Brands are dynamic, developing things. For those in marketing, brand consistency is the end-all-be-all. If you can achieve a streamlined look, feel, and essence, you are doing something right.
However, it would be a big mistake to think consistency is achieved simply by slapping a logo throughout your social channels and collateral. Visual branding is important. But so is your copy, tone, context, and audience. At its most basic, “brand consistency is the delivery of brand messaging in line with the brand identity, values, and strategy over time.” We know, easier said than done.
Consistency is not an exact science, but there are some elements that you can perfect to make your brand stand together so it can stand out. We’ve done the research to help you get started.
Why brand consistency is so important
Each year, BrandZ releases its list of the top 100 most valuable global brands. The sheer amount of brands that they include in their list gives some indication of the overall number. The point: there are countless brands out there. Some are good, some are bad. Some of them are not worth mentioning, and others are doing something right enough to make the list.
One of the vital factors that separate the brands from the brand-nots is consistency.
A recent Forbes article put it this way: “Branding is the key to differentiating yourself from the competition, but if you don’t build your brand promise around reality or consistently live up to it, your branding efforts are pointless.” Most marketers and brand executives know that branding is essential. Yet, most marketers and executives are not putting in the effort to make their brand consistent across their channels. With so much competition, brands cannot afford to be inconsistent.
Setting your brand apart
Setting your brand apart is more than having a great idea. It’s about building trust for your consumers and being authentic. Not to mention making sure each touchpoint resonates clearly with your brand image, voice, and messaging.
Let’s put it another way: the more inconsistent your brand is, the more jarring to your audience and potential customers. Imagine you own a pet supply company. Maybe you hired an agency to build your website and design your collateral. You have your colors, images, and imagery nailed down. When people transition from clicking their orders to visiting a store, they feel the experience is seamless. But let’s also say that, after a while, you become lazy with your marketing and social posting. You begin to use stock images that don’t match with the carefully curated themes you had in place, and your social posts consist of random messages and memes.
We probably don’t need to tell you that customers that were loyal because of your original brand cohesiveness will quickly become frustrated with the change. A current statistic shows “the average revenue increase attributed to always presenting your brand consistently is 23%.” There’s even evidence that psychology is at play here. Our brains look for patterns and regularities, and the lack thereof can lead to brand disparity that’s too large a gap to cross.
Examples of brand consistency done right
Sometimes it helps to see an example of living, breathing brands doing this correctly. We’ve chosen three examples across different industries that are keeping it consistent––with brands that thrive as a result.
Example 1: Lego
The ever-popular Legos started in a small Danish town in 1932––a contraction of “leg godt,” Danish for “play well.” For a brand that is nearing the century mark, Lego is the perfect example of why consistency pays off.
An AdWeek article attributes much of Lego’s long-term success to when they opened their market and products to include a female audience. In doing so, Lego adapted its timeless themes of play, building, lifestyles, and relationships “to change with the times and broaden its market.” Another critical point of the AdWeek piece is its analysis of two Lego ads with over 35 years between them. What the authors found? Very little notable difference, except for the little girl in the 2013 ad. On a more concrete (or polymer) level, Legos’ product has remained virtually unchanged since the first modern Lego block was developed in 1958. Despite timely playsets, like the Friends line, the fundamental components have remained consistent, which has allowed users to identify strongly with the brand––sometimes into adulthood.
Example 2: Planet Fitness
Love it or hate it, Planet Fitness is an instantly recognizable brand that is consistent across its 1,500 locations. Each franchise embraces the same “judgment-free philosophy and the discount business model” as the original location. This overarching philosophy helped to make the business transferable in different states, with different demographics, and for various members.
Scroll through any list of Planet Fitness marketing campaigns, and the results remain coherent and on-brand. Their brand attitude is consistent from their “The World Judges, We Don’t” campaign, parodies of rigorous gym classes, and constant support of underdogs (like their sticking up for Pluto to NASA).
Planet Fitness’ congruent messaging goes beyond their physical locations. In 2017, the brand turned 25 and used their “Judgement Free Zone” messaging outside of the gym with an “on-air event called the ‘Be Free Awards.’” These awards (shaped in their recognizable thumbs up) celebrated people who “live judgment-free lifestyles.” It’s the perfect example of a brand that truly embraces their messaging across all platforms to form a cohesive, memorable brand.
Example 3: Apple
Apple is a powerhouse of a brand. The company is consistently at the top of brand value lists, and currently ranks number two on BrandZ’s 2019 Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands. Brand value does not always mean brand consistency, but in this case, it does.
