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Controlling brand consistency is a struggle that many if not all brand and marketing managers face over the course of their working lives.
Keeping track of a global brand across a myriad of communication channels is key to maintaining its strength, which translates into customer acceptance and ultimately sales.
Brand consistency is vital to a business because it builds recognition which consumers use to evaluate their purchase decisions. Consistency also brings clarity which consumers trust.
When consumers trust your brand they become loyal. And what everyone wants is loyal customers.
But what do you do when you start to lose a grip of your brand? You take a hit when the levels and complexity of marketing activity exceeds the amount of control the business has over brand management.
There will be less coherence in the way your brand appears which leads to loss of clarity in the minds of your consumers about what you stand for, leading to lower sales and less return-on-investment in your brand communications.
So what can you do to improve brand management and therefore brand consistency?
1. Spot the symptoms
Erosion of brand consistency can occur slowly over a long period of time and takes a concerted effort to reverse its effects.
Think of a large oil tanker doing a 360° turn in the Thames. There is not a lot you can do in the short term. It may sound obvious, but the first step is to identify that it is happening.
Ineffectual brand management is commonly the problem and a brand audit can help to clarify the extent of the issue. This will help identify where and when your brand is inconsistent.
Are managers using the wrong type of logo because they can’t find the correct one? Are copywriters not aware of the tone of voice they should be using when creating ads?
Be aware of what you are doing wrong first.
2. Understand where brand inconsistencies are occurring and why
In most cases the problem will be a combination of staff not being aware of what they are doing, and the effects that their actions may have on the overall brand.
Think of all marketing communications as one part of an extended family. All should look the same, come from the same background and speak with same tone of voice.
Internal marketers and external third parties need the correct tools to allow them to communicate the brand in a consistent way.
It is all well and good to have a brand guidelines document which sets out what the brand stands for and how it should be represented, but if it is stored away in a brand manager’s desk or hidden on an FTP site, people just won't consult it.
They’ll 'guess' at which logo to use or what target audience they should aim their new ad at.
Once you know why and where your brand is not consistent you can work out strategically how to fix it and what tools you will need to achieve this.
3. Centralise brand management online
Your aim is to get everybody who is selling, representing or promoting your brand singing off the same hymn sheet.
Therefore you need to make your brand assets and most importantly your guidelines and positioning documents (the essential stories which make your brand different and unique) available in one place which everyone can access.
This will result in stronger brand management, all members of your team pulling in the same direction and increased brand consistency. You will see brand equity grow and lift you above your competitors.
A lack of consistency can affect any brand at any stage of its life. The best way to avoid and/or rectify a brand consistency problem is to set up a system where everybody involved knows how the brand should be presented and has the tools at their disposal to do this.
As a final thought, please remember that brand consistency is built up over years not over months, just like brand equity. Consistent brands have been consistent for a long time.