Merriam-Webster defines a brand as “a public image, reputation, or identity conceived of as something to be marketed or promoted.” A brand is much more than your logo and your colors (although those do play a big part).
Your brand is the persona of your business — your public image, your reputation, your identity. It should be as easy for consumers to recognize your business as it is for your friends to recognize you.
Keeping a consistent brand for your business is the equivalent of being an authentic human being. It’s telling your consumers that you’re being open and honest with them, and what they see is what they get because that’s who you are.
Think about it — if you’re looking for a new company to do business with, wouldn’t you feel better with a company whose website and social channels clearly demonstrate that they are legitimate through their consistent messaging and cohesive appearance? Wouldn’t you want to work with a company that routinely receives good reviews and has built a reputation for quality customer service? Most consumers would.
• A consistent appearance shows potential customers that you have your act together, and you care about the details and about how your business is perceived.
• Consistent messaging tells them that you do, in fact, know what you’re talking about and that you’re a real business.
• A consistent reputation lets new customers know what they can expect from you.
• A consistent experience gives customers confidence that they can trust your business to take care of them every time they need you.
Start simple, by creating a brand guide (the more detailed, the better) and sticking to it. A brand guide is an instruction manual for the appearance of your brand.
It clearly defines your company logo and acceptable variations, how to use them, and how not to use them. It defines a specific color palette and fonts, how they should be used, and gives examples of how designed elements should look. It can also describe the voice and the tone of your brand to further illustrate the persona of your company.
Following a brand guide ensures that each piece put forward by your company (website, business cards, fliers, social posts, brochures, etc.) portrays your company in the same consistent and accurate light.
Let’s take a closer look at how a brand guide can help you.
• Logos: A brand guide defines your main logo, the full color version that you should use most of the time. It also defines acceptable variations like a black version or white version, or a horizontally oriented version. Typically, there are many versions, vertical, horizontal, and icon-only in every brand color, plus black and white.
• Colors: A brand guide not only shows what colors and color combinations are acceptable for your brand, but also provides the exact codes (HEX, RGB, CMYK) so that you get exactly the correct color every single time. (The human eye can see about 1,000 shades of light, and within those shades, we can detect about 100 different levels of red-green shades and 100 levels of yellow-blue shades. That works out to 10 million colors that the human eye can see.)
• Fonts: A brand guide will show which fonts should be used and in what instances they are to be used. For example, Roboto Bold may be your headline font and should be used for headlines, while Nexa Light might be your body copy font. For consistency, the two should never be swapped.
• Voice and Tone: A brand guide helps you understand the viewpoint from which to communicate with the public and the attitude with which it should be conveyed. Your company’s voice consists of the characteristics of your company’s personality, like friendly or welcoming. Tone is how your company communicates. For example, you would use a serious tone if you want to be seen as the experts on a subject, or a playful tone if you’re a fun place to shop. Your voice and tone should be consistent in everything your company puts forth, from your website to your social posts, to your responses on Google Reviews.
There’s more to brand consistency than what a brand guide can tell you, though. Here is where brand consistency begins to leak over into company policy. Put systems in place to ensure that your customers are greeted the same way every time they walk in the door, that a project is started the same way every time they ask for something new, and that they are billed the same way every time a project is completed. (This is not to say you should never change or improve your systems, because you certainly should.)
Once you’ve established the personality of your brand and shared it with your team, all you have to do is adhere to it, and keep on keeping on. Go get 'em, tiger!