The Difference Between Good and Great: Consistency in Branding
Customers trust what they know. We are creatures of habit. Once we find something we like - clothing, electronics, food, entertainment - we keep coming back.
When we visit the grocery store, we typically visit the same grocery store and purchase the same brands of the same products. I bet you haven’t tried a different brand of deodorant in years. If you own an iPhone, it likely isn't your first. If you love Starbucks coffee, you probably go every week and will go out of your way for it when you travel. I think you get the point.
We rarely change our purchase habits once they’ve formed. There is comfort in consistency. We know what to expect from our purchase because it has been presented to us consistently.
Consistency reduces risk. We chose to return time and time again to products and services with whom we’ve had a positive experience because we don’t know if the competitor will deliver on the same promises, even if their solution is superior. Yes, even if the competitor delivers a superior product or service, we are unlikely to walk away from a business we trust. We’ve already found an adequate solution to our problem. Our purchase decisions are largely emotional - not practical - and stem from our risk aversion.
The reputation of a brand is built not only on delivering quality products and services but also consistent promotion. Ultimately, consistency is the difference between a good brand or a great one.
Which will yours be?
Consistency builds trust.
Successful brands are trustworthy, and trustworthy brands are successful. Simply put, customers buy from businesses they trust. Trust is developed through consistency, not only in the quality of your product or service but also in your visual identity. Consider the psychological connection between trust and consistency.
In order to trust someone, we must feel that we know the person.
In order to know someone, the person must be familiar, recognized, and remembered.
In order to be recognized and remembered, the person must be seen and interacted with on a regular basis.
There must be consistency.
Consistent brand implementation assures customers that they will continue to expect the same quality they’ve come to know with their next purchase. If you are consistent in branding, it is safe to assume you will be consistent in your products and services. We buy the same products over and over because they’re predictable. You know what to expect and the outcome.
Just as consistency builds trust, inconsistency stifles it. It is concerning for customers to see inconsistency in the visual appearance of a brand. Your customers may think twice if your business appears erratic. They may find themselves asking, “What other details might this business be overlooking?” And, more often than not, customers will not take that chance.
Consistency demonstrates professionalism.
Consistent brand implementation is authoritative, next-level marketing. It tells customers, “This is what we do, and we’re good at it.” Consistency indicates that you are competent, experienced, and knowledgeable. What do the most successful businesses in the world all have in common? They have consistently promoted themselves. Likewise, unwavering brand promotion shifts customer perception of your business from layman to expert, the best of the best, a leader in your industry. Jason Hartman describes consistency in branding as,
"...a promise of quality, consistency, competency, and reliability."
– Jason Hartman
Similarly, consistent brand implementation shows customers that you care about every aspect of your business, both seen and unseen. When a business pays attention to incorporating consistent colors, fonts, and graphics, it provides customers with assurance that the business is organized and attentive to every detail.
Alternatively, a marketing effort that does not deliver consistent promotion may be perceived as inexperienced, amateur, or cheap, regardless of the actual value of the business. This is what makes a business whose brand is uniform stand out from the rest.
Consistency is distinctly memorable.
It is becoming harder and harder to capture the attention of customers. Brands must differentiate in order to succeed. Consistent, unique brand promotion provides access to customers' increasingly valuable attention. For many businesses, consistency is a foreign practice. However, in a marketplace that is saturated with haphazard marketing efforts, deliberate and consistent promotion will be noticed and remembered.
"Brands that are consistently presented are 3 to 4 times more likely to experience brand visibility."
You likely recognized the ad above is from Target even though the Target logo is nowhere on it. This is the power of a consistent brand identity. When done correctly, any piece of brand promotion can be instantly recognized as coming from your business.
Maintaining Consistency: Brand Guidelines
So, how then can a business maintain a consistent brand identity? Consistency cannot be maintained if there are no standards.
Brand Guidelines provide a set of resources and regulations on how to correctly and consistently implement your logo and supporting elements, illustrating how to properly apply the visual components of your brand with specific directions on how to use your logo, colors, and typefaces. Brand guidelines vary in length from several pages to as long as several dozen pages. The more specific, the better.
Delivered in PDF format for easy distribution, these guidelines are to be followed by anyone who works with your brand, both internally and externally. To ensure that your brand image remains consistent and cohesive, all designers and vendors should carefully adhere to your brand’s guidelines.
Your logo is the first step; implementing it correctly comes next. Your brand establishes customer expectation. Consistent logo usage ensures that you will meet and exceed your clients‘ expectations. This is why branding and brand consistency are so important. A strong brand enhances your credibility and demonstrates organization. The time and attention put into branding communicates to your customers that you care about every aspect of your business.
Inconsistent logo usage diminishes logo recognition. In the most extreme cases, varying colors, fonts, and logo implementation can result in confusing your business with another altogether. Similarly, when a brand is misaligned, it not only diminishes brand recognition, but it also can lead to your clients’ perception that one’s products or services are not held to the highest standard.
Oftentimes, people find repetition to be boring. But in the case of branding, boring isn't bad. In fact, it’s the most effective way to communicate with our customers. Using the same color, fonts, and applying consistent layouts will make your brand more likely to be recognized and trusted for years to come.
Honestly, all businesses should strive to be predictable.