Enhancing the customer experience through comprehensive brand guidelines

Ancestry® is the world’s largest genealogy site. Since its beginning in 1983 as a family history magazine publisher, Ancestry has used cutting-edge technology and innovations in DNA science to help its customers uncover their family history. Whether building a family tree or discovering heritage through DNA results, customers can make unique personal revelations.

Over the past four years, DEPT® has worked with Ancestry to enhance the customer digital experience on a global scale.

Ancestry icons preview

Single source of truth document

When DEPT® started working with Ancestry in the UK market, there were no set-in-stone brand guideline documents, and specifications were worked on a project-by-project basis. To ensure clean and consistent digital branding, DEPT® curated this knowledge to create a brand playbook that could be used by anyone creating UK-based assets.

Fast-forward to 2022, and as part of an initiative to standardize both communications and designs globally, Ancestry called on DEPT® – who were now overseeing digital communications on multiple markets – to create a set of universal brand guidelines that could be used in all of Ancestry’s regions.

DEPT® worked closely with Ancestry to create a single source-of-truth document that was both practical and informative, condensing and refining all-new brand identity and process guidelines.

Ancestry screens on devices

Building trust and brand recognition

Having clean and easy-to-understand rules isn’t just helpful for internal best practices – a consistent look and feel across all platforms also helps build trust with potential customers and existing ones. This uniformity helped cement Ancestry’s position as a global leader and trusted brand for family history research. 

Another key objective was to lower costs by reducing the churn time. A guidance document makes it quicker to create reusable content that could then be easily optimized or updated. Likewise, having familiar structures and components for digital content develops brand recognition and sets better customer expectations.

Research-driven performance testing

DEPT® tackled the challenge by using an online host platform to create an easily editable, well-designed document that houses everything from the mission statement to logo usage.

The DEPT® design team meticulously explored existing brand elements used in all markets to bring everything together, while reviewing existing practices to identify where to make improvements or advance processes.

Key updates included generalizing the look and feel for all assets so that each region had the same base and confirming a new brand color palette, working strictly within accessibility perimeters to create rules for each shade’s usage.

The team also performance-tested new brand elements to ensure they supported existing designs and highlighted brand messaging effectively.

The copy team undertook a similarly rigorous process, curating phrases and words with the help of Ancestry’s user testing groups. This work resulted in a list of successful, high-performing copy for all of Ancestry’s key features and services to ensure consistency across all markets and avoid mixed messaging – repetition drives recognition.

In addition to creating guidelines for both copy and design, DEPT® worked with Ancestry to develop a more standardized approach. Layouts and design components were reused for CRM, onsite and performance, leading to greater efficiency when providing multiple assets for large campaigns.

Ancestry design elements

A clear global brand identity

Starting small with a specially curated set of brand guidelines for the UK before developing into comprehensive global guidelines for external and internal use, this project has helped to define Ancestry’s identity. 

Taking on board research from Ancestry’s user testing groups – which revealed consumers would benefit from consistent branding and messaging about the product – DEPT® ensured the new brand guidelines wouldn’t just improve aesthetics but drive performance, too.

The cost per asset has also dropped by an average of 50% due to less time spent making new assets from scratch through standardized designs and clear brand rules. 

So, what does the future look like? As DEPT® and Ancestry now have a working set of documents which are reviewed and updated regularly, there’s more time for innovation and forward-thinking.

“DEPT® really has been a crucial partner in helping us to enhance our digital marketing creative. The comprehensive brand guidelines mean we can produce strong, consistent creative across our core markets, which has the benefit of helping internal resources while boosting trustworthiness amongst consumers.

Their meticulous approach has led to improved email performance and a significant 50% reduction in asset costs. We now have a seamless brand identity, enhanced recognition among customers and cost savings! We look forward to working with DEPT® on many future projects.”

Michael Smith, Senior Marketing Manager, Ancestry


VP of Creative & Media

Jessica White

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