Successful brands aren’t built in a day; they’re built every day. We’ve seen our share of small businesses dilute their brand by not establishing their style and branding standards. Here’s a few tips to keep your brand strong and steady.
When a logo or tagline varies across marketing collateral, it sends mixed impressions, killing the brand’s impact. Brand consistency is the uniform use of words and images presented to your current and potential customers.
Before we get started, let’s consider what we know about winning brands. We’ve know they’re memorable, enduring, and accessible. Their identity goes beyond aesthetics and guides the tone of all communications. They have a dynamic understanding of their target audience, and an ability to reach them wherever they spend their time.
Most importantly, we know a successful brand is consistent. Not in a same’ ol, same ol’ kind of way, but in how the brand positions itself as a unique source of value for its customers.
What consistency does for your brand:
- Eliminates confusion.
When your branding is inconsistent, it sends mixed messages. People can’t form a clear idea of who you are and what you stand for – and they can’t fully get on board with your brand.
- Provides control.
A brand ultimately lives in the minds of your consumers, but maintaining brand consistency gives you some degree of control over the perceptions people form about you.
- Creates a foundation.
Over time, your business will grow and evolve. Having a consistent brand gives you a basis on which to make decisions about your future. Are the evolutions or shifts in direction that you’re considering consistent with your brand? If not, the answer is a clear “no.”
- Saves you money.
Without a consistent brand, you are more likely to create campaigns or entire product lines that don’t resonate with your customer base. Each of those failed initiatives is wasted money. With a consistent brand, you’re apt to make fewer mistakes.
- Builds your reputation.
Branding is a cumulative project. Each time a major brand like Nike or Starbucks hits a homerun with a marketing campaign, it adds to their reputation. The same goes for you. When you’re consistent, your brand builds on itself and becomes stronger with each new campaign, product, or initiative.
It's clear that a consistent brand is best for your business. Now let's look at 5 ways that you can go about achieving it.
Steps to Maintain Brand Consistency
Create a Point of Differentiation
Your niche is what sets you apart from your competitors, and the most successful brands out there are the ones that can quickly and clearly articulate their value proposition. In today’s mercilessly competitive marketplace, it can be a challenge to get potential customers to value the distinction between one brand and another. Think about it: have you taken a stroll down the cereal aisle recently? The possibilities are overwhelming and endless.
With customers having an all-you-can-eat buffet of products or services for their choosing, it’s more important than ever to establish strong branding. That’s where consistency comes in—your branding and language should only belong to you, and your messaging should support your brand promise and be consistent through all your channels.
Drive Customer Recognition
Recognition is not a given—it’s earned. Your customers have grown to trust that your standards will endure over days, months, and even years. If you’re doing it right and consistently delivering, your customers will identify your brand even when assets appear independently, from your packaging, to your website, social media pages, or even your brand’s color palette.
Just think about how Nike’s swoosh logo can exist without mentioning the word “Nike” and how their tagline is recognizable without the logo—you don’t need to see the whole picture to make the association in your head. This same principle applies even on the small-scale; what makes a brand stand out are the distinct qualities that consistently set it apart from competitors.
Reinforce Your Message
It’s been said that “the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” (Thanks, Mark Twain!) And this is precisely why your brand message needs to grab your audience’s attention and never let them go.
“Effective frequency” is a term used to describe the number of times a person must be exposed to a message before getting a response. When your audience is exposed to your brand’s message, it reinforces your unique value proposition in their minds. Repeatedly hearing or seeing it will drive greater long term retention. But if your brand messaging constantly changes, it’s hard for customers to recognize or keep up with.
Create a Style Guide
A style guide protects your brand by ensuring cohesive, clear, and effective communication across all customer touchpoints. Your guide should include the following:
- Mission, vision, and values
- Written overview of the company
- Voice, tone, and style of content
- Target audience and customer demographics
- A quick reference for designers, marketers, and developers
- Logo, font, and color palette guide
Remember this is a living document, so as the company experiences growth or development, these changes should be reflected in the style guide. Make sure it’s accessible for all employees and consider even appointing a few members of your team as brand ambassadors to keep an eye out for consistent branding as it’s executed across channels.
Brand consistency doesn’t necessarily translate to all things looking “identical,” but there should be standards put in place to make sure your visuals and messaging are clearly and consistently applied.
And now, a final word of clarification:
Be Consistent, Not Repetitive
Being consistent with your branding does not mean that you need to keep regurgitating the same campaigns time after time. The brands that have been around the longest and gained the most widespread recognition are those that have successfully presented the same core messaging in different forms.
This allows their branding to remain new and relevant in an ever-evolving market while remaining familiar in the eyes of consumers. A good example is Coca-Cola. They’ve been around since 1886 (!) and are arguably the most recognizable brand in the world.
Remember, consistency breeds trust, trust breeds loyalty, and loyalty breeds advocacy.
Are you at the very beginning of your brand development process? Our Brand Voice Worksheet is a good place to start.
Editor’s note: this blog post was originally published in July 2016 and has been updated to include additional information.