Here's how brand consistency can help you put competitors in your rearview mirror.
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The goal of any brand is to provide a recognizable, positive brand identity people will remember. Without a consistent brand presentation, you cannot achieve that goal.
Why? There's a phenomenon known as context-dependent memory, which states that people remember information best when they are in the original context in which they encountered that information. However, brand messages usually occur in a wide variety of places (online ads, business cards, outdoor signage, product packaging, email campaigns and more). This means that your brand messages often lack the necessary context that would make it easiest for people to remember them, so consistent presentation is often necessary to bridge that gap and reinforce your brand recognition. This is especially true for new and younger businesses.
Related: The 8 Laws of Branding
Consistent branding allows your business to be perceived as the same business they've interacted with in the past. After enough consistent exposures to a brand, customers often begin to feel as though they know it personally and the relationship begins to grow.
On top of that, the more customers are exposed to something — a product, a service, or your brand — the more inclined they are to like it. This is a psychological phenomenon known as “mere exposure.”
Take stock of your current branding efforts.
Brand consistency occurs when a business presents the same visual face, values, personality, and brand messaging across every customer touchpoint. This can be challenging to accomplish if you don’t fully understand your own brand. That’s why truly getting to know your brand is the first step in any brand consistency effort.
Your company’s logo design, your business website, your mobile app, your store signage, your marketing and customer support messaging — they must all be instantly recognizable as your brand. But it’s impossible to faithfully repeat something if you don’t know what you did in the first place. And that’s the challenge so many businesses encounter when they try to present a consistent brand.
If you haven’t given any deep thought to your brand — your values, your inherent and projected brand personality, your unique selling proposition, and how those elements will manifest visually — then you simply cannot expect to achieve a consistent brand presentation.
Related: 9 Tips for Creating an Awesome Brand
It's a good idea to start by self-reflecting. Determine the values that drive your business and the traits that define it and make it unique. Then, likely through working with designers, develop a visual design that embodies that brand. This will be the foundation for all of the visual elements that customers and potential customers will associate with your brand.
If you already have a logo and visual branding elements, conduct a self-audit. Ask yourself if these elements properly represent your brand. If not, it may be time for a logo refresh or a complete visual rebranding.
Create a style guide.
A style guide is a way to keep track of your visual brand. This document outlines a set of rules to follow any time a member of your organization wants to publish, present or promote content for your brand. If your brand isn’t captured in a style guide, it can quickly drift into an inconsistent experience for your customers and employees.
A comprehensive style guide will provide all of the information needed for an employee to accurately create consistently branded content, including visual info such as fonts, brand colors, logo, signage specifications, typography style and any other commonly used branded graphic elements. It should also cover less tangible items like ideal voice and tone, your branding mission and company philosophy.
Once you’ve clearly defined your brand and developed visuals to support it, make it all official via a style guide you can share with every member of your team.
Give brand messaging time to work.
Relationships of any kind take time to build, and it often takes multiple interactions with a brand before a customer is ready to make a purchase. So when executing any branding strategy, plan to give it enough time to really sink into the consumer consciousness.
Your business name and logo should remain the same for as long as possible, and if changes are made, they should be clearly related to the originals to maintain your valuable brand equity. Your brand position may change over time as the business landscape evolves, but it should still have a life cycle of years, not weeks or months.
This is just one area where authentic branding has a distinct advantage over contrived branding. An authentic brand is far more likely to have longer staying power, since it's grounded in the reality of the business from the foundation up — making it easier to implement and most likely to still be relevant years from now.
If you don’t immediately get the reaction to your brand that you had hoped, don’t give up too quickly and try something new. Every brand needs time and repeated exposure to truly make a lasting impact.
Deliver a consistent multi-channel experience.
Businesses today share their marketing and branding messages in many, many places. From social media to your website, email marketing to roadside billboards, and mobile apps to your customer support team, consumers could be interacting with your brand all over the place.
And they should be. It’s in your best interest to meet customers where they are, in all the places they frequent. This makes you easy to find and keeps your business top-of-mind. But oftentimes, being in all the right places isn’t enough. It’s crucial to present a consistent brand across all of these locations if you want people to recognize your brand and remember you.
This is especially important when you lead customers on a journey from one point to another. For example, if you send an email with a discount link, the landing page the customers land on should share the same brand messaging and appearance as the original email.
Customers should experience your brand in the same way whether they’re on social media, using a mobile app, visiting your website or physically in your store.
Brand from the inside out.
Your employees are the guardians of your brand.
Employees should be as well-educated and passionate about your brand as you are. Without their understanding and buy-in, a consistent branding effort could be doomed to fail. This is one of the reasons why many of the best brands are built from the inside out.
Authentic brand values that evolve naturally from your company culture will likely be easiest for your employees to embrace and enact. However, don’t necessarily assume that because your brand values are genuine, that your employees will know how to — or that they will — articulate them. Provide brand education for all employees so that they understand their role in presenting a consistent brand identity for your company.