What Is Brand Consistency?
Brand consistency is the practice of aligning your organization's messaging, voice, and visual identity across all its channels. We know it matters, and we'd like to dive into just how much.
Built atop a foundation of brand values and clever messaging, consistent branding makes you more recognizable to both new and existing customers. Clearly defined brand patterns are the core of your business's identity, informing everything from your marketing to your communication.
Brand consistency also plays an important role in ensuring a coherent experience across every touchpoint in the customer journey allowing your brand to position itself better in its niche.
Let's break down brand consistency layer by layer and get into the nitty-gritty of why it matters so much.
In this article, you will learn
- The core elements of brand consistency
- Why brand consistency is so important
- Examples of consistent branding
- A how-to guide to ensure brand consistency across every channel
Why Is Brand Consistency Important?
The core elements of brand consistency include:
- A content strategy (design, management, and distribution)
- Brand voice
- A clear mission statement
- Well-established core values
- An understanding of your brand's unique selling points
- Visual elements such as logos and color scheme
Imagine you have two friends. One of them always follows through on their commitments, and you always have some idea of how they'll respond to a given situation. The other is emotionally unstable and constantly flakes on you, so you never know how they'll react when you speak to them.
Which of the two would you trust more?
Now imagine instead of friends, we're talking about two different businesses. One maintains a consistent identity and positive communication with its customers. The other's behavior is best described as eclectic and disjointed, and no two brand messages are the same.
Again, which comes across as the more trustworthy of the two?
Trust is what ultimately lies at the heart of consistent branding. A strong, consistent brand identity demonstrates to consumers that your business is stable and reliable. It provides assurance about the quality of your products and services and your dedication to your customers.
The security that comes with knowing your business has its best interests at heart ultimately plays a strong role in customer loyalty.
Brand consistency also differentiates your business from its competitors. It emphasizes what makes you memorable and unique, cultivating awareness through a more recognizable public image. This in turn helps to create strong associations around your core values and selling points.
In a hypercompetitive market, these associations are crucial. For instance, according to Global Banking and Finance, 71% of consumers are more likely to buy a product or service from a brand they recognize. Given the choice between a brand they know and one they don't, they'll nearly always choose the former.
Considering all of the above, it should be no surprise that brand consistency gives a significant competitive advantage.
A business with consistent branding tends to experience up to 20% greater overall growth and 33% higher revenue compared to one that struggles with off-brand content.Marq, Brand Consistency Report
There's even evidence to suggest that brand consistency can boost employee morale, driving up productivity and reducing turnover in the process.
Examples of Consistent Branding
We all know of at least a few brands that are more or less household names. Businesses that, through a combination of consistent branding and quality, are instantly recognizable by their logo alone.
Some have even become so popular that their name is synonymous with the products they sell. It's why so many people say Band-Aid instead of adhesive bandage, Kleenex instead of tissue, Chapstick instead of lip balm, and Dumpster instead of garbage bin. Not every highly successful brand becomes so prolific, but, you get the point.
Consider these successful brands:
- When you see a curled check mark or the "swoosh," Nike is the first company that comes to mind.
- A stylized set of golden arches will only ever be associated with McDonald's.
- Everyone is familiar with Google, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft, the four reigning titans of the technology sector.
- As the largest automotive manufacturer in the world, Toyota is second only to the likes of Mercedes-Benz in terms of recognizability.
You make these associations because these companies have all been (mostly) consistent in how they represent themselves over the years. They feel authentic and authoritative because their marketing generally conveys the same messages in the same tone and style.
But what happens when an otherwise consistent brand fumbles its messaging? What happens when a company decides it wants to change its brand identity completely? To answer those questions, we need look no further than the New Coke fiasco.
A Lesson in the Importance of Brand Stability: Coca Cola and New Coke
Coca-Cola is another brand that needs no introduction. It's more or less the most iconic soft drink in the world. Everyone knows it, and most of us have drunk at least one bottle in our lives.
What you might not know is how Coca-Cola nearly lost its market leadership to leading competitor Pepsi in the 1980s, a story that’s on the company's official blog. Pepsi launched a wildly successful marketing campaign that pitted the two drinks against one another in a series of blind taste tests. Pepsi's slightly sweeter taste made it the winner in almost every instance.
In an effort to counter Pepsi's smear campaign, the Coca-Cola Company announced that it was changing the formula for its soft drink, debuting a product known as New Coke. It was by all accounts a bold move, representing the first time the company changed its formula in nearly a century. And, at least on paper, it seemed like the right decision, as the majority of consumers appeared to prefer New Coke when asked to participate in taste tests.
Unfortunately, the Coca-Cola Company failed to consider one crucial detail: people were very attached to the company's then-former flagship beverage. To them, Coke was more than a soft drink, it was a fixture associated with some of their fondest childhood memories. It was something that had remained consistent throughout their lives.
