The No. 1 Rule / Brand Consistency

We like to think of "branding" as the personality of a business. A brand has a character, a look, a tone of voice and a way of behaving. The question every business owner should be asking is; "how can I make my brand work -how can I make it say the right things and how can I get it to speak to the right people?". In this article we shall briefly consider the number 1 rule of branding: "brand consistency" which has numerous benefits that help make a brand work.

Brand Consistency

What is a "brand"?

Okay, before we start we had better define a "brand" more fully. In simplistic terms a brand is a proposition - a message such as "we deliver quality sports wear". There may also be sub messages and values which associate with that message but they all revolve around the same idea. How this message is communicated is often termed "branding" and one of the most important aspects of communicating a brand visually and subconsciously, is consistency.

What is brand consistency?

Brand consistency is where a business attempts to communicate messages in a way that doesn't detract or wander away from the core brand proposition. For example, a single logo is always used in a similar way on all marketing materials, a single typeface is used with particular guidelines on typography, consistent colour ranges are applied along with similar design styles, so that everything visual is inter-linked and has a link back to that core brand proposition. Every piece of marketing material is like a member of the same family, supporting and even looking similar to all the other members in the family. The brand has it's own unique "look" which enables a consumer to recognise it as belonging to that brand proposition and distinguish it from competing brands.

This visual "look" often evolves slowly over time but the core message of all successful brands never really changes.
Take for example, Apple computers. Since their brand's conception, their brand proposition was to supply advanced, good quality quality, visually aesthetic, high performing computers. This message has never changed although, by keeping up with modern design standards has changed the way they communicate it.  This has led to consumer recognition and thus trust and loyalty from their customers.

We would like to mention that branding is not just about applying a logo in a consistent manner, and having the right Pantone colours. It is about ensuring that all the communication materials have the same message and that it all "looks" consistent. All points should be consistent including the way the website is coded and the quality of paper used in printed materials. All of these points should be consistent because if they are not, it will cause consumers to lose trust in the brand and its messaging.

For example, imagine you were thinking of purchasing an expensive, high performance car. You see a TV advertisement for a car dealer near you. You look at their website but it doesn't seem to look the same as the TV advert. When you go there the sales man gave you a flimsy, poorly designed, black and white, photocopied brochure - again this doesn't fit in with the web-site design, the TV advertisement and the message they had communicated to you. This would immediately make you think - hang on, if this car is worth £100,000 then why cannot they afford to produce quality marketing materials? Am I even in the right place? Maybe this product is not what it seems?! And you may even be put off from the purchase because something didn't sit right - because the brand proposition was not communicated in the right way, or in a consistent way - and that's why brand consistency is so important...

We would like to point out that although we, at Attitude Design, focus on the visual aspect of communicating the brand, there are other areas which all contribute. Members of your staff who are client facing, play an extremely important role in the persona of your business and if areas such as those can tie into the main brand proposition then true consistency can exist.

Why bother with brand consistency?

Brand consistency has one massive advantage - recognition. With recognition comes familiarity. With familiarity comes trust and confidence. Also, if done correctly, consistency brings clarity and purpose which consumers buy into. They can become loyal. As people we don't really like "new' and it has been widely reported that before a consumer purchases a product, on average, they need to be exposed to a brand 17 times. 17 times is an awful lot and so it's essential that when a potential customer comes across a "brand message" they know straight away which brand is communicating to them. This can only be done by consistency. If consistency is not applied and the message and design can’t be defined then it is possible for a consumer to mistake one brand with a competing brand, which could then mean they associate the received impression with another company. This means a business potentially loses customers and may even help its competitors if a consistent "look" and tone is not achieved.

The issue is that brand consistency often takes many years to master before it really starts working for you. This means you need to think long term and start as you mean to go on. Leading brands are normally leading because they have had many years of consistency behind them and they have had a long term goal for their branding which has been consistent. The trick is to have in place a clear idea of your brand and then the right people in place to guard it.

Brand guardians

At Attitude Design we like to think of ourselves as brand guardians. If you are looking for a long term partner to ensure that your branding is kept consistent across all marketing materials then look no further! We offer a strategic multi-disciplined approach across both print, web and new media to ensure that your brand values are consistently applied and fit in with the long term strategy of your business. If you wish to upgrade your brand's "look" we can not only assist with the actual design (please see our portfolio), but also its strategic implementation. Whether you are setting up a new brand or have an existing one we would love to see if we could help so please contact us, or if you have any comments which you wish to make, please feel free by using the form below:


A clean argument.

Ever notice that big companies usually do well with branding, and really small companies do OK, but the ones stuck in the middle often suck? I'm thinking companies with 200 to 2,000 employees, maybe $50-$500 million in revenue.

One problem they face is their marketing organizations are always changing; CMOs move on every 2 years, marketing may be understaffed, and many other hands (HR, field managers) are doing ad hoc communications.

How does such an organization reign in the brand fragmentation? It's a logical goal, but can be very hard to achieve.

Again, nice work!

nice explaination with an appropriate example.. thnxx dear

"This means a business potentially looses customers, and may even help it’s competitors if a consistent “look” and tone is achieved."

Did you mean to write, "...if a consistent "look" and tone is NOT achieved."?

Thanks Ben - yes that is what was meant and this has now been corrected.

Thanks for writing this article. It was very helpful in trying to explain to my employees why branding is so important in our company.

I think this was a great explanation. I am a college student and I found this to be a great source to use.

Great article. Very useful information for our small company. Thanks for sharing.