What is a “brand”?
Ok, before we start we had better define a “brand” more fully. In simplistic terms a brand is a proposition – a message such as “we deliver quality sports wear”. There may also be sub messages and values which associate with that message but they all revolve around the same idea. How this message is communicated is often termed “branding” and one of the most important aspects of communicating a brand visually and subconsciously, is consistency.
What is brand consistency?
Brand consistency is where a business attempts to communicate messages in a way which doesn’t detract or wander away from the core brand proposition. For example, a single logo is always used in a similar way on all marketing materials, a single typeface is used with particular guidelines on typography, consistent color ranges are applied and similar design styles, so that everything visual is inter-linked and has a link back to that core brand proposition. Every piece of marketing material is like a member of the same family, supporting and even looking similar to all the other members in the family. The brand has it’s own unique “look” which enables a consumer to recognize it as belonging to that brand proposition and distinguish it from competing brands. This visual “look” often evolves slowly over time but the core message of all successful brands never really changes.
Take for example, Apple computers. Since their brand’s conception, their brand proposition was to supply advanced, quality, great looking, high performing computers. This message has never changed although the way they have communicated this over the years has, as they have kept up with modern design standards. This has led to consumer recognition and then trust and loyalty from their customers.
We would like to mention that branding is not just about applying a logo in a consistent manner, and having the right Pantone colors. It is about ensuring that all the messaging of all communications materials is pulling in the same direction. That it all “looks” consistent. Even the way the copy is written should be considered in the light of the brand messaging, the way the website is coded and the quality of paper used in printed materials – all of these points should be consistent because of they are not, it will cause consumers to loose trust in the brand and it’s messaging.
For example, imagine you were thinking of purchasing an expensive, high performance car. You see a TV advertisement for a car dealer near you. You look at their website but it doesn’t seem to look the same as the TV advert. When you go there the sales man gave you a flimsy, poorly designed, black and white, photocopied brochure – again this doesn’t fit in with the web-site design, the TV advertisement and the message they had communicated to you. This would immediately make you think – hang on, if this car is worth £100,000 then why cannot they afford to produce quality marketing materials? Am I even in the right place? Maybe this product is not what it seems?! And you may even be put off from the purchase because something didn’t sit right – because the brand proposition was not communicated in the right way, or in a consistent way – and that’s why brand consistency is so important.
Why bother with brand consistency?
Brand consistency has one massive advantage – recognition. With recognition comes familiarity. With familiarity comes trust and confidence. Also, if done correctly, consistency brings clarity and purpose which consumers buy into. They can become loyal. As people we don’t really like “new’ – and it has been widely reported that before a consumer purchases a product, on average, they need to be exposed to a brand 17 times. 17 times is an awful lot and so it’s essential that when a potential customer comes across a “brand message” they know straight away which brand is communicating to them. This can only be done by consistency. If consistency is not applied, and the message and design not defined then it is possible for a consumer to mistake one brand with a competing brand which could then mean they associate the impression with another company. This means a business potentially looses customers, and may even help it’s competitors if a consistent “look” and tone is not achieved.
The issue is that brand consistency often takes many years to master before it really starts working for you. This means you need to think long term – and start as you mean to go on. Leading brands are normally leading because they have had many years of consistency behind them and they have had a long term goal for their branding which has been consistent. The trick is to have in place a clear idea of your brand and then the right people in place to guard it.