Branding is the nuanced art of actively shaping your brand identity; brand consistency is the repetitive communication of your brand identity to your audience. Consistency is incredibly important because it keeps your brand recognizable and reliable. Customer loyalty is ultimately a response to reliability. Regardless of your industry, returning customers will have their expectations set in stone. They’ll know what your brand stands for, how it looks and how it communicates.
You would not expect to make a purchase at Bloomingdale’s and leave the store without a brown bag. It would be challenging to spot a blue and green McDonald’s because the brand has trained us to expect red and yellow. An Apple product would never be complete without a logo sticker. It’s all about repetition, which is key to imprinting your brand into the mind of the consumer.
Whether you’re developing a brand style guide from the ground up or looking to make an existing brand more consistent, you’ll find success by focusing on the three pillars of brand consistency:
1. Identifying and owning your vision and values
Who are you as a brand? What do you hope for the future of your brand? What steps will you take towards embodying your brand and achieving your goals? These are the questions to ask yourself when you identify your vision and values. Ideally, every person behind your brand understands these values, supports them and upholds them, too.
If you know who you are as a brand, your customers will as well. Your target audience should understand your vision and values, so don’t be shy about sharing who you are and what you stand for—this is how you will connect to them and gain respect.
Of course, your brand identity and values will vary according to the industry you’re in and who your audience is. These differences will also shape the way you communicate your brand to the wider world. A fitness brand, for instance, could share its passion by showcasing fitness-related imagery on its social media pages. They could create fitness-themed inspirational campaigns that are based around real members of their clubs, which could spread from physical signage in and out the gym, to marketing emails to Youtube content.
In order to keep this messaging consistent, there are certain guidelines they’d need to establish and maintain. This would include specific wording to describe your brand values (think taglines or using specific terminology to describe the gym and services), the same tone of voice and implementing a consistent aesthetic throughout your branding, marketing, and advertising.
Reinterpret your missions… again and again
Using your brand guidelines, explicitly and implicitly state (and restate) your brand values to your audience. Stick to your palette, fonts and tone of voice in creating marketing materials of different mediums.
One website that does this well is The Farmer’s Dog. This healthy dog food brand convey their mission through straightforward messaging about their ingredients, which they manage to repeat throughout the site without feeling repetitive to the user. One example is the parallax scrolling device they use to show the user all the ingredients in one portion of their dog food, as they navigate down the landing page. Their hashtag reads #longlivedogs and they use the tagline, “Smarter, healthier pet food.” The brand is simple and honest, right down to the no-frills packaging.
S’well takes a similar approach, being transparent when communicating its mission to rid the world of plastic bottles. One way they do this is in the “about” section of their website: it tugs at the heartstrings of potential customers who are looking to invest in reusable, sustainable products by establishing a firm emotional connection with them.
Their minimalist design spreads from their primary products of bottles to their contemporary web design. With the familiar text logo popping up often, S’well’s designs echo the purity of their eco-friendly mission and projects their support of clean water nonprofits. All in all, these factors combine to strengthen the bond between brand and target audience.
2. Building a visual identity
Establishing a clear, cohesive visual identity is the easiest way to maintain brand consistency. This is where your brand style guide comes into play. Creating a specific and thorough guide, to be used by all your employees, shapes your brand identity as a whole. It’s something that constantly needs to be refreshed and updated to ensure the language and look is current.
An easily identifiable logo, color palette and set of fonts, when used consistently, offers customers a sense of reliability. These features can then be used repeatedly across mediums like packaging, digital designs, signage and other advertising materials.
Find a logo that fits your brand in all settings
With logo designs, the ultimate logo is one which identifies a brand in little to no words. On a mega scale, we’re talking about brands like Target, Apple and Nike—but plenty of startups also do a great job of showing us their identities through their logos, like the imaginative pencil shape of Study Now or the modern colors and shapes of Readibots.
You can see above how logos can be used consistently in different settings. Alternate color schemes, sizes or backdrops, as well as variations with more or less detail or text can all be used to complement a brand’s logo. This enables your designs to feel fresh and exciting in different formats, but reinstates your brand’s identity to the audience. In other words, it keeps you recognizable, whatever the context. Use a scalable file format for your logo (like a vector file) so you resize it accordingly without losing your proportions or resolution.
Let color to carry your message
Now let’s talk color. Whether it’s the shocking pink stripes on a Victoria’s Secret bag, the brown and gold hues of a UPS truck, or the vibrant red of a Coca-Cola label, these colors emphasize brand identity.
Many great brands—both big and small—use color to enhance their brand identity. Look at the pastel color palette for Sweetly Cute ice cream. When many people think of eating ice cream, they conjure up wholesome images, usually taken from memory, of eating ice cream with friends or family. This is the image projected through Sweetly Cute’s branding and it plays into themes of nostalgia, innocence and saccharine enjoyment.
