What does the term brand mean to you? Many people mistakenly see brands as merely logos and color palettes, when in fact, brands are so much more. Your brand is the platform for presenting your business and its values to the marketplace. It differentiates your company, your core products and your services, in a way that guides the customer journey.
Consider this… if you cover the logo and brand name of one of your favorite brands, can you still identify the company? Chances are, you can, if the marketers have consistently reinforced all the qualities that have drawn you to that brand.
When it comes to creating a recognizable and understood brand, consistency is key. So, let’s take a closer look at what brand consistency is, why it’s important and how to make it part of your overall brand strategy.
What Is Brand Consistency?
Brand consistency is more than just typeface, logos and colors. It also encompasses a range of intangible brand values. Indeed, a survey by Edelman showed that 81% of consumers said they need to be able to trust a brand in order to buy from them.
Brand consistency is about delivering a brand experience with your products, services and people that customers begin to expect and anticipate. This includes your processes and procedures – how your brand shows up across all your customer touchpoints. Consider how your brand performs across key areas such as:
- Call center and hold messaging
- Digital channels including, text, chatbots, online, social media and apps
- In the field at kiosks, on vehicles, at in-person locations and on packaging
- Legal, financial and transaction documents, such as contracts, bills, invoices and receipts
Why Brand Consistency Is So Important
Brand consistency has a measurable impact on your company’s bottom line. Research suggests companies can boost revenue by 33% simply by always presenting their brand consistently. Conversely, the consequence of inconsistent branding is the creation of confusion in the marketplace, which can erode your company’s market position. These findings make a compelling case for upping your brand consistency efforts – from strategy to enforcement.
The key to sustaining a powerful brand impression is consistent communication. It’s important to clearly define brand guidelines and manage compliance across your sales channels, particularly in a distributed marketing organization.
Overseeing brand consistency in communications with customers and prospects can be challenging for any organization, especially in a distributed marketing model. When going to market with a large, distributed sales force – including agents, branches, franchises or dealers – brand consistency across these channels is critical. Even details that may seem subtle, such as logo size, brand colors and the tone of messaging can dramatically impact how your organization is perceived.
For franchise businesses, brand consistency is important, not only to attract customers, but to attract franchisees. As franchisor Fiona Simpson explains, “It’s that consistency that is the lifeblood of your franchise network – franchisees will join you and customers will come to you because of the surety factor of being part of an established and recognized brand.”
Best Practices for Brand Consistency
It’s essential to achieve the right balance between empowering teams throughout your organization to connect with target audiences using relevant brand messages, and the clear need for oversight in order to maintain brand consistency. Here are some ways to help you achieve that balance.
First, Be Strategic
Brand consistency starts with a clear brand strategy. Determine how your brand supports and embodies the mission and vision of your business.
Identify Key Qualities
Once you have set the direction for your brand, define the qualities and attributes that differentiate it in the marketplace. Incorporate these qualities and attributes into your brand identity.
Educate, Empower & Enforce
Deploy your strategy and guidelines throughout your organization and provide tools and materials to ensure everyone is on the same page, delivering the same message, in the same tone, with the same look and feel.
Once deployed, monitor your brand and enforce the guidelines you’ve established. Periodically gauge your success by surveying customers and prospects for their impressions of your brand. Make adjustments to your strategy as needed.
How to Create Brand Consistency
In the brand consistency survey mentioned earlier, 95% of those surveyed said their organizations have branding guidelines, but only one-quarter have formal guidelines that are consistently enforced. And, more than 60% reported materials are always, often or sometimes created that don’t conform to brand guidelines.
Streamlining processes for creating approved marketing materials helps assure consistency with your brand guidelines. It also prevents your sales force or distributors from creating their own materials and eroding your brand equity.
Here are some tips and tools that can help deliver a consistent brand, particularly across a distributed organization.
Brand guidelines outline specifics, such as fonts, color or logo placement. But they do much more than that. Effective brand guidelines often include positioning statements, brand attributes, brand stories, elevator speeches and more. These elements are critical to help local sales teams fully understand your brand and how they can bring it to life for customers.
Nordstrom is a perfect example of this. You can expect the same great service at any Nordstrom you visit. Staff is trained to go above and beyond to help every customer that walks into their department store.
The more specific your brand guidelines are, the fewer opportunities your local sales teams will have to deviate from them. Include details on specific brand elements, such as:
- Precise brand color matching. Sophisticated digital printing services ensure your brand colors are exactly matched to the right shades.
- Quality of print materials. Higher quality paper for more upscale brands.
- Tone conveyed by your font. Old-fashioned and traditional versus clean and modern.
- Delivery medium. Will the message be sent by email, letter, postcard, or over social media?
- Formality and tone of the message. Specifications should be set for the formality versus informality of all interactions with clients.
