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You can't build a timeless brand without timeless values

Brand identities fall into two main categories: the ones we remember and the ones we don’t.

The difference is sometimes mistakenly attributed to superficial elements like colors, fonts, and asset packages.

We might look at the bright red of Coca-Cola and say, “It’s that unmistakable red. It really catches the eye.”

Or when explaining the power of Chanel’s brand, we may reference the bold lines of the company’s iconic logo.

But as we compare the select few brands that achieve timelessness and the many that fall to the wayside, we’d find that both groups share many of the same elements: vibrant colors, daring fonts, and striking logos, for example.

The brands that stand the test of time are doing something else, something very different than the one hit wonders, despite any superficial similarities.

Your brand identity starts with your business’ values

When you began to envision your business, you had a goal in mind, and your business was a means of achieving that goal. You saw an unresolved problem or an unmet need, and you recognized your ability to address it.

The ember that kindled your entrepreneurial spirit is what will establish your brand as an endeavor worthy of the ages. It represents your values and the values that you want your business to be associated with. It represents the feeling of warmth that your followers get just by being associated with those values.

While your brand vision and its style can (and should) be dynamic and flexible to accommodate changes in taste and in the scope of your business, your brand’s values should be more steadfast stuff. They should be enduring qualities like innovation or integrity, creativity or compassion.

When your brand is based on authentic values that you and your team and your prospects all consider necessary to a better life, then it achieves timelessness.

Once you’ve identified your brand’s values, everything else will fall into place

If you’ve been attempting to pick between a million fonts or color palettes and you haven’t yet identified your brand’s foundational values, you’re going to struggle with decision overload. When we choose a color scheme or a font based on nothing but our personal color preferences or the latest design trend, one hue or serif has no more value or meaning than another.

Identifying and solidifying your brand’s values gives you direction as you make creative decisions. Those values provide reasons for choosing one color or font over another.

Imagine a tech startup that’s building a literacy app for elementary school students. The founder had a vision for solving a problem: huge learning gaps among public school students. His vision was founded on a few principal values: innovation, education, and philanthropy.

Having defined these values, the founder can choose fonts and colors that best represent them. If he searches a site like MyFonts.com, he can even plug in those keywords to find fonts that have been tagged with the words innovation or education or philanthropy.

If he searches a site like MyFonts.com, he can even plug in those keywords to find fonts that have been tagged innovation or education or philanthropy like Sangli below.

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Sangli via MyFonts.

Knowing what you’re looking for narrows down the options considerably, and when you’ve selected fonts that best represent your brand’s values, they will be more easily associated with your brand’s values.

Likewise, with your values in mind, you can choose colors that communicate those values. Yellow, for example, tends to be associated with innovation and optimism about the future – not to mention school buses and No. 2 pencils – so it’s a logical choice for our imaginary startup.

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Make sure your team is on board with your brand’s values and identity

Once you’ve made it through the initial, sometimes lonely phase of entrepreneurship, you’ll be working with a team. It’s important that the people you choose for your team share your brand’s values because if those values come naturally to your staff, they’ll effortlessly become brand advocates.

To keep your brand identity cohesive, develop a brand style guide that helps everyone on your team use your assets consistently. As your target market comes to identify your brand’s visual assets with its values, both associations will become stronger, creating a timeless spot in your advocates’ minds.

How are your brand’s values represented through its appearance?

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