As time is moving on it’s becoming harder to manage brand consistency: brands display themselves, sometimes even unknowingly, on more channels than ever before. With “the internet” having access to your brand assets with a simple drag and drop from your webpage or Google Image search–it’s hard to keep track of it all. Why is this important?
An article in Forbes reads that brands are built through the consistent delivery of the brand promise through all stakeholder touch points. Keywords here, “consistent delivery”. Take celebrity family – the Kardashians – as an example. Their family name, one can argue, has become a brand in itself just by consistent delivery. Whether that’s on TV, social media or in fashion – the Kardashian name has a consistent brand-feel.
In saying that, the time when brands were only built around products are over. Many brands have proven that branding success can revolve around people (icons and celebrities – like The Kardashians), as well as hobbies (Red Bull, GoPro). With so many channels available to showcase your brand on, consistent delivery can be difficult to manage. Nevertheless, it can still be achieved in the following five ways.
1. Develop a branding style guide
Perhaps one of the more obvious, yet often underrated keys to brand consistency is the development and implementation of a branding style guide. A branding style guide is a document describing the rules and guidelines for the composition, design, and general theme of a brands’ aesthetics. This rule book allows graphic designers, marketers, web developers and product packaging departments to represent the brand in a visually consistent way across all channels. The more extensive the branding style guide, the better. Providing boundaries regarding to what can and cannot be done are very helpful in achieving consistent brand delivery. Communicational aspects such as tone of voice and choice of vocabulary also have great impact on the stakeholder’s perception of the brand, so it is wise to implement rules concerning the brand’s messaging for editors too. For example, visuals are often shared on channels accompanied by text. If the visuals are consistent, but the text is not, this may affect the overall brand look and feel. The more granular the style guide, the easier it becomes for employees to comply.
2. Get software with workflows that supports the brand
Using the branding style guide, typical brand visuals will be produced and syndicated.
The visuals may be consistent, but the channels they are being shared on, may differ strongly – think of the image dimensions and character space on Facebook vs LinkedIn vs your company’s CMS. Many companies aim to develop different formats, varying from email signatures to physical clip folders and headers for the website. All these different items are saved either in the cloud, onto a server or on other hardware. Repurposing visuals for different on- and offline destinations however, can be a huge hurdle for brand consistency. Visuals – and the brand – suffer if re-formatted incorrectly and can leave employees frustrated and brand communication on various channels inconsistent. A solution to this could be using the right software and tools to control how your brand is being used across different channels. The right digital asset management software allows companies to easily repurpose visuals using metadata and automatically create the right format to suit any campaign on any channel. Not only does this software strongly aid brand consistency, it is also a major timesaver.
3. Participate on relevant platforms and connect with the right influencers
What also forms part of consistent brand delivery is making your brand known on platforms and in online communities where it matters. It helps with overall brand visibility and “top of mind” awareness for your prospective target audience. To increase the brand’s visibility and connect with the right target audiences, it is inevitable to (actively) participate on online and offline platforms. It is key that the platforms of your choice align with the brand’s identity and prospects as well as represent its target group’s preferences. The same applies to partnerships with social media influencers. Partnering up with a social media influencer is a common tactic for many brands. Running a campaign, for example, in collaboration with a social media influencer could prove to be more successful and cost-effective than a traditional ad campaign in some cases. If a company opts to do a co-lab with a social media influencer, it is important to determine the ready existing profile and reputation of this influencer. A YouTube vlogger who lives a healthy, eco-friendly life, for example, would not be suitable for a partnership with Harley Davidson. And a protein supplements company wouldn’t necessarily benefit from a partnership with a famous mobile gamer on Instagram. Brands should, however, always be cognizant of the influencers they choose as the smallest amount of detail could affect how their brand is perceived. Things like design, color scheme, edited photos or music overlays could all contribute or hurt the dispersion of the brand promise.
4. Get the entire team on board and designate a control squad
Brand consistency needs to be carried out through all stakeholder touchpoints in order to build a solid brand, whether it is the customer service chatbot online, tweets and Facebook posts being posted or the employee behind the counter wearing the company’s cap – the brand should have a consistent look and feel. Behind all these touchpoints, different staff members operate on a daily basis and their everyday tasks may sometimes interfere with communicating the brand promise to the stakeholders they interact with. Providing the branding style guide may not be enough to get all staff members enthused and inspired by the brand’s core values and identity. To create a deeper understanding of the brand and its identity, both training and access to all brand materials is necessary. Then, appoint staff members from each department to carry out a quality control on the delivery of the brand promise within that department. Having a designated team that carries the responsibility of brand consistency quality control, will help contribute towards brand consistency not only in different departments, but also across the whole company.
5. Focus on quality
Possibly the most crucial key to brand consistency is the focus on delivering overall consistent quality to your stakeholder. An important aspect to a brand is their stakeholders’ perception that they can depend on them and their product. Whether it be a great guest panel on a Saturday night tv-show or quality articles in a daily newspaper, the consumer’s knowledge that they can expect consistent quality works best for building a strong brand. This consistency is also crucial for maintaining a well-established brand. For example, when customers step into Starbucks and the waitress gets the customized order wrong once, it may be waved away as a simple mistake. But when this happens over and over again, the Starbucks brand promise is endangered. Starbucks is renowned for excellent handling of customized orders, no matter how many special requests customers have. When the execution of this promise lacks quality, one could ask ‘what is left of the brand?’
A consistent brand promise
Whatever lies at the heart of a brand, if it delivers a consistent brand promise, it has a good shot at success. Take National Geographic, the brand that has proven that a magazine revolving around a hobby can turn into a globally recognized society brand. The brand started out as a magazine in 1988, but is now a world famous multi-channel lifestyle brand, with its own television channel, films, social media platforms and there is even a National Geographic Museum. Having the right tools to support the consistent brand promise is of crucial importance–and following the above mentioned 5 key tips can help get you there.