An average person gets around 40 emails per day, and this number rises to 121 if this person appears to be an office worker. What does it mean for email marketers? That’s right:
It means a total war for standing out in users’ inboxes.
Subscribing to brand emails, people already know its identity. They expect to see familiar signifiers in inboxes to recognize a message, associate it with a brand, and get engaged with it. And that is why it’s so critical to keep a brand experience consistent across all channels, adding a brand identity to the marketing messages you send out.
Leveraging brand design guidelines in emails is what can help with that.
In this post, you’ll find professional tips from Crello designers on how to align email campaigns with your brand guidelines and design your email templates so that they wouldn’t confuse recipients or distract them with inconsistent branding.
But first things first:
What Are Brand Design Guidelines?
Also known as brand style guides, these guidelines define how a brand communicates with its target audience. In other words, it’s a rule book specifying all the details: visuals, tone of voice, typography, and more.
A great example of brand design guidelines comes from Mailchimp:
As a rule, brand guidelines come in the form of a digital (or physical) booklet covering a company’s brand identity, with examples of what to do and what not to do in communication. Crafting all their marketing messages according to that booklet, a company ensures its brand message stays consistent regardless of where it shows up.
Brand design guidelines include but are not limited to the following details:
- Logos and icons
- Colors, including primary and secondary ones
- Typography rules: what font styles, sizes, and spacing to use
- Imagery: a mascot (if any), photos, artwork, etc.
- Brand voice and tone: words to use in communication, emotions, and more
Not only do these guidelines help a company stand out from competitors, but they also work on generating a brand’s awareness, loyalty, and trust in the long run.
A quick test:
What company does come to your mind when you see a swoosh? And what about golden arches or a nibbled apple?
Strong brand guidelines of those world’s recognizable brands are what helped them get glued inside people’s brains. And that’s among the reasons why consider brand design from an email marketing perspective.
Why Consider Brand Design from Marketing Perspective
Do you remember the impressive research from DMI back in 2014? They’ve demonstrated that
“over the last ten years, design-led companies have maintained the significant stock market advantage, outperforming the S&P (Standard & Poor) by an extraordinary 228%.”
It happens because, in a marketing context, beautiful brand design is not about using trendy colors and fancy graphics in communications. Marketers consider brand design as an instrument to bring form and function together. It works when meeting the three core principles:
Motivates a person to take action
First of all, an email needs to generate a desire for your product and service. When designing it with individual incentives (they are two: to gain pleasure or avoid pain) and social norms in mind, you demonstrate to people how your brand can help them.
To create a desire and motivate the target audience to take action, show how your product/service will increase their pleasure or reduce pain. Also, you need to reassure that using your brand is acceptable behavior to undertake.
How to do that with design?
- Personalize your emails to the maximum (subject lines, email header design, imagery, offers, product recommendations, etc.)
- Segment email campaigns to target with messages and images that create a social norm (by time zones, location, customer personas)
- Showcase your products in the context
Reduces anxiety towards conversion
The excellent brand design gets people into action by reducing any anxiety they may have towards it. By “anxiety,” marketers mean any feelings of discomfort: fear that a product is insecure, worry that a service isn’t the right choice, doubt that it can’t deliver what promised, etc.
Considering what points of anxiety your customers may have, you’ll design emails and other marketing content accordingly.
How can brand design reduce anxiety?
- By showcasing happy customers or the usage statistics within the design. Seeing others enjoying your brand’s benefits can help increase conversions: This way, you’ll address people’s anxiety that your brand isn’t worth their time or money.
- By incorporating the impressive customer numbers into the design. This way, you’ll address the concern that your product/service isn’t the right choice.
Provides a clear path to conversion
Not only does the brand design need to be beautiful and authentic, but it also should make it simple for customers to take a desired conversion action. The most effective way to achieve that is by increasing the ease of choice and steps of getting there.
- Design your email content, limiting the number of offers, especially if the difference between those offers is minimal. The fewer options you provide, the easier it will be for a recipient to decide and click.
- Minimize the number of steps for a recipient to take to get your offer. The more concise and clear your email design is, the better. Avoid designs with many links and calls to action; resist the temptation of including all the information and offers in one email.
Incorporating all three above principles in your email campaigns, you’ll get the most out of brand design for better marketing results.
Why and How to Leverage Brand Design Guidelines in Emails
A strong brand personality is what creates recognition in email marketing. Leveraging brand design guidelines in emails, you’ll help recipients identify your brand from others in their inboxes.
The numbers speak volumes, supporting the importance of branded emails for customer loyalty and conversion:
- 86% of consumers prefer to buy from authentic brands, and emails are a part of this authenticity.
- 49% of consumers prefer to hear from their favorite brands weekly, and original email branding helps them recognize those brands in their inboxes.
- Consistent brand presentation, including that from email marketing, can increase revenue by 23%.
As a result, you can grow your marketing campaigns’ overall efficiency by strengthening your email design. It’s an excellent opportunity to grow and develop lasting relationships with customers.
But where should you start?
Create email brand guidelines
According to the State of Email Survey by Litmus, about 38% of companies don’t have any email guidelines in their brand style books. If yours is still among them, do your best to change the situation.
