If you're like many business owners, the early stages of your business required a lot of decision-making, from fundamental decisions like your core services or products all the way to decisions about design. However, sometimes not much time is dedicated to the branding process due to the misconceptions of exactly what it is and the idea that it's "only for big brands".
But your brand is more than a logo. It's everything that represents your company, from your personal branding and the content you create, to your mission, the employees that humanize your brand, and everything in between. Put another way, your brand is your company’s public identity. Ideally, your brand should embody the best (and most essential) attributes of your company. That’s pretty unlikely to occur if you leave your branding to chance.
Customers can’t get to know (and trust) your business if they don’t have the opportunity to experience your brand in a consistent manner. Here are some compelling ways that consistent branding can strengthen your business:
Easy brand recognition leads to positive associations
Consistency provides an advantage over the competition
Increased perceived value leads to higher sales
1. EASY RECOGNITION = POSITIVE ASSOCIATIONS
Consistent branding offers many benefits to your business. The most immediately obvious benefit is that it provides easy recognition of your service or product among consumers.
An easily recognized brand benefits from mere exposure. The more customers are exposed to something – a product, a service, or your brand – the more inclined they are to like it. Familiarity increases positive feelings. And, consistent branding keeps your company in front of customers’ eyes in a reassuringly familiar form.
2. CONSISTENCY IS AN ADVANTAGE
Keep your branding consistent and you stand to edge ahead of your competition. BrandExtract, a professional branding firm with more than a century of experience, advocates for consistent branding techniques. They explain:
As you develop a consistent brand, you begin to take ownership of your own niche in the market. When you choose a position and then consistently reinforce your position, it becomes more difficult for competitors to come in and take that advantage away.
3. HIGER PERCEIVED VALUE INCREASES ACTUAL VALUE
Consistent branding also increases your company’s perceived value. Perceived value, or the worth a customer assigns to a product or service in their mind, determines how much customers are willing to pay for that product or service.
And, that beneficial market position we discussed a moment ago helps to raise perceived value. People like to associate with “the best”. Just as the star quarterback sits atop a high school’s social pyramid, the company with the best market share gains prestige and loyalty as well.
BrandExtract points out:
A consistent brand helps increase the overall value of your company by reinforcing your position in the marketplace, attracting better quality customers with higher retention rates and raising the perceived value of your products or services….In contrast, erratic, inconsistent behavior quickly leads to confusion and mistrust.
Making consistent branding choices increases brand recognition, helps establish a strong market position and grows sales through increased perceived value.
But where should you start if you want to make sure that you consistently brand your business?
Here are three best practices that will help you create a great, consistent brand.
1. ONE LOGO, ALL CHANNELS
For many, “brand” is synonymous with “logo”. A company’s logo should spark instant recognition whenever and wherever it appears. And, using one strong logo across all communication and marketing platforms increases the likelihood of that happening.
One common mistake made by many small businesses and startups is to assume that once they have a great logo, they’ve created their brand and now just need to do a little bit of marketing. A brand is more than logo design. But marketing efforts can fall flat if you lose credibility with your marketing collateral. You must keep an eye on branding (easier for the world’s biggest brands – they can spend billions building their brands) because it’s too easy to make a branding mistake that can cripple your small business. For example, if your branding is inconsistent or consistently poor in email and content marketing campaigns, people will notice.
Your logo should appear on your website, business cards, stationery, product packaging, marketing collateral and social media.
So what makes an effective logo? A strong logo must be unique, versatile and appropriate. Stay away from overused, overdone, generic logo designs.
Once you have a great logo design, you can use it as a springboard into our next consistent branding tip – the style guide.
2. DEVELOP BRAND GUIDELINES
A brand style guide is the ultimate compendium of all branding info. If you want to create a consistent brand presence, a style guide is an absolute essential. It acts as a key document that helps content creators communicate a consistent message to your audience, so it's a great asset for creating consistent, on-brand content.
More specifically, a style guide is a set of rules to follow any time a member of your organization wants to publish, present or promote content for your brand. It answers questions like what font does your logo use and what colors approved?
Take a look at the example above to get a feel for how simple a brand style guide can be.
When building your style guide, use your logo as a starting point. Take your color cues, font inspiration and graphic style from your existing logo. After all, since your logo will be appearing on all of your marketing materials (right?), everything else should be visually compatible with it.
If you create and follow a brand style guide you will ensure that any content you create reflects the spirit and visuals of your brand. It’s a one-stop shop for creating consistently branded content every time.
3. PREVENT BRANDING BLUNDERS
The only thing worse than seeing a logo stretched out of proportion, pixelated or painted up with new colors is seeing it shared that way with staff and customers. To combat this and similar blunders:
Create a shared folder on Dropbox or Google Drive that provides employees with access to approved visual content and instructions on how to use them both on and offline
Provide document templates and social sharing templates that help your team present a consistent brand look and feel online
When possible, manage orders for print and promotional materials through a single vendor to ensure your logo is always used correctly on print and promotional materials
Brand your email signature - this is a great promotion opportunity ofter overlooked