Brand consistency is the first step on the path to widespread brand recognition. Streamlining the way you talk to your audience, the values you communicate, and how you aesthetically show up are crucial elements that lay the groundwork for greatness. Because after all, the stronger the brand identity, the more likely you are to be at the forefront of your audiences’ minds and purchase decisions.
If we stop and think for a second about the most recognizable brands on the planet, we know that simply a symbol or color reminds us of that brand. Think of the McDonald’s golden arches or Nike’s swoosh—even the type of music you hear in a Target commercial may immediately identify the brand sponsoring the ad. These brands have reached such strong recognition that even a single element of their brand evokes the same familiarity as the full logo or name. Recently, Coca-Cola released a surprisingly bare soda can in the Middle East to take a stand against prejudice—sending a message not to label other people. Take a look at this red can—would you still know what you were drinking?
Of course you would! You’ve seen that exact red, with that curved white ribbon hundreds of times. And that red is not just any red—it’s not cherry red or stock red. It’s Coca-Cola red. Just that familiar color may always say “Coca-Cola” to customers across the world.
Every single time someone interacts with your brand, whether in a personal encounter or seeing a print ad, they should get the same feeling about it―building invaluable familiarity. This “feeling” gives your brand an identity, a personality, and builds a connection with a customer. Striving for this kind of relationship is a delicate act. And nowadays, brands are working towards omni-channel experiences (especially in an effort to reach millennials), which means they need to deliver a consistent experience to their customers across web, print, mobile, and in-person encounters. However, maintaining a consistent brand requires a good deal of time, resources, and ongoing commitment across the organization. Whether you’re starting from scratch or just need a little support, these five tips will help get you started!
1. Do The Research
Making decisions in a vacuum can be detrimental to your brand strategy. It’s crucial to understand your audience, how they feel about you, what resonates with them, and how they will react to your choices.
It’s also important to understand how people within the organization currently represent the brand. Seeing lots of “offenders” leaving jobs on the printer? Catch an interview you didn’t know about on the local news? It could be a good time to do an audit of how the brand is being represented.
2. Create Standards
Once you’ve tested different messages and understand what properly represents your brand, create a framework everyone can reference. Crafting tools like an elevator pitch and talking points will be very helpful for anyone representing the brand. It’s also a good idea to make templates and resources readily available in an online location such as a company intranet. The harder it is to find the right brand assets, the more likely someone is to snag a logo off the company website rather than take the time to go digging for the right file.
Crafting a style guide is another great way to ensure that the brand standards will be upheld by anyone who joins the team after the original Marketers are gone, any designer you may work with in the future, and a guide for everyone in the organization to live by.
3. Get Everyone On Board
You’ll be far less successful of convincing people to adhere to your standards if you don’t first educate them about why they are important. Everyone can latch onto the idea that it will be valuable to be associated with a well-recognized and highly regarded brand—both in the present and the future.
Even people who want to be brand protectors may just lack the tools and know-how to go it alone. Walk people through the style guide, brand assets, and explain why these brand decisions were made and how they build up to the company’s goals. Having a presentation is also a great opportunity to position Marketing as a resource for people, not just a police force. This will give Marketing a better chance to be involved in decisions from the beginning, and get people in the hang of looping them in on any representations of the brand.
4. Implement Processes
As keepers of the brand, it’s helpful to establish some processes that will keep people in the hang of running things by Marketing before putting them out into the world. No one wants to have to dread getting Marketing’s approval on every single thing because they don’t know how long it will take or if anyone has even seen the request. Creating a system for these kinds of requests that includes a breakdown of all the information you need will not only help Marketing manage them, but will also make everyone else feel like they know how it’s going to go down, and will likely cut down on back and forth time.
5. Be Firm But Kind
This may sound silly, but, be nice. While it’s important to take the brand seriously, you don’t have to take yourself seriously (at least not all the time). So even though the passive-aggressive sticky note may seem like the best route for the culprit who used an offensive font, consider a face-to-face conversation. It’s important to establish yourself as approachable and helpful, not intimidating and aggressive. It also provides another opportunity to educate. Chances are, the offender missed your training or simply forgot – or perhaps still doesn’t understand why the heck using the “approved” fonts is even important.
While these tips may not work for everyone, they will certainly give you a good place to start. Keep in mind—each brand, organizational structure, and culture is different, so flexibility is paramount. Good luck!