When you’re a one-person operation working out of your home, brand consistency is the last thing on your mind. You have a logo and a color scheme, so you call it good. But when your business grows, incorporating more people, more voices, more opinions, and more styles while reaching more prospects every day, brand consistency can quickly get out of hand. We know that your brand is more than the visual marks that represent your seal of visual trust, but it’s still important to nail your fundamentals.
The Worst That Could Happen: When Branding Goes Awry
If your brand — images, logo, voice, color scheme and typography (among other things) — isn’t consistent across all platforms, each touchpoint undermines your company’s credibility with prospects and customers.
For example, if a prospect clicks on a Facebook ad that has an image of your product on a tropical beach but the link takes them to a landing page with different image styles and inconsistent branding, that person will question whether the link worked (at best) or whether they’ve stumbled into a scam landing page that will wire their money to a prince in a distant land (at worst). They’ll think it’s better to avoid risk and leave your page ASAP. No conversions. No purchases. High bounce rate.
This happens in many ways. Branding mismatches are also frequently found in typography, tone, and diction. This happens because every individual who produces content has his or her own style and voice – but what you need is a single brand style and brand voice. Otherwise, from the outside it looks like there is a tug-of-war behind the scenes of your company, which undermines trust.
The Best That Could Happen: When Branding is Consistent
Differentiation: Your brand tells the world who you are, what you value, and what you have to offer.
When done well, it differentiates you from the competition by giving your company a voice, and even personality, that is human and likeable. When this voice is consistent, it can help your company rise above the noise of similar products and similar packaging by delivering a unique experience. As an added bonus, this same consistency increases the feeling of unwavering authenticity.
Brand recognition: Numerous studies have shown the benefits of brand awareness on buyer behavior. More brand awareness is linked to buyers perceiving products as being of higher quality. Brand awareness, when combined with a positive public image, is linked to increasing consumer loyalty to that brand. And, high brand awareness is linked to increased trust and purchase intention. But if your brand image or messaging constantly changes, it’s hard for consumers to follow and recognize.
Why is maintaining brand consistency so hard?
It’s not all about the logo (but many people think it is)
Every CEO and marketer has gotten the memo that consistent logos and color schemes are important, but the message of consistency tends to trail off when it comes to brand voice. As businesses grow, more and more employees are needed to tell their stories, which can dilute or even change the voice entirely, depending on who produces the content. Is your brand fun and quirky? Serious and business-like? Personable? Friendly-casual, or business-casual? Choose one and make sure every content producer understands what it is, and is not, through a style guide.
Another area of brand consistency that doesn’t get much attention is how your employees represent your brand to the outside world. Any outward-facing employee should represent your brand’s values. Disney is famous for doing this better than anyone – you won’t find a single image of any Disney Princess actress doing a keg stand. It’s in their contracts.
- Talking about the same thing every day in new ways is tough
Consider the challenge of brand consistency from your marketers’ perspectives. They have to come up with new, interesting and relevant ways to talk about your product 8 hours a day, every day. Keeping consistency in tone, images and messaging under those conditions isn’t easy when your instincts are to be spontaneous and creative. There is room for spontaneity and creativity, but only as those ideas fit into the larger picture of brand identity.
- The temptation to play copycat
When you see a competitor do something different and succeeding, it’s tempting to copy them by changing your brand. That might work for the short-term, but creating an appealing and original identity, and sticking with it, will be a better investment in the long-term. That said, if a competitor is doing better and the difference can be traced back to branding, it might be time to reevaluate if the brand you have could be working better for you.
- Growth changes everything
As companies grow, missions, products, services, company cultures and employees change – just about everything is subject to change. Keeping consistency in any shape or form becomes incredibly challenging under those circumstances. Make a list of what doesn’t change, like your values, and frame your brand identity around that. When you do need to change, be open and communicative with your consumers so they know what to expect and why changes are taking place.
How to create a successful Style Guide
While ensuring brand consistency is about more than just having a style guide, a style guide is still indispensable. A comprehensive style guide is a growth tool, because with it you can build and scale marketing quickly without needing to oversee every pixel. Your style guide should include:
- Logo and approved variations people can download and use
- Asset usage guidelines (where and when to use brand images)
- Voice, tone and style of content
- A fast reference for designers, marketers, developers and partners
- Your vision, mission and values
What is your style, and why is it your style? When creating each of these sections, it’s important to not only state what you want but explain why that decision was made. For example, if your company colors are lime green, forest green and cerulean, explain the theory behind that – maybe they’re all colors inspired by nature, and that theme is continued in the rounded font and soft, flowing graphics like circles and teardrops. Perhaps that is an extension of the idea of a product that works intuitively or naturally. Whatever your story is, explain it in your style guide so content creators can build on it.
Emphasize the importance of ad-to-page consistency. Explain why it’s important to have the same image on your ad and landing page — or on your social media profile and your website. In fact, you could just include a link to this article.
When it’s okay to be inconsistent
Every rule comes with an exception, including brand consistency. Google, for example, is consistently brand-inconsistent. The font changes, the logo changes, the homepage changes – and it works because people are entertained and pay attention. What’s their secret? Google marketers make these changes to spark consumer interest; in doing so, they spread brand awareness through shares.
You’ll see larger brands having some fun with this, such as Pizza Hut’s Blockbuster Box campaign in Hong Kong. Instead of the branded Pizza Hut box, this campaign features original art based on movie genres to go along with their pizza-box-turned-movie-projector gimmick. So many people are talking about it that their brand awareness has risen, even when their branded product looks completely different.
If you are a smaller brand, however, brand inconsistency is more likely to work against you than in your favor.
Whatever your situation, one thing is certain; is important to see every touchpoint as valuable opportunity to turn people on to your brand.