The Coca-Cola Company refers to the move as the most memorable marketing blunder in history, and it's hard to disagree with that.
"We set out to change the dynamics of sugar colas in the United States, and we did exactly that, albeit not in the way we had planned," recalls former Coca-Cola Company chairman and chief executive officer Roberto Goizueta. "New Coke sent an incredibly powerful signal...a signal that we really were ready to do whatever was necessary to build value for the owners of our business."
Unfortunately, it was not a signal anyone wanted to receive.
The market outcry against the decision was immediate and overwhelmingly negative. People instantly began hoarding bottles of "old" Coke, and the company received thousands of calls and complaints from angry customers every day. There were protest groups and demonstrations, and even a few songs written about the loss of Coke's old taste.
Directly following the decision, Goizueta received a letter asking for his autograph. Not out of admiration. It was, the sender claimed because they wanted the signature of "one of the dumbest executives in American business history."
To the company's credit, it didn't take long to turn things around. Just three months after the debut of New Coke, the brand introduced Coca-Cola Classic. News that the original formula was returning to store shelves made the front page of virtually every news publication in North America, and the Coca-Cola Company received over 31,600 calls on its hotline in just two days after making the announcement.
Coca-Cola Classic and New Coke were sold alongside one another for a time until the company eventually discontinued the latter.
The Coca-Cola Company built its entire brand on nostalgia and reliability. When it attempted to change the formula of its flagship product, it did so while tearing down that legacy. The lesson here is that if you want to introduce a product, service, or initiative that runs counter to how customers see your brand, proceed with extreme caution.
More importantly, never change your messaging unless you have literally no other choice—it's a surefire way to lose the interest and attention of your audience. There's a reason it's so difficult to call to mind any company with an inconsistent brand identity. It's because nothing about them is the least bit memorable.
How Do You Ensure Consistent Brand Experiences?
Brand consistency is not the result of a single project or campaign. It's an ongoing process that requires collaboration across multiple departments and disciplines.
Now that we’ve touched on the core elements of brand consistency let’s talk about how to make those a reality.
Start by Establishing Branding Guidelines
Your company's brand voice guide is basically the bible for your sales and marketing teams. It defines everything a marketing professional needs to know about how they should convey your brand, including what not to do. This includes:
- Your unique selling points
- A mission and value statement
- An elevator pitch for your brand
- Your preferred tone of voice
- Your target demographic
- Vocabulary and language to use
- Vocabulary and language to avoid
- Common slogans, sayings, or terminology
- A general code of conduct
- Common visual elements associated with your brand, including core colors
The idea here is that even if someone's never worked with you before, they can read your brand voice guide to know exactly how your brand communicates. Remember that a brand voice guide does you no good if your business doesn't actually enforce it. You need to ensure that everyone within your organization is made aware of the document and that it's readily available to anyone who needs it.
Provide Staff with the Necessary Resources
Providing your staff with education and a brand guide is not enough. You must also give them the necessary resources to maintain visual consistency across your channels. Without access to a library of branding resources, they'll be forced to create assets themselves.
Anyone responsible for external business communication should have access to:
- A font library
- Logos and logo variations
- Common artwork and graphics
- Product photos, including lifestyle imagery
- Color palettes
Pre-built brand templates can even further streamline things, arming your employees with consistent yet easily customizable visuals to fit virtually any use case. You can even take things a step further and explore some way of automating your content creation processes, making it even easier for your people to create and distribute brand assets.
Conduct Brand Audits
You know your brand better than anyone. We won't dispute that. However, it's still possible that there are blind spots in your branding strategy, such as:
- An incomplete understanding of customer expectations and intent
- Messaging that targets the wrong demographic
- Strategies that overlook a valuable sub-demographic or niche
- Misconceptions about your business's current market position
- Incomplete implementation or enforcement
Regular brand audits help you identify bottlenecks and points of failure in your branding strategy and the root cause of these issues. They also support the continuous improvement of your business's branding and marketing, ensuring a more consistent identity that resonates better with your audience.
Ideally, you'll want to bring in a third party to walk you through these audits—if you perform them yourself, you may still overlook your blind spots.
Brand Consistency Is Non-Negotiable
Between the pandemic, economic instability, and sociopolitical unrest, the world's a bit of a mess right now. You can hardly blame consumers for wanting a bit of stability and consistency in their lives. Nor can you begrudge them for avoiding brands that lack a consistent identity.
If your business is to remain competitive and continue to grow, you need to establish a consistent identity across both online and offline touchpoints. Unfortunately, for many businesses, that's far easier said than done. Marq recognizes that, and we can help.
Our brand templating platform empowers your organization to deploy consistent brand assets and content across every channel. We offer a portfolio of professional services to assist you with everything from onboarding and implementation to asset design, management, and distribution.
Schedule a demo, and see how Marq can help you define and discover your brand's identity.