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Always on Brand: How (and Why) to Maintain Brand Consistency

Have you ever scrolled through social media and instantly recognized who the post was from without even seeing the logo? Saw a billboard and could immediately tell which company it was about? Went out for some coffee and knew exactly which brand it is just from the cup? That's the magic of brand consistency.

What is brand consistency?

Brand consistency is the secret ingredient that gives your business its unique flavor. It's all about presenting a cohesive and uniform image across all customer touchpoints. It's your brand's signature style, voice, colors, and messaging staying consistent no matter where your audience interacts with you.

Why you should care about consistency in branding

Let's say you have two friends, John and Greg. You've known them for a long time and you hang out with both of them often. However, John is sometimes hard to get a hold of. He rarely picks up the phone and forgets to reply to messages.

You agree to meet up at a certain time, but you never know when he's going to show up. Sometimes he's late, sometimes he's on time, and sometimes he cancels last minute.

Greg, on the other hand, is the most reliable person you know. He always shows up, even with a few minutes to spare. Picks up his phone every time you call and, if he can't, shoots you a text to let you know he'll call you back.

So, when your kitchen sink floods, who are you calling first? John or Greg? Our money's on Greg.

But hold up. Aren't we talking about brand consistency here? What do John and Greg have to do with it?

Simple. Just as Greg's consistency in behavior makes him the logical friend choice in a pinch, brand consistency can make you the logical choice over competitors. When customers know what to expect from you (and they like it), they're more likely to do business with you and spread the word.

Besides helping create a professional image, brand consistency also builds trust with your audience. When customers recognize and trust your brand, they are more likely to become repeat customers.

How to maintain brand consistency

All in on brand consistency? Great choice. Now all that's left to do is document your brand identity and set some ground rules. We're talking brand guidelines.

No matter whether you're new on the market or expanding your business, having brand guidelines is the starting point of brand consistency. Besides helping you maintain a consistent brand personality across channels, guidelines also mean less work in the future.

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You no longer have to start from scratch with every new campaign. New team members don't have to analyze months of content to figure out the audience, language, and visuals. Instead, everything is right there, ready to be put in action.

1. Create brand guidelines

If it's your first time, creating brand guidelines can seem like a daunting task. You're not sure what to include, how much is too much, and how to structure it all so it makes sense to people who aren't you.

Luckily, there are only three main elements that you need to cover: audience, visuals, and language. Here's how you can cover each in enough detail to make it make sense, but not so much that it's overwhelming.

1.1 Audience

There's no point in trying to create brand guidelines without defining your audience first. They're the people you'll be talking to, both visually and in words, so knowing who they are is the logical starting point. To create your buyer persona, consider factors like:

  • Age

  • Location

  • Profession

  • Skills and interests

  • Why they'd use your product or service

  • Interests and hobbies

  • How often they expect you to communicate with them

  • Why they'd open your emails

Naturally, not all your customers will fit into one simple box. If you sell products or offer services to different profiles of people, make sure to include a buyer persona for each. That way, you can tailor your approach to each of your audience segments. The rule of thumb here is to use common sense.

For example, at Better Proposals, we serve everyone from freelancers to large sales teams. What this looks like in practice is focusing on different benefits for different users.

Just as it wouldn't make sense to lead with multi-user editing when talking to a one-(wo)man-band freelancer, it also wouldn't make sense to talk about more free time for large sales teams. Since a freelancer mostly does everything on their own, work time bleeding into personal time is a common pain point. For sales teams, it's trying to get sales docs out as fast as possible without risking embarrassing mistakes.

When creating a style guide for your own business, you need to start with understanding the issues your audience comes across on a daily basis. Once you've done that, the visuals and language should come (more) naturally.

1.2 Visuals

Once you've got your audience down, the next thing to add to your brand guidelines is your visual identity. Include your color palette with color codes so you don't end up with visuals where the color is similar to the one in your palette, but slightly off.

Also add in different versions of your logo (colored, black and white, inverted, etc.) and in different file formats. The file format you use online will differ from the one you use in print, not to mention promotional materials like pens, cups, or shirts.

Another thing you shouldn't forget to list are the fonts you use in your business. Granted, you can't control social media caption fonts, but you can control them on your website, inside your documents, and in your visuals.

Keeping your fonts consistent is especially important because it's one of those things that people just notice. Even if they're not typography experts, they'll see that something is off, but won't be able to put their finger on it.

Last, but not least, imagery. The style of your graphics and the people you feature should be in line with your brand. Your imagery should resonate with your target audience and represent your brand's personality and values.

