Have you ever looked at another brand and thought “I wish my graphics looked as well put together as theirs”? While Apple, Disney and Coca-Cola might have huge design teams working behind the scenes there are plenty of smaller businesses that give them a run for their money when it comes to branding. If you want to impress people with your brand image, no matter how big or small you are, consistency is key.
Everyone has a different understanding of what the term “brand” means. When we’re talking about brand in MAKER we mean all of the feelings that your company’s identity stirs up for people. Those feelings are evoked by your company’s logo, colours, tone of voice and the culture of your organisation. And if that still sounds a bit too vague, branding is an important part of commercial strategy.
Think of Disney and you might think of the logo based on Walt Disney’s signature, the fairytale castle and the shooting star, the theme parks and the streaming channel. Disney’s consistent branding worldwide is about much more than the logo. It’s been around for almost 100 years and although what it does has expanded since 1923, it has remained true to its brand of storytelling and happiness. You could say that branding consistency has been as much a part in Disney’s commercial success as Mickey Mouse has. Perhaps even more than Mickey Mouse!
Five of the most common things we hear SME’s struggle with keeping their brand consistent
There are a lot of common misconceptions when it comes to branding. Here are the five things we hear most often from the SMEs we work with and ways to improve your brand consistency.
- “Once I have my logo on everything I’m being consistent with my branding.”
If only it were that easy! Unfortunately rubberstamping your logo on every social media post does not create brand consistency. Your logo is just one element of your brand. In order to be consistent, you need to consider every element of your brand that your customers come into contact with. This could include the buttons on your website, signature on your email and of course, your social media presence. The success of your brand is linked to how your customers feel about your brand. Being consistent with colours, messages, tone of voice and graphic style all help to build and reinforce trust with your customers.
- “It costs a lot of money to develop a consistent brand.”
Measure twice and cut once – this could apply to design as much as carpentry! We believe it’s important to think about your brand in-depth and consider your customers (or the dream clients you want to reach). Considering how you communicate with your audience for a little longer before you communicate will help you to create a more meaningful connection with them. The measure twice approach also takes into account what your brand already has. You can play to your brand’s strengths with what customers already recognise and value. You need to find out what your customers think by listening to them, not pre-empting what they say and giving them an answer you prepared in advance. Understanding and knowing your customers before you develop your branding will make it easier to remain consistent during the lifetime of your brand.
- “My customers don’t care and won’t notice if I’m being consistent or not.”
Being consistent with how you present your brand is crucial to build trust with your customers. It helps them to instantly recognise your brand among the many others they could choose instead. If you think that your customers don’t care – well, how do you know? And how can you know how many potential customers you could be missing out on because your branding is muddled?
Yes, your customers probably don’t care what colour palette or font you use for your brand. But if one week your brand seems to be edgy and a bit punk and the following week it’s flowery and traditional then your customers won’t know what to expect. The punk identity will attract some customers but they may be turned off when you change to more traditional themes the following week.
When your brand reflects your business’s values consistently then your customers (old and new) know what sets you apart from your competitors. They will have an emotional resonance with your brand because it connects with their values too. Personal values remain pretty constant for us throughout our lives, so it can seem unconvincing when a brand suddenly changes their values. Unconvincing and off-putting. Think of fossil fuel companies that suddenly start talking about how much they care about the environment shortly after a devastating oil spill. You could be forgiven for being a bit sceptical about how much environmental protection is really a part of their brand values! Or imagine walking into McDonald’s and the familiar red and yellow had been replaced with purple. How confident would you feel when you went up to the counter to order the food? Would you have the same expectations about the quality and flavours that you usually would?
- “I find that I’m just posting random images to have a presence on social media.”
Ah yes, this is a kind of social media FOMO that we’re all guilty of from time to time! If everyone seems to be posting everywhere then you can feel pressure to post for the sake of posting. However, unless you put some thought into what you post, and where you post, you may be just adding to the messy jungle of social media newsfeeds. If you want to stop someone’s thumb from scrolling past you need to stand apart from the rest of the noise. Be the rare orchid that they’re willing to hack through the jungle to find!
This is where a bit of time spent thinking about your customer and what is important to them is time well spent. Ask yourself what it is you’re trying to communicate and what action you want someone seeing your post to take. Forget vanity metrics and think about the meaningful engagement you want. To get someone to think of you and your brand first when they’re making a decision. To add your products to their online cart or to book an appointment with you. What is it that you do really well for your customers and how can you emphasize this on social media? Think about having an overall cohesive message that you consistently reinforce with your colours, positioning, message and values. This will build more trust and recognition than some random pictures of cute animals and what you made for breakfast!
- “I don’t have time to look after my brand, I’m too busy with the day to day stuff.”
We hear you. Responding to emails, WhatsApp threads, managing accounts and, oh yes, doing the work and looking after our customers can feel like the mental equivalent of having too many tabs open on your web browser. But caring for your brand is like caring for a plant – it requires taking little and often actions to make it thrive.
When you take a step back from the day to day to think about where you want your brand to be in the longer term things become much clearer. You can come up with a plan of manageable little and often actions to get your brand and business where you want it to be.
The cumulative effects of the little but often actions you consistently take to look after your brand will pay off over time too. Disney’s ability to stay consistent is a strategy built over many years. But if you spend time looking after your brand it can give you a fairytale happy ever after.
MAKER is developing an online course which helps SME’s to define what their brand is and how to communicate it, consistently. Sign up to our newsletter below to keep in touch with the development of this helpful course which will transform the way you care for your brand.