Done well, brand guidelines can inspire local teams to truly understand the heart and soul of your brand. Those motivations are critical in creating an authentic experience for local customers, which ultimately helps drive brand loyalty and purchasing behavior.
Chick-fil-a is an example of a franchise brand that has cultivated a consistent brand experience at the local level – from the consistent quality of its food to its friendly customer service.
Brand Style Guide
Brand style guides focus on written materials – tone of voice, personality, spelling, grammar and writing style. Like brand guidelines, the style guide should do more than outline how to communicate with customers. It should provide the why – why it’s important to represent the brand in a specific brand voice or writing style. Style guides create a consistency in written communications, helping to create strong relationships with consumers.
Marketing Material Templates
Put the power of customizing materials in the hands of local teams without sacrificing the brand. Offer templates of brochures, posters, signage, emails and more that allow staff to update and personalize materials within specific areas, and according to brand and style guides. Templates are an easy and effective way to engage local teams, while corporate retains control of messaging.
Local Sales Teams
The teams in local markets are a critical component of your branding strategy. Engage them early, listen to them often and empower them to make choices when it comes to marketing to customers. Those choices could include customizing marketing templates, participating in select marketing campaigns, or ordering relevant materials for their unique locations. A great, easy way to gather their feedback is through email surveys. Discover marketing campaign preferences, engagement and their customer preferences through quick, electronic surveys.
Sales teams are more than just feet on the ground in local markets. They are the eyes, ears and voice of your brand. Partner with them wisely to build strong, lasting relationships with customers.
Managing Brand Consistency at Scale
Managing brand consistency requires specificity, organization and discipline, especially in a distributed organization with branches, agents or franchises. A centralized brand portal or marketing resource management system can help streamline the process of creating and managing brand-consistent materials.
A marketing resource management system empowers your distributed marketing and sales channels to create customized marketing materials while adhering to your branding guidelines. Within the system, multiple, localized versions of marketing pieces can be created, managed and distributed to customers – from a central library of materials maintained by corporate staff – all consistent with your branding.
For example, with a few clicks, a printed collateral piece can be customized with local contact information and market-specific messaging while automated workflows enable all materials to be approved by corporate managers before the customized pieces are approved for production.
Providing remote sales teams with easy-to-use tools for creating approved marketing materials helps ensure brand consistency in a distributed organization. Without such resources, your distributed channels are likely to create their own materials and potentially erode your brand equity through variations in messaging visual identity attributes.
Aligning External and Internal BrandsA study by LinkedIn and Lippincott revealed that businesses that closely align their internal and external brands produce a five-year cumulative growth in shareholder value of 36%. Integrating external and internal brand messaging creates the kind of brand consistency that strengthens the overall power of the brand.
Embracing the roles both consumers and employees play in building brands is a fundamental reality for both marketers and talent acquisition leaders. Aligning consumer and talent brand efforts simultaneously boosts your ability to attract target consumers and top talent.
Our own Liz Schaefer wrote about how marketing and human resources can team up to overcome current hiring challenges. Businesses that are successful in managing the current environment are likely to be those that do not look at recruiting as solely the responsibility of HR. Rather, they draw upon cross-departmental resources and collaboration to attract and retain talent. According to Aberdeen Research, 67% of best-in-class companies have a clear employment branding initiative that involves marketing and other departments.
The LinkedIn/Lippincott researchers recommended 4 actions businesses can take to align their consumer and talent brands:
- Answer key questions: Who are we? What do we believe? Why do we come to work every day?
- Synchronize talent acquisition and marketing. Align prospect experience (e.g., messaging, process) with overall brand strategy to ensure the brand is reinforced with every hire.
- Turn marketing inward. Address the forgotten audience – employees – through communications and on-brand experiences to create long-term understanding, belief and action in support of your brand.
- Measure your talent brand. Track over time as you change your tactics, approach and messaging.
Use Consistency of Feeling to Deepen the Brand Experience
The notion of brand consistency often focuses on the visual elements. But, the depth of brand consistency goes beyond just what you see on paper or on the screen. True brand consistency includes consistency of feeling and emotion. Reinforcing a consistent look, tone, message and feeling can boost brand recognition and resonance.
Consider your own brand. What feeling or emotion does it elicit? Is it consistent with what you intend consumers to feel about your organization? If not, maybe it’s time to retool your brand strategy and make sure everyone in your organization is prepared to consistently convey the feeling that is inherent in your brand, across all your customer touchpoints.
Conclusion: Consistency Brings Your Brand into Focus
A brand encompasses many intangibles. But you can bring it into focus and make it recognizable and trusted by your customers by clearly and consistently articulating and presenting your company’s values across channels. Deliver a strategically developed and consistently executed brand experience and your customers will begin to expect, anticipate and recognize your company, its products and services. And, ultimately, they may even be able to identify your brand without even seeing your logo.