Think about the biggest and most well-known brands in our history. How have business giants like Starbucks, McDonald’s, Apple, Coca-Cola and Disney maintained their success? They all cultivated a powerful brand─and have made consistency a priority.
Consistency is king. Without it, your business will struggle to attract new customers and cultivate long-lasting relationships. With it, you can build trust, customer loyalty, and a successful and sustainable company.
To survive and grow in today’s world brands need to have consistency in every facet of their business, from customer experience to marketing communication.
What is brand consistency?
Brand consistency means that no matter what channel, location or method that a potential customer or constituent engages with, it is an accurate reflection of your company and its values. When someone interacts with anything that you share, they immediately recognize your brand.
This plays a huge role in your company’s growth, because it builds brand awareness. Also, when people not only recognize but resonate with your brand, they are more likely to support it. But, developing that level of consistency doesn’t happen by chance. It takes careful and strategic planning.
The mistake that some companies make is that their idea of brand consistency means having a logo and some color swatches. In reality, if you are doing it right, then consistency is a bit more intricate than that. Also, protecting your brand name doesn’t stop after you’ve registered your trademark. It continues on through the life of your company.
To ensure brand consistency, there are five key principles that businesses should follow:
1. Build on your goals, values and mission.
Before you can start thinking about the colors, images and details that reflect your brand, you need to clearly identify what your business stands for. Use your organization’s mission statement, values and goals to guide you in defining your brand initiatives. Everything from the color and design of your logo to the tone and voice of your digital content should be grounded in those three elements. They will shape all your branding standards and future decisions.
Once you have an idea of your branding guidelines, how do you ensure that your team and outside business partners, vendors and others know and comply with them?
2. Craft a “Brand Style Guide”.
A brand style guide is a document that outlines everything that employees, marketing agencies, press, licensing and other partners need to know when creating materials or representing your organization.
Depending on the size of your business, developing a brand style guide can be an extensive process. For example, Apple has a number of style guides. Each is created for a specific audience, ranging from media and advertisers to app developers and retail partners. One guide is even 197 pages long. Although your business probably won’t require a guide that is even half that size, it shows that it is important to be thorough when establishing and protecting your brand identity.
Some essentials that you should include in your style guide are:
● Company mission and values
● Tone and voice
● Logo files, color palettes and usage guidelines
● Fonts and typography
● Do’s and Don’ts
● Formatting guidelines
For each channel, you should describe how your logo and visuals should be used. For instance, you should outline the size, resolutions, and colors of logos. If possible, source to image files that should be used on each platform. The image sizes often vary, so it is important to have the right dimensions for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, email newsletters, press releases or any platform that you use.
Theoretically, you can hand a well-crafted style guide to anyone in or outside of your company, and they should be able to understand and apply it with little to no involvement needed from you.
3. Focus on customer experiences.
Based on research from McKinsey & Company, the key to customer satisfaction is consistency. Great companies aren’t only built on branded messages but also on experiences.
According to a recent global survey, 60 percent of Millennials expect a consistent experience from brands whether they interact online, in-store or over the phone. Every interaction that you have with investors, customers, press and other constituents should be a branded experience.
You can start by building a customer journey map, which outlines the steps that your target audiences go through when purchasing your product or service. The design and construction of a customer journey map is unique to each business, but most include these stages:
● Customer Personas - Describe your ideal or typical buyers by identifying demographics, behaviors and aspirations.
● Research - How do your customers discover and learn about your company? (advertising, social media, in-store, Google search, etc.)
● Evaluate - Customers assess and compare your business to your competition.
● Purchase - They decide to buy your product or service.
● Retention - What makes customers continue purchasing from you? In this stage, you consider user feedback and employ customer satisfaction and retention techniques.
For customers, each touchpoint should flow seamlessly to the next. For businesses, the journey map can help you identify steps and create processes that make every customer experience consistent.
4. Develop a system of checks and balances.
A brand style guide is a valuable resource for every business. However, if there are people in your organization that do not know it exists or where to find it, then it is pointless. Who is responsible for informing and enforcing brand consistency for your organization?
Some companies rely heavily on marketing agencies for brand consistency, but the truth is that they shouldn’t be solely responsible. An agency can assist you in creating branded graphics, content and guidelines, but it is often more effective when someone in-house is the primary decision maker and enforcer.
Develop a system that checks to make sure that branded events and content follow the guidelines and standards that you’ve set. This may mean creating a brand compliance position or board, in which a group of people are responsible for reviewing materials before they are released. When you onboard new employees, include brand consistency in their training and routinely review it throughout the year. Show employees where to find your style guide and how to use visuals and craft content.
5. Keep it fresh.
Being brand consistent does not mean being stagnant. Some of the oldest companies have remained successful, because they know how to balance consistency with fresh and creative ideas. For great branding, the CMO of Heineken, Alexis Nasard says that: “The secret is to be consistent but not predictable.”
Most people like to be surprised and delighted. In a study from Emory University and Baylor College of Medicine, researchers found that the pleasure center of the brain has a greater response to unexpected rewards than expected ones. Some companies have even created “surprise and delight” campaigns and found that they helped to build customer loyalty and retention.
As long as any new initiatives and ideas stay true to your core values and don’t conflict with branding guidelines, consistency will remain intact. Plus, brand consistency shouldn’t hinder growth. In fact, it is often the primary driver of it. If the opportunity is there and the market and timing is right, you can explore other verticals or expand to national or global locations. Get more insights on building a powerful and consistent brand by contacting us at 10twelve.