A few months ago we worked on a brand audit for a small business client. We collected and studied all of the elements that formed her brand, including collateral (menus, brochures, and business cards), her website, active social media platforms, employee-facing documents, and more. If it was related to her business, we looked at it. Just like when the IRS comes calling for a tax audit, we dove deep into her business.
What we noticed while conducting this audit was how easy it is to be inconsistent with branding. Despite having an excellent business sense, this client had small inconsistencies across her brand, such as using slightly different shades of blue. You may be thinking, well so what? Blue is blue. But unlike horseshoes and hand grenades, when it comes to brand consistency, “close” doesn’t cut it.
We’re here to convince you that in marketing, true consistency matters.
What is brand consistency?
Brand consistency is the practice of presenting your brand on all channels and in all materials in the same way, every time. It includes using the same colors, logo, and font everywhere. And it includes maintaining a consistent tone in all of your official communication. Being sassy one day and serious the next is going to confuse your clients, as will getting emails with a completely different look than your website.
Why should you be consistent with your brand?
Consistency builds trust and loyalty with your customers. It also helps you deliver the same customer experience time after time. How would you feel if your favorite brand of cereal suddenly came in a yellow box when it used to be green? You’d think something was wrong or that they changed the product in some way (and if you’re wondering how consumers might react to that, remember the launch of New Coke?). You might still buy it, but you would take a minute to stop and think about it. Placing doubt in a customer during their buying journey is never a goal for a business—and consistency avoids that risk.
Repeat after us: Consistency. Builds. Trust.
Another benefit of consistency is recognition. Consistency cements your brand identity in customers’ minds. The more recognizable a brand is, the easier it is to remember. When we see familiar colors, shapes, and layouts, and read words in a familiar voice, we are able to turn off our “decision” brain—the one that takes energy we would prefer to reserve for other things—and rely on instinct. What we remember, we trust. When’s the last time you spent money with a business you didn’t trust?
One brand that has done a good job of building brand consistency represents itself with just two colors. The trick is that you see these two colors everywhere there brand is, and they are always the exact same shade of purple and orange.
Ring any bells? When customers see these colors, which are so unique and consistent, they unconsciously recall everything about that brand’s reputation and services. (Are you suddenly overcome by the strange urge to send your mother a package, too?)
How to establish brand consistency
A brand audit is a great way to start. This review of all your brand materials lets you know where your strengths are and what areas need to be brought up to snuff. You can do a cursory audit yourself, but a professional audit may track down sneaky areas where an inconsistent image is coming across, and will make sure no stone is left unturned. Once you know where you stand, here are a few important next steps.
1. Create a brand style guide
A brand style guide is essentially a road map to how your brand should appear across all mediums and channels. It’s a benchmark that allows everyone in marketing, communications, advertising, HR, operations, and C-suite to be on the same page without question as to what exact color, font, logo treatment, or tone to use, and so much more. To get started, define the most basic design elements and continue to work on the guide and build it out from there, adding and refining as needed. It may help to review examples of solid brand style guides. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. You can do this!
2. Brief your employees
The next step to building a consistent brand is to let everyone know the updates being made to achieve that vital cohesion. This will help all employees speaking for the brand in an official capacity to stay on message visually and verbally, and to ensure that any new projects or materials being created match the brand’s established style.
3. Update old materials
Now it’s time to rummage through all your old materials, channels, and collateral, and to update everything that is off-brand. We suggest creating a comprehensive list of items and dividing them up between your team. Have them update the list (we recommend using a format that can be shared in the cloud, like Google docs, for efficiency) as they are completed so you can track what has been completed and what still needs updating. Prioritize items that are going to be printed soon, and high-traffic channels like your website or social media feeds.
Brand consistency is a critical concern for every business. Help your clients trust you, make their lives easier, and convert more business by ensuring your brand appears consistently everywhere.
If you need help auditing your brand or updating it across channels, schedule a 30-minute exploratory call to talk about how we can work together today!
Answer: Fed Ex.