A strong and memorable brand is essential for any business. But many companies neglect what we feel is the most important part of branding – brand consistency.
Good branding is reliant on a number of factors, but if you don’t implement your brand consistently across all of your different collateral and media, your brand loses recognisability – therefore losing its power. Look at the unmistakable visual styles of big names like Apple and Google; by just glancing at their marketing collateral, you can almost immediately tell which company that media has come from due to their consistent visual “language”.
What is brand consistency?
Brand consistency is the practice of ensuring that your brand is portrayed in a cohesive manner in every place that it appears. All of your customer-facing materials should share the same look and feel because it adds to the recognisability and strength of the brand.
Let’s look at a few real-life examples – starting with McDonalds’ “Golden Arches”. If you’re in an unfamiliar place – even in a different country – you know exactly what to expect when you see that familiar logo. You may even know what you’re going to order before you reach the door!
So how could a big brand hypothetically damage their brand consistency? We’re all familiar with Apple’s sleek, monochrome aesthetic. Now, let’s imagine they kept that overall theme, but they started to occasionally release press announcements where the Apple logo is stretched out of shape, the fonts are inconsistent, and the colours clash horribly. The esteem, recognition, and value built up in their brand would start to erode, and before long it would likely start to harm their overall reputation. That’s why they would never dream of doing so.
When a brand is applied consistently across all channels – internal and external – the visual representation almost becomes part and parcel of the company’s offering. Google are now so synonymous with web search that the verb “to google” is now included in the Oxford English Dictionary. Hoover are so synonymous with vacuum cleaners that “hoovering” is in the OED too. This widespread recognition is due in part to the consistent application – and therefore recognisability – of these brands.
Why worry about brand consistency?
Companies of all sizes should be concerned with portraying their brand consistently. The larger companies we’ve mentioned have whole teams of people dedicated to coordinating their brands and products across continents, but smaller firms should take brand consistency just as seriously.
When you’re a smaller company with a smaller pool of brand recognition, you need to make the recognition you do receive count. By maintaining a consistent use of your logo, graphics, colour palettes, fonts, and tone of voice, you give the appearance of being established, experienced, and trustworthy. But if your design and copy choices are markedly different across all of your different collateral, you start to appear disjointed and unprofessional.
Recognition is an important part of the sales funnel (or sales flywheel if you prefer that model). By being consistently recognised, you are being consistently remembered. Cohesive visuals play an essential part in achieving the fabled “X many points of contact to earn a sale” as you are being positively identified as the same organisation each time. This also feeds into the (equally fabled) “know, like, and trust” factor in the eyes of the customer.
A company with a consistent brand generally appears a safer bet, giving the appearance of having dependable practices and standards. A company with inconsistent branding risks harming their reputation, their perceived value, and potentially their client engagement too.
All in all, consistency is what gives brands their value.
Crucial Consistency Considerations
When you’re trying to make a brand consistent, consider the following:
- Are all colour choices applied consistently across every piece of digital and print collateral?
- Is the logo applied consistently across all collateral including social media?
- Is the brand’s tone of voice coordinated across all copy and communications?
- When using graphics such as stock images or staff headshots, are they all applied consistently across all media?
- Are all typography and font styles reliable and recognisable?
The aim is for a cohesive use of colour, shape, form, and language across all internal and external touchpoints; this can include letterheads, business cards, websites, social media graphics – even down to email signatures and promotional items.
A good brand also needs to consistently align with your target audience, what you help them achieve – and by extension – your company’s whole ethos. Do you want to be perceived as friendly and approachable? Sincere and dependable? Great branding can portray the feeling behind a brand in a split second.
How to Achieve Brand Consistency
In order to implement your brand consistency across all platforms, you need to establish and record your ground rules in a “brand guide”. This will generally include details about the following:
- Precise colour palettes (RGB hexadecimal colour codes for digital, CMYK and/or Pantone colour codes for print)
- Acceptable font families, typography choices, and how to apply them
- Logo size, spacing, and any permitted colouration and backgrounds
- Any standard layouts or templates for commonly used documents or collateral
- The tone of voice used in marketing copy, social media posts, and content marketing
- Use and treatment of other visuals such as photographs, icons and illustrations
Companies can put a style guide together in-house, but we strongly advise that you seek guidance from a branding or graphic design agency to put your brand guidance document together. Agencies are experienced in making brands the best they can be; they may therefore notice aspects of your brand that you haven’t acknowledged or could be developed further.
Brand guide in hand, you now need to communicate its content to your team so they can reformat any documents and emails that they use in the course of their work. Keep all collateral, graphics, and brand guidance documents in a central shared location so everyone can freely access it (solutions like G Suite are perfect for this). With this in mind, the worst thing you can possibly do is to make your brand guidelines overly complicated. A brief document with simple rules is far easier to follow than an 85-page essay!
So, how do you think your brand consistency could be improved? Are there any things you feel your brand does particularly well? Are there any elements of brand consistency that you struggle with? Let us know down in the comments!
Brand agencies don’t just create brands from scratch – they also help companies develop long-lasting, consistent identities out of collateral they’re already using. If you currently have some loose branding rules in place (or indeed no rules at all) then reach out to the team at OLCO Design. We help organisations across the UK and abroad create consistent, valuable, and impactful brands – give us a call on 0330 223 1193.