How do you create a great brand?

19 Aug 2016

I’ve just got back from Stratford upon Avon. I promise not to go all ‘fan girl’ about Shakespeare (although believe me, I could fill pages with that sort of stuff) but I just had to share my love for the RSC brand that is splashed across the theatre and crammed into every crevice of the well-stocked gift shop. I’ve been going to Stratford for years and each time I go back I visit the shop, just to see how they’ve developed merchandise that year and see what sort of leaflets they are producing. A healthy industry interest, a clichéd busman’s holiday or just plain sad. I don’t mind how you categorise me, as long as it is done with style, panache and you don’t use comic sans font on the label…

The RSC have totally nailed their brand and they are sticking with it. The simple, blocky font. The strong, primary colours. The way that they select key phrases and match them with their merchandise. I mean, I know they have a legendary wordsmith as their point of reference (fangirl alert) but with so much scope, such a big team and such a big reach, it has every possible opportunity to go wrong. But year on year, they have stuck to their key vision. New pieces get added of course, but they remain true to their core brand values. The artwork is clear, simple, striking. It is easily recognisable and easy to understand on a global scale. Concepts are often quirky and clever – but never convoluted or ‘a little bit abstract’. The RSC totally ‘get’ their market and they are consistent in their approach across all strands, whether that be signage, merchandise, promotional materials or outreach activities. Everything matches.

Now yes, it is a huge organisation. And yes, I am sure they have a whole team of people with huge budgets. But there are some key messages that we can take away from them and some simple principles that can be applied when thinking about our own brands.


  1. Brand is not just your logo – it should seep into every aspect of your organisation. Design, copy, customer service, the tools you choose to use, the people you hire, the organisations you work with, the products you sell, the way you speak… your brand is your identity and how your customers and audiences relate to you. Your brand should say something. Make sure you are giving out the right message.
  2. Keep it simple. Whether it is the font used in your logo, lettering on promotional materials or concepts for campaigns, simple will always pack a bigger punch. Cut down on clutter and be focused. Be clear on what you want to say and stick to it.
  3. Keep it consistent. Once you’ve decided on something, make sure it always appears in the same way. Use fonts and logos consistently. Use similar layouts. Make sure your key messages are repeated and strengthened in all your activity. Create some brand values that people can share within your organisation so that things are consistent. A house style guide for copy and formatting can also help.
  4. Be committed… Don’t give up straight away if you don’t get the results you need. Things don’t happen overnight. It takes time to develop a brand and nurture loyalty and trust.
  5. …But be realistic. Work to realistic timeframes and monitor progress. Tweak processes and procedures before abandoning them. Give things a fighting chance.
  6. Be efficient – with time and resource. Don’t reinvent the wheel every time – especially with copy. Re-use copy where you can and edit accordingly. Monitor activities according to ROI. If something is not working, change it or refocus your resources on other areas.
  7. Be honest – your brand values need to reflect what you are selling and the experience should match the hype. If your service, products or organisation doesn’t live up to the message you’re putting out, you’ll soon lose trust, reputation and sales.
  8. Communicate internally. Your staff members can be biggest your ambassadors so make sure you bring them along on the ride. No matter what their role, ensure that they understand your brand values and show them how they can be incorporated into their day to day responsibilities. Explain to them why you are asking them to do the things you are asking them to do. Show them the benefits. Ask them to be involved in building the brand – because they are as much a part of your identity (if not more) as the colours in the logo or the sign on the building.
  9. Communicate externally. Talk to your customers and markets and ask them what they want. Utilise a variety of marketing tools to communicate with them and build a relationship. Use personal stories and behind the scenes content and information to help them get to know you better, relate to you, trust you - and ultimately keep returning to that literal (or metaphorical) gift shop.