As one article put it, “Apple’s iconic branding strategy has always focused on emotion,” fueled in part by the legendary Steve Jobs. Apple’s “1984” Super Bowl XVIII spot shook the industry with its dystopian, rebellious imagery and copy. The TV spot introduced the new original Macintosh computer, but it also set the tone for all of Apple’s marketing since.
In 1997, Apple’s “Think Different” campaign continued to play on its users’ emotions by indicating that it took a different type of person to use their products. The subsequent ads like “Here’s to the Crazy Ones” spoke directly to Apple’s core audience: those who are “crazy enough to think they can change the world and are the ones who do.” Apple’s cutting-edge messaging and products have remained consistent from the get-go.
Despite Apple’s product evolutions, the innovation, vision, and even primary logo have remained consistent and recognizable to the brand. AdAge describes it well, “Apple communicates with its customers through its hardware, software, and retail stores to deliver one consistent narrative or ecosystem.” Walk into any Apple store or use any Apple product, and the experience remains the same. Even individual products have compatible apps that work seamlessly together for users. This consistency has its basis in human connection and an individual’s ability to think differently.
How to achieve brand consistency
So you’ve seen how it works in the real world, but how do you achieve brand consistency? Solid brand identity and brand strategy are great places to start. Brand identity comes from the following brand elements: visuals, copy, tone, context, and audience.
Your brand visuals can range from your logo, colors, images, graphics, typography, and product design. Logos, for example, can often be instantly recognizable vessels for your brand messaging (all it takes is an iconic Nike swoosh to inspire athletes). After you’ve curated these elements, it’s essential to keep them consistent throughout your website, collateral, and social where relevant. Brands like Casper and Airbnb do this well, keeping with the same feel across their many brand elements.
Copy can include the words you use to describe your brand, product copy, your brand story, and your overall messaging. When you create a successful brand story, you set up yourself and your brand for success. By understanding your brand’s origins and educating consumers about it, you can use this in all elements of your brand, which helps it stay consistent. For social media, what you retweet or share is just as important when it comes to a seamless brand message.
Brand tone (or voice) goes beyond your copy into how you say something. Is your brand rebellious like Apple, approachable like Planet Fitness, or playful like Lego? Deciding what your tone is helps you develop consistent copy across digital and physical iterations of your brand and “helps to humanize your brand.” For example, if your tone has been sarcastic and humorous, and you suddenly try to be serious, your brand identity is at risk.
Context refers to “the times, places, and moments when a message will resonate best.” When you spend time curating your brand identity, your message can fall flat if you don’t consider the context. Think about Apple again for a moment. It would seem strange for them to announce a new iPhone in March instead of September and even more unusual if the announcement was littered with copy and imagery. Their approach is consistent and straightforward; their timing included.
It’s always worth asking: what is my brand audience? A simple way to develop this for your brand is by using a SWOT analysis, which stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Once you establish who you are talking to, it’s easier to keep your brand visuals, copy, and tone consistent.
A well-developed brand strategy can keep these elements cohesive for your brand. When you come up with a set of brand guidelines, it helps everyone from your executives to your marketing agency to your consumers to identify your brand. Basic guidelines can include your mission, fonts, social media examples, and the specific hex codes of your logo. As Thrive Hive says, “the more specific your brand guidelines, the more accurate consistent your brand assets can be.”
When it comes to marketing, we’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: an integrated campaign helps your brand stay seamless and consistent. After all, why would you spend all your effort making your brand’s elements work in unison, and forget to do the same when it comes to marketing? Consistency applies to everything.
Can you have brand consistency and evolve?
Let’s say you followed the above elements for a consistent brand when you first launched, but it’s been twenty years, and you are overdue for a rebrand. Is it an oxymoron for a brand to evolve and keep a consistent brand identity? Not if there’s a focus on brand strategy and brand personality.
Some of the world’s most recognizable brands like McDonald’s, Target, and Walmart have evolved since their launches. Sometimes multiple times. But their core remains the same, and they keep enough elements untouched that the changes aren’t jarring. If your brand perception, emotions you elicit, brand trust, and product differentiation remain the same, then you can easily change other elements to evolve with the times.
The agency touch for brand consistency
Maintaining brand consistency is a full-time job. In the digital era especially, brands must be able to adapt while retaining their core values and messaging. Consumers strongly identify with brands that are cohesive across channels, translate from online to in-person experiences, and have continuity with their feel and tone. However, we know how difficult this can be in the changing brand landscape, so hiring an agency like Savy can help a brand stay consistent and united. Ultimately, consistent brands have consistent success.