Specific guidelines will help you create content for email marketing campaigns faster and easier. They’ll give you a clear picture of what email templates to use, what image styles to choose, what logo and header size to place, and other details to support brand consistency in your messages.
What elements to include in your email brand guidelines?
- A library of frequently used assets: headers, footers, taglines, icons, navigation bars, product descriptions, value propositions, and anything else you want to standardize.
- Text: the tone of voice you’ll use, rules of ALT-text usage, the procedure for plain-text styling, an envelope copy (what a person sees before opening your email: a sender name, a subject line, and preview), etc.
- Images: style, type, size, and resolution. Also, consider the guidelines for using your brand logo in emails.
- A library of CTA language.
- Email templates you’ll use for different email types. What modules and content blocks will you use to construct your emails? What breakout designs are you going to use when you need recipients to understand that a particular email is unique and requires extra attention?
NB! All the above needs to be aligned with the overall brand design guidelines of your company.
Align your emails with brand guidelines
For that, maintain the consistency of design elements in emails. Consider the email layout that will remind subscribers of a brand’s website and make it easier for them to connect your message with the brand. When all the visuals are consistent, it saves from confusion, therefore increasing the chances for conversion.
It doesn’t mean that your email and website layout need to look like twins. Feel free to alter it a bit, but with branding consistency in mind.
Also, make use of similar fonts, colors, and brand images everywhere. Not only will it increase the readability and enhance engagement, but it will also align your emails with brand guidelines.
The problem is that a lot of fonts or image types aren’t supported by all the platforms. But here goes the decision: Choose responsive email templates with fallback fonts (consider the closest match to your brand) and always add ALT or HTML tags to email images.
Email Branding Tips
All the above considered, Crello designers have crafted the following seven tips on stellar email branding:
1. Add your logo
A logo is a part of brand identity, and that is why businesses pay so much attention to its design. Remember to add brand logos to marketing emails: It can come at the email header, or you can place a logo’s mini-version in a branded email signature.
Logos add brand consistency throughout emails and help recipients identify a sender once they click to open your message.
2. Set colors
Leveraging brand design guidelines in your emails, remember about a color palette. Color increases brand recognition by 80%, so please consider your brand colors when customizing templates for your email campaigns.
Use a consistent palette for recipients to identify your messages with a brand. Even if your email template’s background is universal gray, you can implement a strategic color use by adding images that mirror a brand logo or text blocks that complement a brand color scheme nicely.
Just look at how the color of CTA and social media buttons in the above example complements the brand’s color palette, working on its identity in consumers’ eyes!
3. Use consistent fonts
There’s a chance your brand’s already using a consistent font throughout the communication. If so, please incorporate it into emails.
In most cases, simple but bold fonts work best: They make a copy stand out but don’t distract recipients from the message itself. Please choose one or two fonts from those mentioned in your brand design guidelines and leverage them in the email templates you use.
Sometimes, however, it’s okay to add a more standout font for headings or subheadings in your emails to draw the recipient’s attention to specific products.
As you’ve probably heard, specific colors can evoke certain feelings and emotions in people. The same is true for fonts:
In the above example, the fonts of descriptions help build the brand’s general vibe: cute, warm, and handmade.
The only rule here: Don’t use too many fonts in emails, and stay consistent.
4. Customize images
Gone are the days when stock photos did wonders and all businesses used them at websites. Authenticity is critical now, and same-looking images are not what users want to get from favorite brands. Designing your email templates, do your best to customize them with brand design guidelines in mind.
Choose photos that help recipients get to know and trust your brand: staff, products, happy customers, etc. Also, maintain a consistent image style in emails (colors, contrasts, frames, shades, etc.) to support brand identity.
Besides CTA buttons in emails, think of including other brand links in your template so that recipients could connect with you beyond the inbox.
Most email templates allow adding links to a brand’s website and social media channels. But you can go even further and design text links too, to encourage users to take an extra action.
Make them stand out with a brand color or a tincture complementing your email template’s overall design. But know your limit and don’t stuff emails with links in every sentence or text block.
The templates following the “one email = one CTA” rule work best.
6. Follow a brand’s tone of voice
It can take a little practice, but please follow a brand voice and tone when crafting texts for email messages. You need to maintain consistent communication across all the marketing channels, with brand personality in mind.
How does your brand communicate with customers? Who is it: a friend, a teacher, a consultant?
What tone does it use? Is it friendly, funny, confident, or official?
Turn to a brand style guide to learn more about its personality and reflect it in the email content you create. Maintain a consistent tone of voice in every asset.
7. Use responsive email templates
A layout you choose for email campaigns can help organize your marketing content and show off your brand’s personality by far. Make sure to choose responsive email templates so that you could customize them according to your brand design guidelines.
Consider layouts that fit the email branding components we’ve discussed, and stick with them in each of your emails. It’s the only way to follow brand identity and build its recognition in the eyes of the target audience.
Given how critical brand consistency is for business success, it’s essential to keep it across all channels, adding a brand identity to the marketing messages you send out. Brand style guides, also known as brand design guidelines, are what helps with that.
Leverage them in emails by following the design principles and tips learned – and your email designs will be authentic and represent your brand’s identity to its fullest.