To ensure your branding is consistent, you have to think holistically about it. Sweetly Cute have done this down to every last detail, from ice cream tubs to labels and digital designs. The product packaging is adorned with a bright linear pattern that looks very similar to hundreds and thousands (a popular ice cream topping) while the ice cream cone in the logo bears a smiley face. These features are then reinterpreted to complement the logo in other contexts.
Use fonts to create brand recognition
Another important aspect of brand identity is font selection. While the branding and packaging at Trader Joe’s will vary based on the type of product, the company has established a visual identity with its font, entitled Road Jester. It’s bold and fun, but not overwhelming. It has a mix of striking curves and sharp, serif-like points, weaving in the brand’s unique personality. The imagery in combination with this text shows the reader exactly what Trader Joe’s does—it sells high quality groceries with an individual style of service.
The Trader Joe’s logo would feel completely different with a more traditional font like Arial or Helvetica. With its distinctive look, the Trader Joe’s font is exclusively theirs and essential to its brand identity. In fact, it’s so iconic that often Trader Joe’s don’t use their full logo all the time. Instead, they use their trademark name and font to represent them consistently, which creates stronger brand recognition.
You may not have the means for your brand to have its own font and that’s okay. Just remember that typography can always speak to your brand’s identity and purpose. It’s one of the easiest ways to elevate a brand to luxury status, or make it feel relatable and down to earth. In fact, many luxury fashion brands have started using the exact same font in recent years, which speaks to the effectiveness of repetition in branding.
3. Establishing clear messaging
Once you’ve identified your values and established a visual identity, your messaging serves as an essential tool for brand consistency. The positive effect of regular, repetitive messaging is that it will help customers get to know you and it’ll help them relate to your overall brand. Messaging can mean many things, such as the copy on your website, a tagline on your product packaging or the caption on your latest Instagram post. To create consistency across all outlets and therefore reinforce your brand identity, your messaging should speak from the same voice.
Sharing your message is great, but don’t get too wordy. Remember, the human attention span is now shorter than that of a goldfish. This means that you need to draw the customer in right away by keeping your messaging short, sweet and to-the-point.
Keep it short but sweet
A good example for consistently clear and concise messaging is Spindrift, a line of sparkling water. At basically every opportunity, Spindrift remind customers that their product contains real fruit juice and no additives.
Throughout their messaging, Spindrift explicitly and implicitly remind the consumer who they are as a brand and what their values are. They pride themselves upon transparent communication with their audience and focusing natural ingredients and real fruit. With headings like “real fruit. really”, “the best ingredients.” and “made by real people.” dotted down their landing page, Spindrift hone in on this message of authenticity and quality, using a full stop in each to let readers know that that’s it—there’s no hidden surprises or additives when it comes to Spindrift.
This consistency extends to their cans, across which it states “yup, that’s it.” in reference to them containing only real fruit. When you think about the design of the cans, it’s only two colors: green (representing the lime flavor) and white (representing Spindrift’s simplicity). This minimalism again reflects the straightforward attitude of Spindrift, it looks fresh and current, like their products. It is another opportunity to showcase Spindrift’s brand values and encourages consumers to believe Spindrift to be a reliable and trustworthy brand.
A brand that takes a very different approach to branding is the cosmetics brand, Arthur. The imagery displayed across their site permeates strength, straightforwardness and adventure. Their thrill-seeking audience appreciate the impressiveness of the mountain landscape as well as organic skincare that is effective and reliable.
An “approved by men” slogan combined with the “3x the size of an average lip balm” description of Arthur’s prime product, emphasizes its efficiency for the audience, establishing a trusting, emotive relationship with them.
Maintain brand consistency with keywords
Regardless of the type of messaging your brand will use, establishing brand-defining keywords is a great first step to understanding your brand’s voice. Take a look at your brand and what you have to offer. Then, write down 10 adjectives which describe your brand. Use these adjectives to influence your consistent identity, right down to the messaging.
Within your brand style guide, highlight brand-defining keywords and mention the specific phrases which should be used to describe your brand and its product, as well as the sound of your brand’s voice. Do you want cool and casual messaging with words like “relaxed, effortless, laid-back,”or sharp and in-your-face messaging with words like “fierce, bold, impactful?” Whatever path you decide for your brand, always keep it consistent. You can read more about brand messaging here.
Finding the key to brand consistency
Think of all of the successful brands out there. Whether big or small, each has achieved an element of consistency which has supported its overall growth. Brand consistency can be achieved by identifying and owning your vision and values, building a visual identity and establishing clear messaging. It often takes time to create and maintain, but it is achievable and worth the effort—we promise!
Author: Aviva M. Cantor