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We often work with companies who need us to take an established brand and rethink or reimagine it for a specific execution or opportunity. Whether it’s creating physical presence for a software company or working with an R&D team on the next generation of a brand or product, we often surprise our clients with just how far their brand can extend while still retaining the core elements and essence of their well-defined position.

Part of that comes from how we view and work with brand standards and guidelines, which are often treated as a limitation rather than an anchor point. Instead of providing the commonalities that allow the brand to be a dynamic entity, they are used to draw strict boundaries and restrict movement and evolution as the business and brand enters new mediums or engagements.

It’s an easy trap to fall into because there is validity to it – your brand needs to be consistent throughout every touchpoint with your customer to ensure a consistency of message and experience. Where the confusion lies is in the difference between your brand’s core essence and the executional components that make up each engagement. A logo, for example, is a foundational element of a brand. Foundational elements should not shift or change frequently. A tagline, however, is a positioning element. Positioning elements change as a brand evolves, as markets or audiences shift, as a business expands or contracts. And, as the encapsulation of the brand’s value proposition, the tagline can – and should – update to reflect any shifts in value or direction.

At the executional level, those foundational and positioning elements can be applied in a variety of ways that are at once unique and consistent with the overall brand look and feel. Logo, color, brand voice and message, this is where a common thread is built. In the examples below, you can see how those pieces can be applied in different ways to achieve a different tone, while all remaining true to the brand.

Foundational elements, positioning elements, campaign elements, event elements – the list goes on. What’s important is to understand the difference between them. Knowing which components you need to maintain brand consistency and what components can shift and change to create the best experience or execution is the difference between a brand that is fresh and exciting and one that is static and monotonous. Or, more importantly, one that stays relevant and one that is easy to ignore.