The importance of brand consistency: how to create it and how to maintain it.
by Pascal Wijnberg
What does brand consistency mean?
Before we can go deeper into the meaning of brand consistency we need talk about Brand Identity.
What is brand identity? It’s just a logo right? Well, that’s part of it, but not quite all. Let’s make this personal. What is your brand? That haircut you just had done, that shirt you love to wear every day, those Converse kicks you just can’t part with, that laptop you always carry around. Those elements, those shoes, that hair, those accessories and clothes, these tell people who you are, what your beliefs and values are. They are your branding. Ok...maybe not your branding. Maybe we took inspiration from a member of our team for this one. But the point is still valid.
A brand identity combines all those visual elements; a logo, colours, tone of voice, typography, iconography, illustrations, photography and collateral. It is what makes you recognisable to your customers. It allows you to create a consistent visual language across all your products and marketing and it makes you instantly recognisable to your consumers. That is, if you have brand consistency to back it up, otherwise, you’re just a pretty logo and nothing else matches, but we’ll get to that. In digital product design it means that those classic principles of your brand identity are incorporated with the constant evolution of technology.
Why is it important to have brand consistency?
Consumers Trust Brands They Recognise
When visiting your local supermarket to grab a big old bottle of milk, you know exactly where to go and which brand to grab from the shelves. You know that a blue label means it’s full fat and that green or yellow are low fat or hilo. It’s that simple. But what if, all of a sudden, those trusty colour coded milk bottles were all black, stored in a can and had bright red letters across them? Well, you’d be thrown. You may even switch to coffee without milk for a while, or just look for that other familiar bottle in the fridge next door.
When branding is done right you build a relationship with your customers, by having a consistent tone of voice, visual language and product experience. It’s that familiar recognition that creates trust. Where there is trust a consumer is most likely to return to your product and even tell others about it. It’s not just the visual interface, interactions and product experience that are important. It is the entire customer journey from start to finish. It’s seeing that ad on Instagram, the online experience of purchasing that item and the further interaction outside of that digital space. They are all part of your brand experience. More often than not we find that the brand IS the product and we need to make sure the product strategy is in sync with the brand strategy.
How to maintain a consistent brand?
"You have to create a consistent brand experience however and wherever a customer touches your brand, online or offline. The lines are forever blurred."
If you haven’t already come to the conclusion that maintaining your product brand is one of the most crucial things you can do...why are you still reading this? If you’ve heard our wisdom and want your brand to be the next Uber or Google, you need to make sure that your brand identity and product experience doesn’t become victim of a game of Chinese Whispers or he-said-she-said. A clearly defined digital experience and brand guide circulated to all of those within your business is the best way to combat this.
Start with a strong foundation
Just like anything. You need a strong foundation to make it work. A bit like a building. Without a solid foundation, it won’t last long.
In a nutshell, in order to create a successful brand you need to know your key building blocks:
- What is the business problem you are trying to solve?
- What is your purpose and mission?
- What are your values?
- What is your story?
- How do you want your customers to see you?
- Do you know your customers? What do they want? What do they value?
- What does your market look like? Who are your competitors? What are they doing? How can you stand out?
- What do you want your product to do/to be? How do you see it looking?
Once you have worked out all of this you can truly start defining your brand and creating a Brand Experience Guideline.
Brand Experience Guideline
Your Brand Experience Guideline, which is different but similar to a style guide, is the set of rules and regulations on how your brand/product should use all the elements that make up your brand identity. This covers social media, user experience of your product, labeling, website, etc. It’s every part of your brand, product or service that faces the consumer. If these all tie in, you’ll gain brand consistency.
In a classical style guide sense, your guidelines may state that your logo can only be used on white or red background and the blank space around it should always be equal. Or maybe it will inform you of the kind of photography that can be used to express the brand.
A Brand Experience Guideline goes a step or two further than this. While it sits alongside brand expression, it also touches on the components and interactions that unify the user experience of your product on different platforms. It evolves with the product and should allow enough flexibility to allow the product to evolve naturally.
A continuous aligned expression is the simplest and most powerful means of connecting with your customers, allowing you to build trust and familiarity.
A great example for this is Google Material design.
Material is a design system – backed by open-source code – that helps teams build high-quality digital experiences
Audit and update existing branded materials.
Once you have established clear and consistent brand guidelines, put them to work. Audit and update all of your branded materials to ensure that they match the style guide. This includes your social media channels!
Create a plan for the future. Keeping a consistent brand is one thing, but don’t get it confused with remaining the same. You need to make sure that your brand doesn’t stagnate. It needs to evolve over time. Schedule a review and update of your brand strategy as your company grows and product evolves so make sure your brand identity evolves too.
"At the end of the day, the secret is to be consistent but not predictable."
former CMO Heineken