For example, a family-friendly restaurant would use bold colors and playful graphics. They'd also feature people who reflect the ones in their target market, i.e., families with children.

mcdonald's brand consistency example

On the other hand, a high-end restaurant might opt for a more simplistic, monochrome visual style. They might also feature people dressed in the latest fashion enjoying highly stylized plates of food.

1.3 Language

While your visual identity plays a crucial part in brand recognition, the way you talk to your customers shouldn't be overlooked. Besides being consistent with your audience, your brand language should also match your brand personality.

For example, if you want your brand to be seen as quirky and fun, your language needs to reflect that. There is no amount of visuals that can compensate for mismatched brand language.

When writing your brand guidelines, start by defining the voice and tone. Note down how you want your brand to come across and adapt it to all marketing channels you use. This can be as simple as listing all social media channels you use and defining how professional/informal you want to sound.

Next, take some time to consider word choice. How you say things is just as important as what you say. Do you want to appeal to a wide audience and keep your phrasing simple? Are you targeting a specific niche and need to use industry jargon?

What is your brand of humor and where do you stand on potentially divisive terms? Are there any words or phrases you want to avoid altogether?

2. Make your life easier with software and templates

The hardest way to maintain a consistent brand identity is doing it all from scratch every time. Even if you have brand guidelines, you risk accidental mistakes without using the right tools.

Just think about all the places your branding appears. Your website, emails, social media, business documents, ads, and the list goes on. Keeping everything consistent 100% of the time without specialized software and templates is virtually impossible.

Now, we're not saying get every tool there is. We're saying, identify the marketing materials you use most and choose software accordingly.

For example, if you run frequent email campaigns, getting email management software makes sense. Create campaign and email templates, standardize your newsletters, and create audience segments. That way, you're not just saving time, but also ensuring consistent branding every time.

Regularly send business proposals, contracts, or brochures? Do yourself a favor and upgrade from MS Word. Using online software makes much more sense in terms of visual appeal and overall usability.

brand design proposal template

You get your brand elements in once, set up a template, and you don't have to worry about formatting. The biggest benefit? You can get your docs signed and projects paid for all from the same platform. We're biased so we'll recommend Better Proposals, but there are also a bunch of alternatives you can consider.

3. Keep track of your marketing efforts

Maintaining brand consistency means ensuring that your brand presence is cohesive across marketing channels over time. This means you'll need to set a schedule for conducting brand audits to make sure everything's on point.

The frequency of your brand audits depends on your business needs and resources. If you don't have the time to review your marketing materials quarterly, you can also do it once or twice a year.

That said, to make the entire process smoother, you can create a checklist of elements to review. This could include graphics, imagery, tone, messaging, and overall user experience.

Another thing to consider is different channels you use to reach your audience. The frequency of review will also depend on the type of marketing material.

For example, you might not need to review your website as often as your social media channels. Your onboarding email campaigns might need fewer tweaks than your business proposals.

4. Keep everything (and everyone) up to date

Even if you do all of the above, you're still not in the clear when it comes to inconsistent branding. That's because the level of your brand consistency depends on communication.

As you start using new platforms to communicate with your target audience, you'll need to adapt your brand assets. If your metrics tell you it's time for a change in business strategy, you'll need to update your messaging. If you want to rebrand, you'll have to make the changes across marketing materials.

And while updating your branding guidelines to reflect those changes is a great start, it's not enough. You need to get your entire team on the same page and make sure they're all aware of the changes.

If necessary, be ready to answer questions and provide guidance to help your team adhere to the new guidelines. Otherwise, you risk inconsistencies in templates, communications, or marketing materials.

And don't forget about external partners. Just as you would your own team, inform your partners of brand guideline changes. Make sure to provide updated resources and assets so your brand image stays consistent.

Your brand identity is safe with us

Consistent branding means maintaining your brand's identity across all customer-facing materials. Your brand voice, visual elements, and messaging all impact your brand reputation and customer loyalty.

With Better Proposals, you can ensure brand consistency no matter the size of your team and wow existing and potential customers. Besides obvious brand identity elements such as your colors, logo, and fonts, Better Proposals also makes your docs look like they've come from your own domain.

What's more, we're all about meeting and exceeding customer expectations. That's why you can integrate live chat directly into your docs and give them a customer experience they won't forget. But don't take our word for it. Instead, try it out for yourself. The first 14 days are on us.

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Patricija Šobak's profile image
Patricija Šobak puts her talent in spotting questionable grammar and shady syntax to good use by writing about various business-related topics. Besides advocating the use of the Oxford comma, she also likes coffee, dogs, and video games. People find her ability to name classic rock songs only from the intro both shocking and impressive.