Q&A: The key to brand consistency

Jake Athey, marketing & customer experience VP, Widen, explains why brand consistency is crucial and how to achieve it.

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What exactly do we mean by the term ‘brand consistency’?

Brand consistency is when a business or an organisation delivers elements and messaging associated with its brand in a manner that conforms to a set of uniform guiding principles, making it instantly recognisable. You don’t have to look far to find brands getting consistency right: Google, Amazon, McDonald’s or any of Forbes’ other ‘ Most Valuable Brands ’ have hit the nail on the head when it comes to recognisability, and consequently, have a loyal customer following and a healthy bottom line.

By aligning all representations of their brand – logos, fonts, messaging, colour schemes – with defined corporate values and a clear identity, these well-known companies have created a blue-print of consistency for others to copy. And by following suit, it is possible for any other organisation or business to achieve brand consistency.

Why is brand consistency important?

Brand consistency is a driving force in brand recognition. Consumers are more likely to spend money on brands they know and love. Just look at the fact that over three-quarters of consumers have had relationships with specific brands for more than a decade!

This means memorable brands with strong customer loyalty have a significantly higher competitive advantage over those we don’t remember. In today’s digital age, where technology has opened up new channels of communication such as augmented reality, social media, and chatbots, consistency must be at the heart of every marketing strategy in order to secure customer loyalty.

What are the biggest challenges when it comes to ensuring brand consistency?

Adaptability, scalability, and flexibility. For agile brands looking to grow into new markets, brand consistency needs to be able to adapt across different customer touchpoints, and scale – at speed – into new markets and customer sectors. And as more employees are brought on board and teams are expanded, brand consistency needs to be flexible enough to withstand changes in market and customer preferences.

Accessibility to content is also a common challenge for companies. No matter the size or sector of the company, many struggle with immediate access to current and relevant branding materials such as recent product images or a new version of the company logo. Being able to archive obsolete materials and set expiry dates on brand assets can also be a problem, as can setting permissions on certain digital assets.

As a business grows, it needs to invest in its content. And new products, geographic markets, sales channels, formats, and marketing strategies increase the demand for digital assets. This proliferation of assets strains the teams and tools creating and publishing content, and without a company-wide digital strategy, departments struggle to scale and maintain brand consistency .

How can marketers overcome these challenges and improve consistency of their brands?

By having the right people, processes, and tools in place, organisations can be better positioned to deliver brand consistency, and ultimately improve the customer experience. Here are three tactics which a brand can use to keep consistency in check:

  • Create a long-term, documented plan for how the organisation will leverage its brand to achieve business goals. This strategy will anchor the brand to a consistent identity, and at a ​minimum, should outline the brand’s promise, core values, personality, audience, and competitive positioning.
  • Provide instructions on how everyone that touches the brand (e.g. freelancers, agencies, internal teams, new employees) must convey a brand’s visual style. This brand identity kit should include visual aspects like logos, fonts, and colours, as well as the characteristics and personality that humanise the brand, such as its ‘voice’ and ‘tone’. These instructions should manage the content creation process and ensure consistency between disparate teams.
  • Use a single source of truth, where anyone representing the brand can access the guidelines, files, and messaging approved for use. For some brands, a file-sharing tool like Dropbox or Google Drive is enough, but for others that need a more organised, search-friendly solution that tracks and measures how teams use files, a digital asset management (DAM) system is the answer. A DAM system also acts as a hub to reference old assets, share current assets, and inspire new assets.

Are there any brands you think have been doing this particularly well or bad at this?

An example of a brand getting consistency right is New Balance. An American athletic brand with a global presence, New Balance has an incredibly strong omnichannel customer experience. From its physical stores to its website; from social media, to the customer’s inbox; New Balance is a great example of a brand that provides meaningful, relevant, and consistent content across channels.

But how does it do this? New Balance uses over two thousand portals to interact with its customers. For each portal, the brand curates a set of assets intended for the right audience, to use at the right time. These portals make it easier to manage and deliver assets for specific marketing purposes such as product launches, events, internal and international teams, retailers, and celebrity brand ambassadors.For other brands looking to replicate New Balance’s success, true consistency can be defined as having one unified brand experience, across all touchpoints, putting the consumer first.

Other brands that do this particularly well work with (and across) other teams and departments to plan journeys and campaigns from the customer’s pers pective. And they understand how their customers choose
to engage with the brand across various communications channels: ensuring every brand interaction
is meaningful, relevant, and consistent!

How important is video compared to other content, such as written content, when it comes to creating brand consistency?

In terms of content preferences, video wins hands-down. When it’s done right, branded video content offers several advantages over other forms of content. Video is non-disruptive, emotive, authentic and shareable. Already 87% of businesses use video content, and it’s predicted that by the year 2021 , it will take an individual over five million years to watch all the video that’s uploaded to the web in a single month!

As a channel of communication, video is an extremely important tool for the marketer’s toolkit. Branded video content helps businesses break through the noise and win the attention and loyalty – and ultimately the spend – of prospective buyers.

But, similarly to other forms of content, the success of video lies solely in its brand consistency. Target audiences should be able to identify the brand behind the video through its narrative, style, personality, and theme. The same tactics as discussed earlier – strategy, identity kit, and a single source of truth – can be applied to ensure brand consistency within an organisation’s video content.​

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