As a brand manager, CMO, or marketer, it's your job to make sure your brand identity is consistent, relevant, and sends out the right message to your audience.
With so many different roles involved when creating marketing content these days—with the added pressure of churning it out quickly and with quality—it can be so easy for a well-meaning marketing campaign to quickly turn into a real branding blunder.
Your content needs to go through a lot of people from the initial idea to its eventual publication. While your team's designers and writers may have no problem adhering to your brand logo, colors, and tone of voice, we all know colleagues that get a little trigger-happy with the publish button and release marketing materials to the masses that don't fit the message your brand is trying to promote. And this can end up giving the wrong impression to the consumers you're trying so hard to engage with.
So how do you prevent these branding errors from happening?
Get to the source of the inconsistency
Although no one likes to point fingers, it's important to identify where you're off brand, and why. This could be the email marketer that used an old email template or logo, or maybe the campaign marketer who got a bit carried away and skipped copy review for a new blog post.
More oft than not, the reasons for the inconsistencies are innocent enough, but the fact that these errors are happening usually signals poor communication of brand guidelines, or a lack of awareness that there are even brand guidelines in the first place.
Know your audience
A consistent brand identity is all well and good, but if you're preaching to the wrong audience, you might as well be talking to a brick wall. So before you figure out the nitty-gritty details of your brand's personality, you need to figure out who your current audience is, and tailor accordingly.
After all, it's long been known that purchasing is more of an emotional choice, rather than a rational one. So getting your customers to trust you and feel like they've made a connection with your brand can go a long way.
While this can be quite time-intensive with lots of research, you'll reap the rewards later on when you've attracted a diehard following of loyal fans that may potentially stick by your brand for life. Think Apple.
Now more than ever, consumers expect brands to have a purpose, be authentic, and have an active voice in the issues of modern society. And customers, particularly millennials, have no qualms about dropping a brand for one with a more socially-active stance.
Your brand is the easiest way to show your audience who you are, and what makes you unique. While this sounds simple enough, making sure that your brand is promoting a consistent identity is only possible when everyone at your organization—not just your creative department—are on the same page, and know exactly what your brand is about.
Consistency doesn't need to be boring
It's easy to misinterpret brand consistency as something that's restrictive, doesn't change, and stifles creativity. But brand guidelines shouldn't be a strict rulebook that prevents new ideas or new ways of playing around with your brand image.
Coca-Cola has one of the most widely-recognized brand personas in the world, and its iconic logo has more or less remained the same for decades. But this hasn't prevented Coke creating some really exciting, successful, and trendy ad campaigns over the years.
The trick is that brand guidelines should be exactly that: guidelines. Not a rulebook.
While it should define the personality and character of your brand, it should be flexible and adaptive enough to incite—not dampen—creative ideas. And in this day and age, it's so important for brands to stay relevant, topical, and lively.
The most successful brands know when to adapt and play around with their brand identity to stay relevant; your brand guidelines should not be treated as the holy gospel. It should evolve with your company, and adapt to the frequent changes in the market. That way, your brand is consistent, without being static.
Guidelines are for everyone; not just the designers
While in reality it'll probably be a small team in an organization that actually develops and maintains the brand guidelines, it should still reflect the ideas, culture and attitudes of the whole company. After all, if your colleagues didn't have any input in it, are they really going to be familiar enough to implement it correctly, and consistently?
Everyone needs to understand the proper usage and communication of your brand, as it's the only way you're going to stamp out any inconsistencies, and leave a long-lasting impression on your customers.