In the post “Why brand consistency is vital to your business”, we discussed why you need to work consistently with your brand. Now we would like to share some insights into how to achieve brand consistency.
1. Figure out who you are – or who you want to be
What are the core attributes of your brand? Are you playful? Serious? Adventurous? Dependable? How can certain colours, images, typography or any other elements contribute to creating a unique personality for your brand? Make sure that you do the right research, taking in mind what you are selling and who you are selling to.
Working consistently with your core attributes can give you huge competitive advantage. Consider Skittles for example. For years, they have been hailed for setting the standard on social media with their unique tone of voice and playful interaction with fans. Often speaking to followers in first person, inviting to goofy competitions and working with a distinctive visual identity, has gained Skittles millions of loyal fans that follow, share and comment on their posts.
Skittles is a good example of how aligning guidelines and elements according to core attributes can create a unique, clear personality for a brand. Almost 6 years later, followers are still posting comments on this post:
2. Document your guidelines
When you have started producing your elements and guidelines, make sure to document them. Most companies do so in a manual – often referred to as brand manual… or visual identity guidelines… or design guidelines. Regardless of what you call it, the most important reason for having a manual is that it gives you – and those you share it with – the tools to work with your brand elements in the proper manner. Sending a logotype to an agency without providing the guidelines for how it should be used can result in unpleasant surprises that no one benefits from.
Many companies store their brand manuals in PDF format. Although that is better than nothing, PDF guidelines tend to become static as the brand evolves. Certainly, you can update your brand manual PDF but you have no control over previous versions that are stored locally on laptops in and around your organisation. That is why we highly recommend tools like Brand Manual – which give you an online platform for your brand guidelines, elements and inspiration. That way, you can make sure that you always have the latest versions available for those who need it.
3. Share and follow up with employees and agencies
We have worked with many clients and partner agencies and if there is one thing we have learned it is this: For brand consistency to be achieved, you need to have your employees on-board. Make your brand manual a living platform so that it becomes a natural go-to place for your employees and agencies.
“You need to have your employees on-board.”
Strategic branding decisions only come to life after someone has carried out the practical aspects of them. Make sure your strategic decisions are manifested in your brand manual and that you follow up on them. Providing an explanation for your brand guidelines and elements will engage your employees and motivate them to keep your brand consistent in their own communications with external parties. A centralised, online platform gives them the tools to do so.
If you work with external partners, such as design or advertising agencies, make sure they are aware of and updated on your guidelines and branding goals.
4. Consistent ≠ static
Markets, consumer behaviour, technologies and the marketing ecosystem all change. Being consistent with your branding doesn’t mean you should be static. On the contrary – you can’t afford to be static. Companies today face challenges they didn’t twenty, ten or even two years ago and you have to evolve to stay relevant.
“You have to evolve to stay relevant.”
Just consider the impact web has had on branding. Today, UI (user interface) elements such as buttons or web fonts are just as natural parts of the brand as corporate colours or taglines. Then consider social media or even further, all the different types of social media channels. Which ones should you be present on? What is your tone of voice in any given channel? Finally, consider desktop, mobile, wearables and the new innovations around the corner. Should all your content be produced from a mobile-first perspective? How could you align your brand for an AI-first world, when giants like Google start moving in that direction?
It quickly becomes quite a complex matrix. Create the space for your brand to evolve and be proactive in your efforts. Keep your eyes open for new channels, technologies and trends – and make sure you have your strategy aligned with your guidelines before you make your move.
5. Optimise your marketing efforts
Today, any piece of editorial content you create can be used in a multitude of places – a practice known as content recycling. An infographic published on your website can be reused on your social media channels or in your newsletter and linked to from virtually any digital space. Creating content that is true to your brand makes it easy to adapt and repurpose it to fit different channels. It gives you the opportunity to optimise your efforts and create a more solid foundation for running integrated campaigns.