Your brand is the public face of your business. Whether the primary point of contact between you and the consumer is through brick-and-mortar locations or via the web, maintenance of a consistent brand identity is essential. Conversely, weak or inconsistent branding can be disastrous.
Here we’ll review the main benefits and value of consistent branding and provide a few ways to keep your corporate identity clear, unique, and authoritative.
The advantages of a unified brand identity
A consistent brand identity has several clear benefits:
• It boosts your brand’s originality.
• It differentiates you from competitors in a tight marketplace.
• It keeps your corporate message on point.
• It broadens awareness of your brand.
• It helps promote repeat business and customer loyalty.
• It promotes brand authenticity.
• And it promotes good buzz for your brand in social media.
Case Study: Amtrak
In the 1990s, America’s long-distance passenger rail carrier, Amtrak, knew it was losing ridership, even along its prized Northeast Corridor (NEC) from Washington to Boston. In response, it embarked upon an aggressive campaign to reverse this trend. The introduction of the high-speed Acela Express service (2000) and subsequent phasing-out of the longstanding Metroliner service (2005) along the NEC was only one aspect of this initiative. Amtrak also needed to update its locomotive fleet and to unify it under a single brand design.
You might well ask why a monopoly like Amtrak would care if its locomotives all had different paint schemes. The answer is simple: consumer confidence. A ragtag fleet of mismatched equipment is a confidence-killer and delivers the message that Amtrak is outdated and unprepared for the challenges of the future. The branding campaign and equipment upgrades turned out to be a huge success, boosting train ridership across the board and from 18% to 40% of all common-carrier traffic along the NEC.
How brand inconsistency hurts
Brand inconsistency can hurt your business’ bottom line in a variety of ways.
First, it confuses your potential customers. Someone shopping around for the best product or service in your field needs to recognize that you are… you. Any and all communications from your company should bear a consistent brand identity — from web ads and email blasts to contest promotions and catalogs. A confused customer is not likely to be a return customer, and growing your business is not something you want left to chance.
Second, inconsistent branding undermines confidence in your business among customers familiar with your brand. Say the corporate logo featured in your most recent email blast differs even slightly from that on your website’s landing page. Can the recipient be confident that the communication is from you, and not from a competitor seeking to take a slice out of your market share? Also, a consumer seeing multiple brand identities for the same business might wonder how well you can satisfy their expectations if you can’t manage your own brand. Harsh, but true.
What you can do
There are a few basic things you can do to ensure brand consistency.
First, be sure you’re working with a designer who understands your needs. Clearly communicate to your designer all the iterations of your brand (websites, web ads, print ads, email blasts, social media presence, hard copy, signage, and even t-shirts). Everywhere your brand appears, it should be clear, recognizable and consistent.
Second, check and recheck your brand’s online presence. If you’re rebranding, make sure that any outdated logos or color schemes are removed and replaced by current ones. No strays allowed.
Third, check the message against the mission. If your corporate focus has changed, be sure all your outlets reflect the current mission. This means checking headlines, taglines, and copy for nuances that may undermine consistency. If you provide multiple products or services, be sure they all fit beneath the umbrella of your brand identity.
Effective communication, skilled design, and a little diligence are key ingredients in creating a consistent and successful brand.