business and brand if they encounter a unified theme wherever they encounter it—be that your site, a blog, on social channels, a brochure, or simply by driving by your shop.

Think of the following as your checklist for a cohesive brand identity:

Your stationery

stationary design
Stationary designed by S.V ART

While some industries lend themselves more to having a traditional stationery package than others, you should have business cards for new clients and letterhead for billing at the very least. It’s relatively easy to match these two; they should feature your logo, your brand colors and one or two fonts you’ve chosen to use consistently for your business.

Your website

When switching from the physical to the digital, people sometimes lose the thread and can’t figure out how to translate their on-paper brand to the screen (or forget that they need to!). Even though the mediums are different in many ways, there are many opportunities to connect the two:

coffee website design
Responsive website design by Mike Barnes
  • Your logo—perhaps a more horizontal version of it?
  • Your color scheme
  • Flourishes or decorative elements from your business card
  • Fonts (we recommend no more than 2 different fonts for your site)
  • Taglines or slogans

A final note on your website: if your site features a blog (which I highly recommend for SEO purposes), make sure that your blog also relates closely to your brand in logo, color, font, and tone of voice.

Your social presence

facebook design
Facebook page design by The JA Designs for The Connecticut Beer and Wine Festival

This is where it can get tricky, because you have far less control over these environments. However, social networks like Facebook and Twitter do provide some opportunities. On Facebook, your profile picture is the perfect spot for your logo, so every post you make on your own page or someone else’s will display your brand. You also have lots of space in your cover photo to show off your colors, storefront, fonts, and tagline as appropriate. Twitter goes a step further by not only giving you a profile picture and a cover photo, they also provide the option to brand your profile with a specific custom color for text and buttons.

Your physical presence

Usually when we talk about online and offline marketing, we are talking about print and digital collateral. But there’s a whole other level to offline that sometimes becomes disjointed because it’s not seen as ‘marketing’ per se: your storefront! Once you’ve handed someone your business card and given them more information through your website, make sure you don’t fumble at the finish line by offering a sub-par experience of your brand when the register is ready to ring. Make sure your storefront signage, your employee name tags, your in-store signage, your menus and more all ladder up to the brand image you’ve worked so hard to convey in your marketing.

sign and bag with pet food logo
Logo design by spoonlancer

And I’m not just talking to my brick-and-mortar folks. If you run an online store, make sure your stickers, thank you notes, and even packaging materials are sending a cohesive message.

Whether you are business owner yourself, or you provide design and marketing services for others, it’s crucial to make sure you look at every piece of visual communication you create as part of a greater whole. Whether you are building a new brand identity from the ground up, or adding incremental pieces to an existing identity, asking yourself the right questions and taking a bird’s eye view is so important to creating the cohesive online and offline identity every business needs to compete in today’s market.

This article was written by Sarah Matista. Sarah is the marketing communications manager at Vistaprint Digital, the digital services division of Vistaprint, which offers a suite of online marketing tools and websites for micro business owners.