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  • Writer's pictureKate

What is "On-Brand"?

Being on-brand is the repetition of your brand messaging and visuals to ensure your story is communicated.

The classic Rule of Seven states that a human needs to see something seven times or more to internalize the message and act on it. Today with the influx of information, ads, imagery and insanity I’ve heard it’s more like 14-17. That means you have to hit your guest with your brand that many times to make money off of them, and it needs to be repetitive. Staying on brand allows you to say the same message over and over, without having to do the exact same thing over and over. You can use integrated marketing with a consistent brand message to get those seven plus a few more and not bore your consumers.


You’ve got to start with WHAT you’re marketing before you can market it. In order to repeat the same message several times, several ways, you need to know exactly what that message is.

A brand’s core messaging needs to be comprised of a couple of elements that can be called different things as long as they have the right intentions. Here are a couple of those elements:

Mission Statement: Your WHY, why do you exist as a company, what do you deliver and what does it do for your customers.

Positioning Statement: How are you different from your competitors, what are the things that make you special.

Pillars: Specific talking points related to your positioning statement, your go-to selling points that are the reason that people hire you/buy your goods.

Graphic Standards: Rules! I love rules. Logos, fonts, colors. These are your visual elements that make your brand recognizable, these are the things that people will see when you’re repeating your message to them.

Once all of these things are agreed upon you now have a brand to be ON! So then how to you get it out there?

Graphic Design

Let's start with the easy stuff, the core, your collateral. In-house communications, sales flyers, anything visual needs to deliver your brand. Here's a situation I've seen happen often.

Let’s say you’ve worked somewhere for five years, and your highlight color in your graphic standards is lime green. You see that color every day, it’s on your business cards, on all the signage, your website, it’s in your dreams. You are so sick of that color you’ve thrown away any article of clothing you own that looks like it.

Then you need to make a piece of collateral, a simple flyer, and you decided you’re so tired of the lime green that you’re going to mix it up! Yes! You’re going to rock everyone’s world with a new look right now. Let’s do, PINK! A total departure, yep, this is going to show everyone that you’re fun and can mix it up.

Here’s the deal, yes you see that color every day and so do your co-workers. Nobody else does! Your customer isn’t going to know if your flyer is green, or pink, or yellow, they’re going to look at it, hopefully read it, and probably throw it away. So ok if they’re going to just throw it away, why can’t you have a little fun and break up the monotony of your day?

Because you’re breaking with your brand. They’re going to skim it, and their subconscious is going to pick up a couple of elements, maybe one of those is your lime green. And they’re probably not going to declare, “I love this green! I’m spending money here!” It gets filed away into one of the 7+ instances they’ve seen you. They are internalizing you. If you break your consistent brand story and message, it becomes harder for the subconscious to internalize those repeated messages, leaving you to have to repeat your message more before it gets heard.

No matter how much is hurts, stay on brand.

A collection of collateral at The Blackstone Hotel
The communications and in-house marketing collateral at The Blackstone Hotel in Chicago was created to show the historical side of the hotel while playing up the modern twist. Note the use of art, classic characters and a color palate of contemporary pastels. Created by Sockeye Creative.


Programming means different things to people. It can mean how you set up your operational structures, add amenities to something you already have or the scheduling of events. No matter what you call it, or what you do with it, it should speak to your core messaging and your pillars.

Whatever you do should always reflect those core selling points of your brand. Just like in graphic design, I get it if you’re over it! But remember that your customer is not. They need to see why you’re special, repeatedly. When you’re thinking of setting up your services or unique occurrences for your customers to interact with, always draw from your pillars. Here are a few examples:

A hotel with a spa in-house needs to draw more traffic into the spa. One of their pillars is self-care which is a big trend right now. The hotel and spa team up to plan a yoga and self-taught facial experience at the hotel, complimentary to guests and local area attendees. How many times can we share this pillar?

1. Advertise it on social media.

2. List it with more info on the website.

3. Include it in an email blast.

4. Throw the event.

5. Feature a hashtag and ask attendees to post.

6. Offer a call-back offer to attendees to come back to the spa.

7. Offer a discount for referrals, getting the guest to talk about it.

8. Post social media images of the event afterwards.

A screenshot of an email from The Logan hotel
The Logan, Philadelphia’s Hotel programmed regular yoga classes to remind guests and locals that their spa was all about self-care and a range of services. Created by The Logan hotel team.

One of the main pillars of a national conference is recognition and celebration of how the attendees support their community. During the conference, the organizers wanted activities that would engage guests and spur social media engagement. Pulling from the pillar of celebration, the team decided to create a social media contest, people who post recognition about their co-workers with a designated hashtag are registered to win free admission to next year’s conference.

1. The contest is listed on the website with a mention of the recognition pillar.

2. It is listed on social media with the hashtag.

3. It is mentioned at the launch of the conference.

4. Attendees start posting, sharing with their friends at the conference AND their followers who may be potential attendees in the future.

5. Attendees are reminded of the contest throughout including why it exists.

6. The winner is announced at the conference and on social media.

7. The conference team repurposes the social media content after the conference and speaks to the pillar.

Not all pillars are blatantly marketed and not all are tangible selling points, but if they’re something that makes you special, customers need to hear it and they need to hear it a number of times. At least seven if you want to follow the rules. Always stay on-brand, find ways to be creative, but make sure it always speaks to the specific things that make your business special.


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