Brand consistency is the pattern of expression that affects what people think about your company. The more consistent your messaging, the more consistent your branding — whether via words, design, offerings or perspective.
It’s fairly easy to create blog posts, ebooks and other such content assets in the digital age. Quick, too — in fact, an idea can go from concept to completed so quickly that it doesn’t get thoroughly vetted for brand consistency. And with an internet connection and standard business software, almost any employee has the opportunity to create content that contains their version of the brand look or message. Many employees will do just that, even with the best of intentions.
Don’t leave your brand open to a variety of interpretations and customizations. Your brand should build awareness and develop trust and loyalty with customers. A constantly changing brand personality just doesn’t do the job. That’s why it’s so important to develop standards for brand consistency, on and offline. Every interaction customers have with your brand should embody the brand promises and values in a dependable and understandable way.
Develop brand guidelines
Most large corporations (and some small-to-midsize businesses, too) create brand style and usage guidelines to ensure all messaging and brand asset use is on-point and consistent. These guides not only help the marketing department, they also serve as guides to other employees and departments. And above all, the guidelines should align with a company’s vision and mission.
Take a look at these examples to get a feel for how in-depth a brand style guide can be:
- Walmart Corporate Brand Guidelines. Walmart has covered every conceivable way to use its corporate brand. This comprehensive guide includes direction on the brand’s editorial voice and how to use their logo in print, online, on promotional merchandise and more. They even cover appropriate fonts and how to correctly use logos, icons and taglines.
- Mozilla Style Guide. Mozilla has an online style guide to help its open source community understand how to use its logos and trademarks for Mozilla, the Firefox browser and their other products. These guidelines help everyone who works with Mozilla protect Mozilla’s brands.
Now, your business may not be the size of Adobe or have the reach of Mozilla. Maybe you’re in the process of establishing your personal brand. These style guides may look overwhelming, but you don’t necessarily have to be as exhaustive with your brand guidelines. However, you should take the time to establish a foundation that guides your messaging, and you should ensure that it aligns with your business goals and the needs of your target personas.
Check out more examples of brand style guides by reading Canva’s post, “50 Meticulous Style Guides Every Startup Should See Before Launching,” or start developing your own using a tool like Frontify or a brand style guide template.
Approach content with brand consistency in mind
Once you’ve created your brand style and usage guidelines, refer to them when planning all your content marketing efforts. According to a study from The Verde Group and the Wharton School, two-thirds of all shoppers use more than one channel to make purchases. With all the online and offline opportunities to make an impression, consistency across all channels and touchpoints are more important than ever.
Then, consider these five main approaches:
1. Use your logo and design elements consistently and provide access to employees. The only thing worse than seeing a logo stretched out of proportion, pixelated or painted up with new colors is seeing it shared that way with staff and customers. To combat this and similar blunders:
- Create a shared folder on your company network or intranet that provides employees with access to approved visual content and instructions on how to use them both on and offline
- Develop a branded slide deck theme for your webinars and webcast videos
- Create social media cover photos for your employees who participate in employee advocacy programs
- Provide document templates and social sharing templates that help your team present a consistent brand look and feel online
- Manage orders for print and promotional materials through a single department or person to ensure your logo is always used correctly on print and promotional materials
Recommended tools for:
- Style guide creation: Frontify
- Image and template file sharing: Google Drive, SharePoint or DropBox Business
- Template creation for social media and marketing collateral: Canva for Work or Visage
- Branded email signatures: WiseStamp for Business
- Branded apparel: consider setting up a branded storefront with a company like Land’s End for easy ordering of branded apparel
2. Select the right topics for your brand’s content calendar. The topics you write about or produce webinars and videos around should be consistent with your brand’s mission and goals. Look for opportunities to create content that makes sense for your brand. If your business serves a particular industry vertical or niche, for example, it’s entirely appropriate to create or curate blog content around key industry developments that affect your customers — especially when your company has expertise in or special insight to the issue.
3. Bring offline marketing events into your online branding efforts. If your company is exhibiting at a trade show, has received an award or is participating in a community event, let your online audience know. When your business or product is recognized as a leader or taking a leadership role in your industry or community, that’s part of your brand-building efforts. Promote these efforts through blog posts, social media posts, visual social media (Instagram, Snapchat, etc.), and video. Don’t forget to add your brand name or logo to photos or videos that you share.
4. Keep your brand’s tone and personality consistent across channels. When communicating as the brand offline or via your website, social media profiles, or other online channels, it’s important to keep a consistent tone and personality. If your brand is fun and friendly on Twitter, it should have a similar flavor on Facebook and LinkedIn. Your messaging on LinkedIn may be less casual or more professional, but it shouldn’t sound like it’s coming from a different brand altogether. Think about it this way: there is the “at work” you and the “at home or with friends” you. Your personality is the same, but your mannerisms adjust to the context. The same goes for your brand personality and selected communication channels.
5. Participate on platforms and channels that align with your brand’s identity and your prospects and customers’ preferences. It’s easy to get distracted by each new online marketing trend and platform. It’s easy to be swayed by peer pressure, too: everybody is on Facebook, my company should be too. Before following the crowd to an existing network or becoming an early adopter of a new platform or trend, evaluate the offering to determine whether or not it makes sense for your business. Ask yourself:
- Would you expect to find a brand like yours on this new platform or executing this type of strategy?
- Would you trust a brand like yours if it were on this particular network or conducted a new kind of campaign effort?
- Do your current or target customers congregate on these social platforms? Are they likely to be the same demographic that a new social media channel targets?
Location, location, location — it’s not just a consideration in real estate.
Are you creating a consistent brand experience?
As our ability to create and send marketing communications increases, it becomes easier to make a few missteps when crafting brand identity. The desire to be immediate can result in immediately confusing, distracting or detrimental communications that detract from the brand you’ve worked so hard to establish.
What procedures have you put in place to ensure a consistent brand presence in all your on and offline brand communications? Are your brand guidelines and brand personality documented? What do you think the biggest challenges are for today’s marketers and entrepreneurs when it comes to brand consistency? Share your thoughts in the comments below.