Kate Elizabeth — 4 July 2019
Before we get into what defines a consistent brand, it is essential to look at what a company's brand identity and brand guidelines are, and how they play into creating a consistent brand.
A company's brand identity is its mission, vision, practices, logos, colours, fonts, tone, voice. It is what forms the character of a business, whether it be visible or invisible, tangible or intangible.
Brand guidelines refer to how a company uses its brand assets to convey its brand (brand assets are the visible parts of a brand identity, e.g. logos, colours and fonts). For example, brand guidelines may stipulate the logo must always be in black and white. Furthermore, the brand guidelines might include a list of adjectives or words that should be used frequently to highlight the voice and personality of the company.
Now that we understand brand identity and brand guidelines, we can begin to understand how brand consistency plays into it all. Essentially, brand consistency refers to how on-brand your company's marketing content is in regards to your brand identity and brand guidelines.
Businesses who have the best brand consistency make sure every piece of content or marketing collateral they create strictly adheres to its brand identity and brand guidelines.
You may have heard the term 'content is king' before. It means when it comes to marketing your brand and connecting with consumers, content is vital. However, the more content you create, the more marketing material you need to keep on-brand.
Furthermore, what many businesses find challenging when it comes to brand consistency is the personality of the individuals making the marketing material can often outshine the character of the company's brand. This is especially a problem in bigger organisations and can lead to a misaligned, fragmented look and feel to a company's brand when viewed as a whole.
But why is it so important to ensure your marketing team's work when viewed as a whole is consistent and on-brand? Do customers really care? Well, as mentioned before, brand consistency is hard to measure, which also means the cost of brand inconsistency is hard to measure too.
There are five keys ways brand consistency benefits your brand.
Brand consistency builds a hook on which your customers hang their understanding of your brand and your company.
Brand consistency means you don't need to start the narrative from the start every time your customer sees your marketing and communications. It provides a shortcut to their understanding of, and engagement with, your products and services.
If every time we had to explain our value proposition, our brand identity and ethos, our product/service offering and our position within the market, it becomes an expensive and onerous exercise for both the business and the consumer.
A consistent brand, with consistent branding and visual identity, helps your customers understand how they fit within your product and service offering, what to expect when they engage with you and how you will deliver upon your brand promise.
The colours you use, the typeface selection, the image selection and your call to action, from a branding perspective, all contribute to the semiotics of the brand, and the consistent application of these branding elements manages your customer's expectations.
For example, if your typeface is script based and your colours high contrast, it is unlikely your customers expect high levels of service, the semiotics will tell them the brand is more price focused. Applying these elements consistently will ensure your customer doesn't suffer from misaligned expectations.
Brand consistency, including the use of visual identity, tone and messaging, allows you to create a common language. This commonality is vital across the disciplines within the business, across diverse locations and across your customer groups. The language might be written, or it might be visual - every time you apply it consistently, you are reinforcing the choice, reinforcing the value proposition for the customer, and reinforcing the desired outcome.
Imagine if, every time you went to market, your look and feel was different. Not only would you lose the 'shortcut' in people's minds, but the creative development would also cost you an extraordinary amount. When you apply the same elements in similar manners across relevant channels, you are creating scale and repeatability. We would all love a limitless budget, but if we had one, would we really want to spend it on an unrecognisable and unrelated suite of campaign elements?!
The consistency of applying the elements of the brand rigorously builds ownership of, and connection to, the brand. This ownership is vital within the organisation, but also is important for your customers. If they recognise your brand, if they understand your brand through its' consistency, they will be part of the community of the brand, feel ownership of it and be more likely to engage.
One thing is for certain, however. The business landscape is more competitive than ever before, with countless brands competing for a space in an increasingly crowded world of consumerism. What does this mean? It means consumers can afford to expect only the best of the best from companies.
This, in turn, means businesses need to figure out how to stand out, and not just in the product they offer, but in their design, customer service and how they portray their brand. This is why brand consistency is vital. Modern consumers expect perfection. They will not hesitate to move their dollars
to one of your competitors if your brand doesn't satisfy what they expect from you. At the end of the day, human brains look for consistency, patterns and regularity. This means that over time, a consistent brand translates into customer trust, and ultimately, retention.
When your brand is consistent, consumers know what to expect from you, which is what keeps them coming back for more.