4 important steps to increase brand consistency
There’s no denying that branding is a highly complicated process. With hundreds of content, design, product, and marketing touchpoints, it takes a lot of work and people to create a seamless experience for customers.
Remember MySpace? At its peak, it ranked as the most-visited website in the U.S., beating out Yahoo and boasting more than 100 million users. In 2006, just three years after its official launch, the platform was estimated to be worth more than $12 billion. But in 2008, MySpace’s popularity began to decline. By 2011, the platform had lost more than 50 million users — and it was valued at just $35 million.
So, how did the once-mighty MySpace fall so quickly?
According to MySpace’s former Vice President of Online Marketing, Sean Percival, the brand was “a massive spaghetti-ball mess.” In an attempt to remain competitive, MySpace began investing in everything from sports to literature, and the company lost sight of its core brand in the process. Rather than focusing on the connectivity that drew its users to the platform, MySpace diversified without considering how to maintain the aspects of the brand its users loved.
If you want to avoid MySpace’s fate and increase your own brand consistency, you first need to know what consistency in branding is and how other companies establish a cohesive brand. Then you can evaluate your own company image and make changes to ensure your audiences know who you are and what they can expect from your brand.
What is Brand Consistency?
Brand consistency is the process of keeping every piece of your brand, from your visuals to your voice, the same across all mediums and brand assets. It’s speaking in a consistent tone of voice on your social media channels, your blog, and your website. It's providing a consistent experience at your brick-and-mortar locations, your retreats, your events, and your other in-person interactions. It’s infusing the same color palette into every iteration of your logo, products, and print ads. And it’s using the same typography – whether that’s serif, sans serif, script, or display – in all of your marketing collateral.
Why is Brand Consistency important?
Brand consistency generates awareness and establishes trust with customers, which, in turn, helps drive sales and sustain long-term business success. In fact, according to a recent report from Marq, brand consistency can increase profitability by more than 20%.
Maintaining a cohesive image and voice across channels makes it easier for customers to recognize your brand. Over time, this consistency improves your brand authority by helping consumers quickly understand what they can expect from you. And the better your brand image is, the more likely customers are to choose your business over a competitor.
Just take a look at Apple: the tech company achieved 92% brand awareness among U.S.-based consumers by creating a cohesive brand experience for customers. Apple sets itself apart from its competitors by consistently focusing on simplicity in all of its designs.
The brand’s basic logo and iconic tech designs are instantly recognizable because they’ve remained consistent throughout the brand’s history — and that’s mirrored in the simple layout of all its brick-and-mortar stores. Apple’s core of simplicity even shows up in its advertisements, which often feature a single product with a clean white background. Every aspect of the brand emphasizes its focus on the basics. As a result, Apple’s brand is widely recognized for its simplicity and the status it gives to its customers.
How do you increase your brand’s consistency?
Well, there are a lot of things you can do. In fact, a quick Google search will bring up hundreds of tips and tricks to increase your brand consistency. But only a few of them will actually make a big difference for your brand. Here’s a list of the top four things you can do to start increasing the consistency of your brand right now:
1. Define brand guidelines
Before you can assign designers and content creators to start working on individual touchpoints and elements, you need to have a clear understanding of your brand. This means knowing what it stands for, what it looks like, and how it speaks and interacts with people. More than 80% of brands rely on templates to help ensure all messaging is cohesive and consistent with brand values. Creating guidelines on how your brand presents itself is one of the best ways you can ensure everyone on your team has a clear understanding of the brand.
Defining a set of brand guidelines can serve as a way to create a handbook for all of your brand-related projects. This should include a voice guide that details the tone, style, and language you need to use consistently to create your desired brand voice. It should also include a brand style guide that shows off the color palette, logo variations, patterns, and typography to be used for branded communication and customer-facing projects. Most importantly, your brand guidelines should incorporate your core messages — like your mission, vision, and claim — as these are pillars that will guide all future marketing, sales, and product development work you do for your brand.
These guidelines should be written down and organized intuitively, as well. Not only will doing so minimize confusion, but it will also make working on new types of content or designs easy — without veering off-brand. Frontify makes it easy to create and store these guidelines by providing you with an intuitive dashboard where you can upload images, create color palettes, and a whole lot more.
Without the assistance of a tool like Frontify, brands have to rely on file-sharing or a more informal, off-the-books process to exchange documents and ensure that everyone is on the same page. But this means that marketing needs to request assets from sales or vice versa, which slows down the process. Instead, companies like Mary Kay turn to Frontify to centralize their brand guidelines by compiling a dashboard that everyone can access.
Mary Kay started by documenting its style guide. Then the brand uploaded the guide to a digital catalog of resources. And to help ensure everyone can find what they need quickly, resources are categorized by who uses them most frequently, like marketers, developers, and designers.
2. Conduct a brand audit
Once you have your guidelines mapped out, conduct a brand audit. The goal is to make sure that everything you’re currently doing — particularly customer-facing things — is aligned with your brand guidelines. And in many cases, the secret to successful branding is knowing what’s working well for your brand and what you need to change.
