Have you ever stopped and wondered what exactly makes a famous brand, such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, or Ford, one of the most recognized English words in the world? Say “Coke,” and somebody will automatically make a mental association between the word and the product. Say “Ford” and people will instantly think of a car. Utter the word ‘’Pepsi’’ and, well, most of us will think about that other beverage that we’d buy if the local supermarket runs out of Coke.
So, how does a company reach that level of ubiquitousness in people’s lives? The answer is consistency. Here are some brand consistency techniques that never fail.
Having a Clear Understanding of the Brand’s Mission
From the very start, a brand’s image should be intimately tied to the company’s core values, which should be reflective of the company’s intentions for their venture and relate with the audience. The logo, in particular, needs to send the right message to the company’s core audience about what the brand does and what people can expect from it.
Since the logo is such an important component of the company’s image and can establish its market standing even before the first fiscal year is over, rebranding campaigns should be treated with great care and attention to detail. For example, think about Adidas and its striped design. This logo has gone through multiple changes over the years, and despite it (or maybe because of it), the logo remained reflective of the product – i.e. footwear that combines style with streets smarts.
Changing the logo too often or without going through the right stages can make the company seem flaky and untrustworthy. It sends the message that the company either does not have enough confidence in its core values or it is willing to jump on the first bandwagon if it means landing more sales.
As vague as the concept of authenticity may sound, this is what separates low tier firms from companies with established brands. The branding process extends beyond what customers can see, feel, and experience – it is about every single member of the company. If in-house communications are consistent with the tone and message of external communications, it means that the company knows how to maintain brand coherence.
This is not for the sake of appearances. Companies who maintain consistency between internal and external communications have, by extension, better-trained teams that can deliver the company’s message adequately. Furthermore, employees also feel more connected to the brand and the company’s mission.
In this day and age, most people have become very wary of shady sales tactics and marketing, and employees will see through the charade if the message delivered to the public is different from the one delivered within the company. Achieving this requires having authentic branding, which is surely easier said than done.
Treating Customers as Business Partners
Without loyal customers that buy their products, companies are doomed to fail. The much-loathed saying “A customer is always right” has a lot of truth and logic to it. Feedback is an important tool in building a strong brand and creating a connection between the brand and customers.
Since a brand’s ultimate goal is to attract a cult-like following, it only makes sense to ask for feedback from the exact type of people that you want to attract and keep in your customer base. Give customers what they are asking for. However, this brings us to another point…
Learning When to Say ‘No’
Being open to feedback is a double-edged sword as there is a legit danger of becoming a yes-man for every single request. If you have a tendency of listening too much to your customers, the brand may lose more its authenticity than gain it.
This is because there is always the risk of compromising the authenticity of the brand and alienating a large portion of your loyal followers. So, the ideal course of action would be to strike a balance between your brand’s core values and products and your customers’ demands. As valuable a tool as asking a feedback might be, not all customers are aware of the mechanisms and the hard work that goes behind brand creation and maintenance. Therefore, learning to occasionally say ‘no’ and sticking to your guns is a good way of preserving your brand’s authenticity.
Building an In-House “Branding Police Department”
Assuming you are not the CEO of a multinational company but the owner of a small to medium enterprise, you probably personally handle as many of your firm’s day-to-day activities as possible. Unfortunately, you can’t do it all – so, you should designate other people to do some of the grunt work.
However, there is good news and bad news in this regard. Few small business owners can afford to hire specialized brand professionals. The good news is that you do not have to outsource this work, as you more than likely have everything you need to form a brand police squad. Ask a few of your employees to report the instances when something goes against your official branding style guide.
Creating a Clear “Brand Style Guide”
While building a brand style guide is not an exact science as it usually depends on many factors (like market realities and the nature of the company itself), doing so is an essential step of maintaining brand consistency. Here is a basic template that will help you build a brand style guide, should you need one in the future:
- Company name;
- Mission statement (go back to the previous entry for more info);
- Company slogan – along with the logo, a clever slogan is what helps a company stand out in an already overcrowded market;
- Several logo sketches, with bullet points addressing the color schemes and overall logo design;
- Typographical elements – the fonts and writing style that are to be used in press releases, emails, sales copy, written content, and sales agreements. Ensure consistency across all company-related media;
- Photo styles and imagery. Create guidelines on what to do in the circumstances in which company-related imagery will appear and the different styles to be used (saturation levels, contrast, color schemes, warm/cool, and so on);
- Guidelines related to copy containing elements such as the capitalization of a letter in the brand name or brand material (see above), circumstances and locations where to place trademarks, slogans, disclaimers, etc.;
- Situations and contexts where the company wants to prevent the poor use of the brand. This section of the guide can include elements like employee etiquette and language used on the company’s social media profiles.
Brand consistency and coherence can make the difference between successful companies and the ones that disappear along with the latest fad. Every company should strive to maintain these two elements over the years no matter how big the business may get. While there are many other aspects that we’ve failed to cover in this article, hopefully, these tips will give you a rough idea of what it takes to maintain brand consistency.