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By: Samantha Scott, APR
Grand Poobah / Owner
I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a “consistency stickler.” It doesn’t matter if it’s in the tone of writing used on a website or in PMS colors, I can’t help but notice when something isn’t consistent. In our field, marketing communications, it’s important. All too often business owners, marketing folks and other people communicating on behalf of companies don’t maintain consistency in their branding or marketing. This week we’re going to address this – and why it’s important.
What is Branding?
According to the mighty Wikipedia, “A brand is a “Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”Branding began as a way to tell one person’s cattle from another by means of a hot iron stamp.” Simply, branding started as a means of differentiation. That’s what it’s meant to today, as well.
Importance of Brand Consistency – Face Time
Let’s start with the basics. A company’s brand is their image. It’s their face, so to speak. Just like we differentiate people by their appearance, voice, and other attributes, we (consumers, people in general) differentiate companies and products by their logo and/or packaging, colors, etc. As Michael Tasner points out, “It’s the image, words, feeling, etc associated with your company.”
Not only should the aesthetic of the company, the logo, company colors, etc. be pleasing to look at and easy to read, it should also accurately depict the company and its offerings. If your logo is in Cowboy font, but you’re a tech company, something’s not translating. Keep in mind, people could see your brand/logo without knowing anything about your company. They have to be able to look at it and understand what you’re all about. Are you traditional or edgy, a modern and tech-savvy Internet firm or a mom and pop lawn service? Make it clear from the start.
Another key component in marketing as it relates to brand consistency is avoiding the risk of brand confusion. Did you do a double take when you saw that image? That’s what consumers do when they look for a certain package or product and can’t find it or see something similar. The more consistent your branding can be the safer your market share is.
Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer. You are one after all! If you go to the store and look for a specific product, say laundry detergent, and can’t find the brand you usually buy, what do you do (after seeking help from an associate, etc.)? You might try another brand or wait to buy it elsewhere. Now, what if the product was there, but the packaging had changed and you just overlooked it? That company, the one you were loyal to previously, just lost a sale and perhaps a lifetime customer or future purchases.
Of Note: The average attention span in 2012 is just 8 seconds. That’s down from 12 seconds in 2000 and even shorter than that of a goldfish. This makes it all the more important for your brand to be visibly differentiable quickly. Source: Static Brain.
Different Departments or Products – Same Brand
So you say, branding and consistency are important, but what if I have a multifaceted company? How can our brand be consistent if we have different departments and/or products? Colors and a primary logo will be key.
Use Coca-Cola for example. They have a number of different product lines, but their brand is consistent throughout. They use the same primary logo, colors and packaging.
Have a Guide – Enter the Brand Book
We’ve discussed why it’s important to maintain brand consistency. You get it, so now how to do you ensure the rest of your team or co-workers will support this as well? Enter the brand book. A brand book is a critical resource for any business. Simply put, a brand book is a guide for anyone involved with the company. It outlines the brand logo, colors (PMS, so they’ll be EXACTLY the same), typefaces or fonts, acceptable layouts, email signatures and more.
BrandMaker News offers an excellent review of what a brand book is, what needs to be included and how to use it.