How to Project a Consistent Brand in Every Marketing Channel
At the conclusion of every class semester for the digital marketing course I teach at the Georgetown School of Continuing Studies, students are asked to evaluate a company’s digital marketing, including a SWOT analysis of all the different channels used by the organization – its website, SEO, content, email, paid & social media, and more. One of the questions that comes up in the final project revolves around consistency: Does the company project its brand in all the channels that aligns with its overall, larger narrative that’s so important for a company?
Because activities are so specialized (and even within marketing, groups are often siloed), it’s easy to end up with one message in one channel and completely different one in another. We’ve seen this happen at large companies and small ones where the brand equity ends up getting diluted because the marketing doesn’t consistently convey that core brand message and value. Consistency matters in this case from a marketing standpoint because it leads to more trust and predictability for consumers. When brands project themselves inconsistently, it can even lead to loyal customers questioning whether or not the brand’s products and services are right for them.
With that, here are some common ways that can help companies can improve consistency and allow for better implementation of the brand rigor they need.
No. 1: Creating a Brand Style Guide
Consistency is often difficult to achieve in marketing, but it all starts with first establishing a brand style guide. What is a style guide? It’s basically a document developed by your designer or design team, in coordination with the marketing department, that establishes a few things:
- The Logo and Its Usage. Among the areas defined here include:
- What colors you use (or don’t use) with the logo
- The logos used for light or dark backgrounds
- A horizontal or vertical version
- The Colors of the Brand. One of the most important things that a style guide can impart are the brand colors. What are the hex colors are approved to use? What are not approved? As you can see from our recent post on the importance of using color strategically in marketing, it’s critical that companies don’t overuse too many colors, as, in doing so, they will often dilute the brand identity that often comes with a more consistent scheme. From the moment you establish the brand colors, every new visual design (or any new marketing materials) should always follow from there.
- The Font(s). Fonts play a big role in how a brand is perceived. It doesn’t matter if it’s a modern/corporate font or a classic one, or even a throw-back nostalgic one. What’s important is that it match the brand narrative. When companies employ too many fonts – we’ve seen sites from large companies that use 5 different fonts on their websites and a whole separate set within email! That’s way too many. What happens in that case is that the brand ends up diluting its equity because the site and other marketing materials don’t have a consistent “look” due to the varied fonts.
- The Brand Personality. We like brand style guides that employ a list of words about the brand that express the approach and personality. For example, it might be a brand is defined as being “fun,” “savvy,” “light,” or “thoughtful” in terms of its personality. It might also state the list of specific words to use or not use in marketing, especially words directed at a particular audience persona or demographic. Creating this upfront can be helpful as to guide anyone creating new marketing materials.
- The Logo and Its Usage. Among the areas defined here include:
No. 2: Deciding What Content Approach You Will Be Known For
Content development is a great way to project the brand, for both small and large companies as, in many cases, it’s the most cost-effective way of getting the word out. Your “content approach” dictates a how consistently you project the brand, and involves a few different aspects that are worth thinking about upfront:
- Tone/voice. Much of this can be derived/aligned with the brand personality section in the style guide. For example, will you use humor? Are you more of a serious brand? Are you helpful? Thoughtful? Friendly? Playful? Establishing how you speak with audiences and keeping that consistency is critical in this regard.
- Content style. For us at Marketing Nice Guys, we narrow down the options to using one of 6 approaches that come from the book, Contagious by Wharton professor Jonah Berger. These six areas form his now-famous STEPPS framework (originally focused on why certain marketing efforts went viral, but they also apply to the characteristics of what makes a piece of content good). The six are:
- Social Currency: That which makes your customers smarter, more interesting, or funnier when/if they pass it along to others. Social currency is often involved in thought leadership, which is critical for a brand in marketing.
- Triggers: This involves content that triggers a reaction – because it is linked to something. (For example: If you say: “Peanut butter and…” most people will think of jelly.) Triggers can be clever (the famous Geico “hump day” camel commercial). Even though Geico doesn’t have the original still running on YouTube, people still share that ad on… you guessed it, Wednesday.
- Emotion: Content that elicits an emotional reaction is powerful and can help create a customer’s positive association with a particular brand. This can include humor, happiness, even fear and sadness in the right circumstances.
- Public: Public is essentially content that provides social proof. Customers want evidence that others use your products or services or that others recommend it. This can come in the form of other customers talking about your products in reviews, wearing or using your product in user-generated content, or even statements such as “4 out of 5 dentists recommend Trident for patients who chew gum.”
- Practical: Perhaps the most common form of content, practical content helps people figure out how to do something (such as this blog.) Practical help can come in the form companies that have content showing how to change a tire, cook an apple pie, or paint their apartment. But it can also come in the form of job aids, tools, and other content that helps people get along through the day or do their job better.
- Storytelling: The last aspect of STEPPS, storytelling is works because customers tend to remember stories most of all. It certainly ties together with emotional content, as the latter often comes in the form of stories. Storytelling can be executed in any number of ways too – for example, stories of how your product helped transform someone’s life, or a backstory about how a pitch person that is well-known (think about Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World) came to be.
The bottom line here is that companies that choose a consistent style and tone provide dependable content that consistently represents the brand — adding to that narrative that helps customers trust them even more.
No. 3: Reemphasizing the Mission and What the Company Stands For
We often say, depending on the company, that it’s helpful to remind customers what you stand for. Do you believe in environmental causes? Employ sustainable practices? Say so. What about poverty? Do you give a portion of proceeds to help others who are less fortunate? Maybe you just focus on helping others succeed? Understanding that many of the messages you might put in front of customers involve getting them to make a purchase or convert, that doesn’t preclude you from also repeating often “how you” do business and what you believe in. That’s actually a big part of successful marketing in that you spread that narrative more broadly about who you are, creating more loyalty because of what you stand for.
No. 4: Identify Partners and Influencers That Fit Your Brand
One of the areas where brand consistency can take a hit involves not you as a company per se, but the partners and influencers you choose to associate with. Partners can be any number of different types of other organizations or individuals – resellers of your products and services, contractors or sub-contractors, and even advertising partners or publishers. A few questions to ask yourself in this regard:
- Does the partner share similar values to you and your organization?
- Do they fit with your approach and/or compliment what you do?
- Do they have the same customer philosophy as you?
Similarly, many companies these days also choose influencers to help them spread the word about the brand. The same set of questions above applies here too, with one additional thought: Does the influencer represent your audience well / provide a good mirror for your audience’s ambitions or goals? For example, it wouldn’t make much sense for a more conservative (in the non-political sense) brand to hire a super-controversial figure despite the publicity they might earn, nor would it be a good fit for that influencer. It’s a big risk for both sides – one that could affect their existing relationship with audiences they already have. That’s why it’s important to select the influencers who also share your values or represent the ideals of your audiences well.
We’ve talked a lot recently about the importance of brand, including how to rebrand, develop a strong brand, and now maintaining brand consistency. The reason? You can never underestimate the power that brand has on customer behavior when it comes to awareness, engagement, purchase, and loyalty. As has been said famously by Harvard Business Review and others: “Brand is everything. And everything is brand.” As such, developing it, refreshing it, and projecting it consistently is definitely a key to running any successful business.
At Marketing Nice Guys, our mission is to help you excel in digital marketing. Contact us for a free consultation when it comes to branding and marketing planning, content & SEO, website design and development, paid media, marketing automation, and social media management.
 The one exception might be a humorous approach in contrasts, but a more conservative company probably wouldn’t go there anyway.