You’ve started a business, and you want to get your company name out there – so the next step is to brand, brand, brand.
Branding is all about creating and maintaining a connection with your audience, cultivating a specific association with your business in their minds.
To make this association stick, your brand message needs to be consistent, no matter who is seeing it and where.
In other words, brand consistency = brand recognition.
The question is – how do you maintain a steady brand image when there are such different platforms on which to be seen? Shouldn’t you tailor your branding to each platform individually?
Well, yes and no.
When planning a brand strategy, we like to approach varying platforms the way we would making friends – you can and should accommodate their differences, but you must draw the line when it comes to changing yourself.
In less touchy-feely terms, this means that your brand design, language, and overall message shouldn’t waver, regardless of what platform you’re using to communicate with your audience.
This isn’t to say that you have to be rigidly uniform at all times – just that there must be a method to the madness.
Here are 5 strategies to help you create that method and keep your branding consistent.
“When planning your campaigns,
consider your branding to be a person
with a great story to tell.”
The easiest way to stay consistent is to make a plan before you start. It may sound tedious (and in some cases, it is) but planning will save you a few cups of coffee and several bottles of aspirin in the long run.
Know your mission statement. What are the values that drive your company? Which goals are you working towards? Answering these questions will then help you:
Determine a brand voice. Pretend your brand is a person – what would he/she sound like when speaking? Your brand voice is the persona that communicates with the rest of the world, through marketing materials, social posts, etc.
When pinning down your brand voice, there are two things to take into consideration:
1: What your message for the world is (refer to mission statement). For example, you won’t see organizations like Save a Child’s Heart using humor as part of their marketing strategy.
2: The audience intended to hear your message. Corporate jargon shouldn’t find its way into a restaurant trying to appeal to families, in the same way that aging parents probably wouldn’t appreciate dripping sarcasm when looking into life insurance options.
If you already have a brand voice, great! Make sure it’s easily recognizable, and, of course, consistent across platforms – don’t be technical and straightforward on your blog and then allegorical and playful on your website.
Create a content plan. Map out the content for your blog and social media channels for the upcoming year.
You should make a content calendar that includes information like what you’ll be posting, which kind of post it is, when it needs to be ready by and where you’re posting it when the time comes.
Knowing what you’ll be posting in advance reduces the risk of error; planning your content is a surefire way to keep your branding materials cohesive and on-message.
No one knows your brand better than you do.
But just because you’re an expert doesn’t mean your team is – much less third parties. So, how can you ensure that no matter who is working on your branding, it will always come across the same?
There’s an easy fix. A simple way to maintain brand consistency across the board is by making a brand book – i.e. an online document that provides all the necessary rules about the style your brand uses.
Basically, your brand book is a style guide that should contain information about the following:
Every member of your company should have access to the brand book, so there’s never a question about how to represent your brand.
Most branding platforms have unique requirements and best practices that have to be taken into consideration. Email marketing won’t look the same as a TV commercial; a landing page will never come across like a newsletter.
And, social media channels alone can widely differ in audience, acceptable media, and marketing strategy:
Facebook: The most “social” of the networks; good for posting a combo of visual and long-form textual content, appealing to most age demographics, and bringing in leads through advertising
Instagram: Focuses on visual content (photos, short videos) and using hashtags. Good for inspiring your audience and emphasizing design aspects of your brand
Youtube: Biggest video sharing platform; good for creating engaging and educational videos
LinkedIn: The “professional” network; all about making corporate connections. Good for establishing thought leadership
However, despite these differences, your brand should look and sound similar across each platform. Some rules of thumb:
This brings us to our next tip –
From the get-go, you should think about how to create branding materials that are usable across different types of media.
Maybe you’ll plan to write a “quote post” for your blog – you can post the most interesting quote from the piece on your Facebook page, using the same quote on a photo for Instagram while writing about the speaker’s expertise on LinkedIn.
While you don’t have to create every single post to fit every channel, the ability to use similar campaigns helps you expedite your marketing efforts and ensures that visuals and message stay on point.
These days, most branding efforts are (understandably) concentrated on the web.
That said – your business’s offline presence shouldn’t be neglected. Humans crave contact, and personal branding is no exception; your audience will want assurance that there’s an authentic face behind the company name.
However, this face needs to be coherent with the brand message you’ve worked so hard to cultivate, no matter where it appears.
Think of your online branding as an initial way to get customers to engage with your brand in person – a brand that they feel like they already know.
Once again, consistency is key here: Whether you’re speaking to hundreds at a conference or taking a potential client out for lunch, your offline (read: face-to-face) brand should match up in tone, message and style with what you’ve put out on the web.