Branding is one of the most critical components of your business. That brand may have been constructed through a process of deep thinking and exploration and then carefully massaged and tweaked through its early phases. Trial and error on your part focused your brand identity even further and made it successful. Consider the enormous benefits of brand consistency.
On the other side of that coin is branding that may be an accumulation of elements gathered haphazardly over its existence. “Existence” implies “growth” because growth, the meaningful kind businesses are looking for, is rare without brand consistency.
To build trust and loyalty for a brand, consistency is paramount. In a new aggregation of 2016 customer loyalty studies, Access Development reports that 83 percent of consumers say loyalty is driven by trust, and 26 percent call out the term “consistency” (in tandem with “trust”) as important for brand loyalty.
Consumers must have a firm grasp of what a brand is before totally embracing it and keeping it at the forefront. Various aspects of branding must all spring from one clear, distinct story. Those individual assets, including brand identity, brand personality, and brand promise, can be tirelessly conceived, brilliantly inspired and magnificently executed. However, no asset standing alone, no matter how excellent, will sustain and grow a brand. Each element must be integrated into a whole identity and contain each other, somewhat like a piece of holographic imagery contains a complete image even when it is cut in half. To put it another way, if your goal is leading your company to maximum success, brand inconsistency is the biggest mistake you can make.
The Main Promise
With brand consistency, every manifestation of your brand’s identity is strategically aligned with a simple, clear message to your customers. The Disney brand equates to wholesome, safe family entertainment. It tells one story: in the end and against great odds, the most positive universal values will prevail and uplift the human spirit. The company has never released a film with an adult rating higher than PG-13. If music or a TV show it owns doesn’t tell Disney’s underlying story, it will be released under a separate trademark altogether to not compromise the brand. A consumer is solidly aware of what Disney promises, no matter in which form of media, product or experience that promise is delivered.
Your customers must always know what you promise them. Customers must be able to rely on always getting the same quality of product and service, whether in B2B or retail. That reliability begets credibility and authority. It’s what binds your customers to you. Stand back and ask the essential question: What you want your customers to count on and why? Even a convenience store owner who stocks anything and everything may want any time of day or night has brand consistency. Why? Because you know his mission is to take care of your needs. His story is one you want to be a character in. If it changes or if it disappoints, you may think twice about playing your role.
Success begins with a strong and recognizable brand. Find out how a brand is developed to be timeless and distinctive.
You assume you know what your company stands for. Take the time to re-evaluate and know that your mission statement is straightforward, authentic and actionable. Does it contain generic, vague or cliched verbiage? If so, dig deeper. When your mission is integrated and genuine, it extends most powerfully into your brand. Your customers, your competitors, and your employees must know what your product means to them. Ask them.
What it Means to You
Of course, don’t forget to ask yourself what it means to you, too. If the essence of these answers does not align, your brand is at odds with itself. It confuses those that matter most – your customers. It may begin finding answers the nagging question,”Why isn’t my brand sticking?”
If a company’s mission is clear, it will be conveyed in every facet of its brand communications and resonate with purchasers’ instincts. A consumer’s self-perception, correct or not, drives choices emotionally. If Ferragamo’s brand image projects impeccable craftsmanship, timeless design and luxurious living, a man or woman who identifies with or aspires to these becomes a strong follower of the brand’s story.
Positive emotions are what purchasers value. When your branding consistently evokes the same positive emotions for a customer, encounter after encounter, a neural connection develops. These deeper emotions take precedent over feelings triggered by less potent signals (like “Bargain Bin! Today Only!”). To continue the shoe analogy, if wearing Nikes makes someone feel like a champion, they’re not tossing that soaring feeling down the drain. If someone counts on a brand to always supply comfort, joy, and security, they must have that experience every time.
Mind the Consistency Gap
If there is a rupture within your brand experience, it can easily undermine customer loyalty. A brand, by definition, promises consistency. However, if too many people are returning products or complaining about service, a brand gap may spread into an unbridgeable chasm. Leaders must be diligent in finding and fixing inconsistencies that undermine their branding as soon as they appear.
Consistency is key when it comes to building a brand people remember and relate to. Creating a checklist can help you stay on track.
Know what makes your product unique and makes it stand out from other brands in the same market. That difference gives rise to a unique branding identity. By not having that identity waiver, you can buy lasting legitimacy. There are anomalies. Febreze began as a “fabric freshener,” but changed to a broader identity as a pleasant-smelling odor eliminator, after which it became the category authority and now continues to create line extensions from its core products.
Like messaging, a brand design must be integrated across all marketing material and media. From business cards to full campaigns, all must jump out as “the brand.” Your brand must be recognizable through consistency of logo, color palette, images, and typography. A tagline may become part of your visual presence as well if it is incorporated into a brand’s main graphic.
Minimal Color Palette
Keep the color palette down to two or three colors, or it will become too fussy. Everyone should have access to the brand’s common elements but on one server. Appoint someone to be the brand consistency officer, if need be. That person should be on the lookout for subtle changes or sloppiness that can go too far off the mark.
Know What Resonates with Your Customers
After a visual identity has been established, changes will be detrimental to its recognizability. Know your target audience from the beginning. What calls out to Dunkin’ Donuts customers compared to Starbucks customers? Their logos, fonts, and color palette reflects the main demographics they want to reach.
A Style Guide
Create a guide of style standards to ensure the organization understands the importance of uniformity. Publish files of the officially approved logo. Be specific as to the approved the font (or fonts). A strong sense of visual connectivity should permeate all branding elements, whether on a print or TV ad, your website and, as possible, on social media.
In the same way, as visual consistency is critical, the brand’s tone and voice are, as well. A B2B commercial office supply company like Uline has the straightforward, no-nonsense tone and voice that wants to get right to business. Its image and record provide reliability. Reliability means reduced risk, or less time and extraneous work required. Compare their tone to the most consumer-oriented language of Staples marketing and promotional communications. A Staples customer may prefer to linger in product descriptions.
Express your brand’s voice whenever and wherever it is articulated, such as in writing, media or customer-facing presentations. If your brand’s voice is strong, formal, casual or breezy, know it and use it consistently. The cohesion of visuals and voice is key to establishing quick recognition. Let customers instantly know who is reaching out to them. They appreciate this shorthand.
Everything Is Connected
Engagement opportunities today are constant and innumerable. Therefore, a brand’s design must work across all digital platforms. The look, feel, and elements must remain consistent while your marketing gurus make adjustments for different screens and formats. Different platforms have their look and feel. You must not let your brand get overwhelmed if it appears on someone else’s site. Find ways to keep your visual identity bold when it turns up.
As you use the new sales channels and social platforms, use the voice and visual identity that is undeniably recognizable as its own. Make sure your brand’s story comes through in as many channels as possible, including comments, blogs, reviews, Facebook, Twitter and everything else. If these engagements can be linked back to your brand’s site, that continuing presence itself becomes brand consistency.
As consumers recognize a brand, and as they use and reuse that brand with dependable outcomes, you establish trust with people. The consistency is not an abstract idea. It is either present, or it isn’t. Some believe that brand equity is hard to quantify, but it turns out there is a measurable value produced when the brand’s assets remain on course. The measure of a brand’s success is that it has more value to customers and more value to all stakeholders.
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