Consistency is a core requirement for the success and longevity of any brand. Other elements may lay the ground work that provide the best chance for success, but consistency is the glue that holds everything together for the journey.
Consistency creates personality, differentiation and highlights your USPs. It makes sense of that broad company coalition of the concrete – products, services and your staff – and the nebulous; such as strategy, ideas, aims and ambitions, which coalesce to create and sustain your brand identity.
It says who you are, which is then invested in what you do – the essence of your products and services – which is invoked in your marketing; and how and why you do what you do: your approach and philosophy.
Presenting a consistent image to the world contributes to the authority of your voice. It defines your positioning and fuels trust and loyalty, not only in your customers but internally as well.
Once you know who you are, and what you stand for in the context of your marketplace, telling the world becomes a whole lot easier. Making the world listen is another matter, but it is safe to say that without consistency the chances of the world pricking up its ears is less likely.
It’s only with consistency that you can have expectation of customers, business media and potential partners being correct and equally consistent in what they understand, expect and convey about you.
Your marketing and sales teams above all must have a consistent understanding to promote your brand, and to be effective guardians of the tone and function.
It’s their job to push your brand baby out into the world – one with a few ingrained and hopefully attractive traits – and keep its behaviour under control through those difficult years as it learns to walk, talk, react with the world, and grow into a fully-rounded brand personality.
However, with consistency comes caveats. And compromise. Having schooled your brand and established its identity, you then need to let your baby have its head.
The accepted contention that every employee is an ambassador for your company – particularly on social media – has created a monster for those with a certain mindset. You may feel nervous ceding to your employee’s personal responsibility if you routinely apply centralized control as a controlling parent. However, this only emphasizes how essential it is to establish messaging consistency.
It’s a marketing challenge that requires fluidity. You need the kind of flexibility that only comes from a rigorous, all-encompassing awareness and portrayal of your brand identity. One that studiously avoids the brittle reliance on top-down diktats. If you do things democratically the process can be involving, engaging and ultimately strengthen your company. Try to be heavily prescriptive and you risk creating at best indifference; at worst resentment, among your staff. These are two contrasting expressions of defiance, yet both will serve equally to undermine your ambitions.
Are you confident your staff have the capability to present your brand as you want? Just because you hired them initially, their presence does not confirm either the required expertise, or willingness. Consistency is a capability that has to be developed, and depends on your staff receiving the relevant (consistent) information to work on.
If you’re not sure, try some unpressurized internal research. Keeping it casual, ask your staff how they define your company and your brand. Is everyone tuned in to your philosophy and aims? Being unable to satisfactorily describe and quantify what you do is probably more common than you might believe. How can you expect your staff to evangelize if they don’t share the faith: even less if they’re not sure what that faith actually is?
Take nothing for granted. How can you ensure that your messaging shines consistently through all you do?
Essential to establishing consistency is your choice of words. Are the same words being used throughout your company and to your customers to describe your brand? Are your words convincing enough? Do they deliver your core business values, your USPs and the advantages of your goods and services in a way that ensures your messaging stands up to the full glare of interrogation?
Have you really considered deeply what those keywords should be? Having defined these words, you need to establish processes that allow regular room for your language to evolve as your company evolves.
It’s also time to look in the mirror: a glance at external perceptions of your company online; talk to your customers when you can; and any profiles or reporting in various business media. Gage across them all whether your core marketing messages stand up to scrutiny and if they are consistently aligned.
Achieve this and your credibility in the marketplace will grow together with greater brand recognition. Not only will your brand move to another level, but you engender the type of trust and loyalty that will help keep you there.
Stressing consistency as a marketing essential can feel like a hard sell at the best of times. Putting forward a sensible and safe option when the temptation is to go with the sexy and more obviously dynamic marketing practices.
You might be dismissed for simply stating the obvious. However, it’s often the obvious that is the last to be addressed and the first to be forgotten. Consistency will always be noticed – in time. However, mixed messages – much like bad news – have a tendency to register immediately, leaving your audience struggling to identify what is truly distinctive about your brand – and you with an unnecessary credibility gap to overcome.
Precise definition, and consistently getting your message out there with the right language, is essential to differentiate yourself. It is key to creating an attractive brand personality that makes you stand out in the minds of your customers; whether your brand mission is disruptive, niche, or designed to create a bit of a wiggle room for your products in a crowded mainstream.
Successful branding is achieved over time, not overnight; and consistency is the key. It’s not a straightforward example of the tortoise and hare. Consistency is simple in concept but, taken to its fullest degree, uniquely complex as a way of conveying messaging. When properly conceived, exposure to each piece of your marketing – down to the smallest customer-facing detail – adds another brick to the wall of your identity.
However, you should avoid becoming anal about it. Hammering exactly the same message, in exactly the same way, in everything you do is consistency at its lowest form of currency. Reinforcement can and should also be subtle, triggered and maintained by your identity – your brand colors, design, iconography, and taglines – and most of all responsive to context.
Organize your thoughts; create, affirm and reaffirm your identity over, and over again. Establish persuasive, simple messaging that has the strength to travel internally and externally – no distinctions necessary. The more complicated your services, the simpler your messaging needs to be. Ruthlessly squeeze out the contradiction to deliver authority that leads to trust.
You can then look forward to achieving distinctive brand positioning that delivers increased customer loyalty, and increased revenues – the true bottom line to a consideration of consistency.
Michael White is the Head of Copy at Mulberry Marketing Communications, an award-winning full-service B2B communications agency based in Chicago, London, and Australia. He has many years of experience writing and editing short- and long-form content for B2B and B2C audiences.