What is brand consistency? 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. Your brand should build awareness and develop trust and loyalty with customers.
It’s fairly easy to create blog posts, ebooks and other such content assets in the digital age. Quick, too. 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 dependably and understandably.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? #contentmarketing #smallbusiness Click To Tweet
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, but 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 use logos, icons and taglines correctly.
- 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.
You also can check out ClearVoice’s Editorial Style Guide, complete with a breakdown on how to make a style guide that’s freelancer-friendly.
Pay attention to internal branding and corporate culture.
Brand consistency isn’t just a customer-facing imperative. After you’ve taken time to cultivate a brand voice that will resonate with customers, the brand experience delivery has to match — that requires employee participation. Slapping your logo with a list of brand values on some posters throughout the workplace is not enough. You should attempt to get a marketing leader involved with any existing corporate culture-building initiatives. If there is no formal corporate culture program, you can partner with HR to get executive buy-in for establishing a brand-centric corporate culture initiative.
Sometimes marketing teams get so focused on driving awareness and leads, that they forget about internal customers. Your organization’s employees must buy-in on the brand. Does your company do the following?
- Ensure that onboarding and training programs incorporate brand values.
- Provide branded items (shirts, mugs, business cards, laptop cases) to create internal brand loyalty.
- Empower employees as brand ambassadors who can advocate for the brand on social media using programs like GaggleAMP or Everyone Social. These programs help keep the company and brand messages consistent.
- Develop collateral to explain each department’s role in the fulfillment of your brand promise.
When your internal audience understands and embraces the brand, the more consistent the delivery of brand experience will be to customers.
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 seven fundamental 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 in 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 unique 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.
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5. Participate in 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.
6. Align your brand with the right influencers.
Influencer marketing is hot right now. So hot that marketers have rushed in too quickly and made some missteps when selecting the right influencer to represent their brands. If you decide to work with influencers, ask yourself these questions:
- Does this influencer appeal to my target audience?
- Does he or she talk about issues directly related to pain points my product or service can address?
- Is his or her personality complementary to my brand’s?
- Will he or she ensure appropriate use of my brand in their content?
- Are the influencers I’ve selected legit?
7. Partner with the sales team on the development of a sales playbook.
A sales playbook is not a sales training manual; it’s a framework that assists sales representatives in closing more deals. A key component of a stellar playbook is stage-specific content. How much of the content created by marketing is the team using? Where is the playbook content off-brand?
If there is a rift between sales and marketing in your business, this next step may be easier said than done. However, you can use this exercise as relationship mender. Review the existing playbook with sales management as a way to offer your help. Don’t go into the conversation on the defense. If the team isn’t using the content that marketing has generated, ask questions to understand why instead of trying to force the issue. The sales team has front-line experience that can provide you insights into why a piece of content doesn’t work. Take their feedback and help create something new— and brand consistent — that will maintain brand consistency and move the prospect closer to a sale.
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.