You don’t need us to tell you there’s too much content out there. Right this very minute thousands upon thousands of pieces of content are being published on the web. Is it any wonder why it’s difficult for most businesses to stand out from the crowd?
If you want to cut through the noise, you need to differentiate your brand from competitors. But while differentiation is key to grabbing a share of the market, that strategy alone won’t sustain your company in the long run.
You need something that sticks — something that will build your customers’ trust and win their loyalty, possibly for a lifetime.
In short, you need brand consistency.
Unfortunately, brand consistency is also something many marketers and creatives fail to achieve.
Thankfully, there are steps you can take to ensure that your branding remains on-point and relevant throughout your marketing efforts.
We’ll get to those steps a bit shortly. But first, just to make sure that we’re all on the same page, let’s talk about what makes up a brand.
What makes up a brand?
When people think “brand,” the first thing that always comes to mind is the brand logo.
Nothing wrong with that. After all, your brand logo represents your company. It communicates what your brand is, what it stands for, and the promise that you’re making to your audience. Did you know that the shape of a logo has a powerful impact on how the buying public sees your brand?
For a brand logo to have the desired effect, it has to be complemented by other visual elements, such as color scheme, typography, and imagery. Taken together, they form your brand’s visual identity, which is a key component in branding.
Think of the brands that you love and enjoy and you’ll notice that they have a certain “look” and “feel” about them that makes them memorable and distinct from other brands.
There are no two ways about it: visuals have a profound impact on the buying habits of your target audience.
It’s not all about visuals
There’s more to branding than meets the eye (literally).
Think of it this way: Your brand is not only about your product or services; it’s also about your target audience and the promise you’re making to them.
You can’t possibly make that kind of connection with visuals alone.
This is why branding has three essential elements, which are:
- Visual identity (logo, color motif, typography, etc.)
- Messaging (how you communicate your brand message)
- Core values (the fundamental beliefs and principles that guide your organization)
However, and this is important: the above elements need to be perfectly aligned for your branding strategy to resonate with your customer base and have a lasting impact. Otherwise, all your marketing efforts will only create confusion, and worse, betray your customers’ trust. If your brand’s logo screams “eco-friendly” in every way, do you think using plastic as packaging material will help you win their loyalty?
If one element of your branding contradicts or is at odds with another, you’re not giving your customer base a reason to believe that you’ll fulfill your brand promise.
But if your visuals, messaging, and core values are consistent and support each other, customers are more likely to buy your products and services. Not just because they know your offerings are good, but also because they support and stand behind your brand.
Content chaos: It’s a jungle out there
The digital age has given rise to new technologies and markets, empowering customers more than ever. As such, people live in their smartphones, allowing them to be more in control of what they see, engage with, and purchase online.
All of a sudden, staying in touch with your consumer base has become a frustrating game of Whack-a-Mole.
If you want your digital assets to have an impact, you need to make sure you’re delivering them to the right people, at the right time, and through the right channel.
Did you know that it takes 6-8 touches before a brand can generate a sales-ready lead? This means that many of those who take an interest in your brand will not end up buying your products and services. Now imagine how many more potential customers you’ll lose if you keep deviating from your branding strategy.
Granted, it’s not easy to nail your branding strategy every time. In an age of digital revolution where customers are hyper-connected, we become too busy trying to keep up with evolving customer demands, so much so that it’s too easy to forget what your brand is about and what it stands for.
How do you stay consistent with your branding?
We’ve talked about how important it is to keep your branding consistent.
Which begs the question…
How do you stay consistent with your branding anyway?
You can keep it real, for starters.
Start with authenticity
When it comes to branding, the saying “fake it till you make it” doesn’t apply. Because, in the end, your true self will show up through the cracks. This can be harmful to your brand especially these days where a single tweet or an Instagram story can cause your reputation to go crashing down.
When you know who you are and what you stand for, you don’t have to fake it because what you say, write, do, and share is what you are. Besides, modern consumers crave authenticity, and you stand to earn their trust and loyalty if honesty and truthfulness are at the core of your branding efforts.
Get clear with your brand story
As stated in an earlier section, your brand is a promise to your target audience.
But to make that promise resonate with your audience, the way you communicate that promise has to be story-driven.
In other words, if you want to tell a brand story that your audience can connect to, it must be grounded in an overarching vision, purpose, and set of core values.
Document your Purpose, Vision, and Core Values
Staying consistent with your branding becomes easier and effortless when every business decision and strategy is informed and guided by your company’s purpose, vision, and core values.
In other words, your brand should have a “why” for existing. When you have a clear purpose in mind, it becomes easier to formulate a plan or create a strategy that will help you serve your target audience better and bring the change you want your brand to make in the world.
To ensure that everything you do is aligned with your company’s brand story, you need to document your purpose, vision, and core values.
- Purpose – the reason why your brand exists (e.g., “We believe it is noble to serve others.” – AMEX)
- Vision – the contributions you want to make in the world (e.g., “Our vision is to create a better everyday life for many people.” – IKEA)
- Values – traits and beliefs that define what your brand is and what it stands for (eg., Adobe: Genuine, Exceptional, Innovative, and Involved)
Build an internal brand culture
Focusing too much on external branding can make you forget about the importance of internal branding. If you want to stay consistent with your branding efforts, you need to make sure that you are attuned to each element of your company’s brand story.
Put another way, you need to build and establish an internal brand culture.
Here are a couple of stats proving why a consistent internal brand culture is beneficial to a company’s success:
- 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is essential to the success of a business. (Deloitte)
- Employee overall ratings of their company’s qualities (including collaboration, work environment, and mission and value alignment) are 20% higher at companies with strong internal brand cultures. (CultureIQ)
We’ve already talked about the importance of documenting your brand’s vision, purpose, and core values.
All of that will be for naught if they are not shared with the company’s employees.
Here are specific tips that can help you incorporate your brand story into your company culture.
Make a vision board
For your company vision to “stick,” they need to be documented and put in a place where everybody can see them.
One good way to ensure that everything you do for the brand is aligned with the company’s objectives is to make a vision board. If you’re strapped for ideas, Skype’s Vision board will serve as an inspiration.
Develop brand style guides
Developing brand guidelines ensures that every brand asset that you create and publish is consistent with your brand’s visual identity, message, and values.
There are many different ways to develop a brand style guide, and how you go about it will depend on the needs and goals of your company.
With that said, here are specific tips you can follow to ensure that your brand guidelines will help you stay true with your brand story.
- Put all your brand assets in a DAM system that serves as a “single source of truth” for asset management.
- Create templates for all communication channels.
- Include guides on how assets should be used.
- Collaborate with HR to build initiatives that will promote your company’s core values.
- Create a brand onboarding program for new employees.
In the end, branding is all about showing your target audience that you care. Becoming consistent with your branding becomes second nature when everything you do, say, and create comes from a real place. Let your brand story guide your every action and decision and you’ll win over your customers for life.