For example, Mastercard made the uncommon decision to change its logo in 2016. After conducting a brand audit, Mastercard discovered that more than 80% of consumers instantly recognized its logo. Based on this information, the payment-processing company decided to remove its brand name from the logo. While it was a small change, it spoke to Mastercard’s core values and vision for “simplicity, connectivity, and seamlessness.” And as a result, Mastercard’s brand value increased.
Visa made similar changes to its logo as part of its own rebranding campaign. But rather than relying on a brand audit to dictate what it changed, Visa relied on six design principles to guide its logo refresh. As a result of its different approach, the Mastercard competitor saw dramatically different results. After its rebrand, Visa didn’t see any noticeable change in its value. And while customers described Mastercard as an explorative and stylish brand, they thought Visa was boring, with many misunderstanding its dedication to community building for simple accessibility and inclusivity.
Dig into your website to see if the copy on your core pages reflects the messaging and voice guidelines you decided on. Pop over to your social media channels and flip through your posts to see if the tone or style has deviated from your desired brand identity. Review ads you’re currently running, check in on email campaigns you're sending to subscribers, and skim posts and articles on your blog for brand consistency.
Once you’ve looked over all of your assets, start making decisions about how to fix or phase out elements that aren’t supporting your branding. This may involve reworking content and designs that are in development, removing published content that isn’t on-brand, or something else entirely. In some cases, the issue may have already been resolved. However, it’s important to take note of the deviation anyway so that you can catch similar issues more quickly in the future.
Most importantly, remember that this is an ongoing process. You may not need to conduct full-scale brand audits regularly, but by staying on top of it, you’ll be able to correct mistakes long before they become large, expensive, and time-consuming problems.
3. Communicate and collaborate
One thing businesses don’t often consider is the impact disparate teams and departments can have on their brand. They assume that with each group working on projects in their area of expertise, everything will end up coming together seamlessly. However, when people work in a vacuum, there’s a risk of veering off-brand.
The solution to this is twofold. First, make sure your teams are aware of your expectations. Share your brand guidelines with them and ensure each team has easy access to core brand assets, like your logos, approved design templates, and preselected fonts. This ensures that all new projects meet your brand guidelines — even when your employees are working in isolation.
Second, facilitate communication between individuals, teams, and departments. By keeping everyone connected, you’ll create opportunities for people to collaborate on assignments. You’ll also keep everyone focused on the big picture, which will, in turn, minimize the chance that people will drift away from your brand guidelines.
Energy company E.ON does this by using a cloud-based solution to improve cross-team collaboration. By centralizing brand guidelines and resources in a virtual database, teams are able to access the tech stacks, templates, and other resources they need for development. This centralization of resources also allows E.ON to live up to its standard of transparency by making it easier for all stakeholders to access brand resources.
4. Utilize a brand management team
With everything in place, the last step is to put a gatekeeper between your customers and your employees to verify that all of the content, products, designs, and marketing collateral meet your brand guidelines.
This gatekeeper could be a team or a single individual, depending on your business’s needs. The point is to have a plan in place, so everyone in your company can contribute to the creation and maintenance of your brand without risking deviation from your core brand identity.
However, this can be an overwhelming task for a single person or small group. So, it’s important to have the right tools and processes in place to streamline the approval process as much as possible. Frontify is a great option for businesses of all sizes as it allows teams to create and save projects in a single space and track changes as they are made. It also offers specific annotation tools that gatekeepers can use to leave commentary on projects and approve final drafts.
But without a qualified gatekeeper dedicated to quality-checking content, brands run the risk of a public relations disaster. And to see the impact that these mishaps can have on your brand, you don’t need to look any further than Coca-Cola’s infamous “new Coke” incident. Since Coca-Cola’s introduction in the late 1800s, the brand has prided itself on largely maintaining the same classic recipe that customers have always enjoyed.
Despite its status as the “world’s best-selling drink,” Coca-Cola faced increasing competition throughout much of the 1970s and ’80s. And in 1985, the soft drink company made the poor decision to change its classic recipe in hopes of competing with brands like Pepsi. But instead of appealing to new customers with a fresh brand image, Coca-Cola’s fanbase responded with an uproar. As a result, Coca-Cola lost millions of dollars in research and advertising, ultimately leading them to discontinue new Coke altogether.
Maintaining brand consistency is an organized team effort
Maintaining a consistent brand is an ongoing process that requires teams to take an active role in keeping projects on-brand. And using tools like Frontify makes it easier to achieve this by helping everyone find the resources they need to stay on the same page.
Just take a look at the Emmys: the iconic awards show turned to Frontify to scale and manage its sub-brands across the globe. As a result, team members were able to access resources faster and adapt product guidelines to fit specific projects.
Request a personalized demo to see how Frontify can help you improve your brand consistency, or learn more about how brands like Volkswagen use it to improve cross-team collaboration for their branded projects.