Saturday, March 1, 2008

A best-practices approach to email branding


By Rick Robertson

In pre-Internet days, official company letterhead was used for all communications, external and internal. Whether it was a quick handwritten memo or an invoice or official correspondence, it was typed on branded bond paper, likely placed in a branded envelope, and often included a business card with the company's logo on it. Projecting brand integrity and impression was a no-brainer and written communications on non-branded stock was simply verboten.

Fast forward to today when 87% of a company's communications takes place through email.

Companies are still spending thousands upon thousands of dollars to develop a brand strategy and supporting components like wordmarks, logos, proprietary fonts, style-sheets and so on. Yet companies are not routinely enforcing the branding of emails, even though the vast majority of communications take place via this channel. This is the equivalent of doing the unthinkable -- sending out all communications on plain white paper, negating the investment in branding elements and missing the opportunity to strengthen the brand in the eyes of customers, partners and prospects.

This article will discuss the goals of email branding, the reasoning behind it, the desired impact and perceived barriers to implementation. It will also look at best practices for enacting an email-branding protocol across the organization and provide some technical tips on how to create impressive email signatures and disclaimers that incorporate photos and other dynamic elements without stressing bandwidth and email-storage requirements.

Understanding email branding

Why is email branding important? Companies and individuals alike want their emails to make an impression. People are busy, and having a memorable branding element in an email enables its message to stand out in the recipient's crowded inbox. The look and feel of correspondence, electronic or otherwise, should be consistent and be deployed seamlessly across the enterprise. Each sent email presents an opportunity to expand a company's image and awareness while demonstrating its professionalism and that its brand is carefully and consistently cultivated.

Implementing an email-branding policy enables senders to include their contact information in correspondence in a consistent, attractive format. Custom signatures and rules-based administration of brand elements based on the recipient or recipients can be applied by IT departments, ensuring that the right messaging is directed at the right audience, every time an email is sent.