What makes a brand powerful? The ability to recognize it. When a customer sees the color red and a cursive font on a can of soda, they instantly know what they’re looking at. The strength of a brand is built, especially in B2B, on what the consumer can expect. If a buyer knows your brand, what you do, and why you’re good at it, you’ve already helped them halfway to their decision. But cultivating a brand is difficult, and ensuring that your brand is shown consistently is even harder.
Even when many companies already recognize that consistent branding is critical – for instance, 90% of companies in a recent survey agreed that consistent presentation of branding is important – but less than 10% of companies surveyed believed their brand was actually presented consistently. And when the rewards for consistency are high (consistent branding can lead to 23% increase in your profits) you have to take the initiative.
So, if you’re not displaying your brand consistently, where do you begin? It starts with your brand’s guidelines. Creating substantial guidelines is important for all parts of your organization: your writers, your designers, your communications and sales teams. Your employees are very rarely trying to change branding on purpose, but guidelines help alleviate any guesswork done when creating materials. Additionally, recent studies find that firms are more than twice as likely to see consistent brand presentation with formal guidelines. With formal guidelines, you can gain a consensus about what design elements, language, and imagery you want to convey at any given time.
Even the most thorough brand guidelines, however, will not improve your market impact if they are not properly enforced. So, your next crucial step after creating guidelines is to establish who enforces your brand standards, and how. This responsibility lands, in many cases, on the head of your corporate marketing team, or on your creative and design team. They need to understand the design goals of your brand inside and out, and how those goals are translated into your guidelines.
It’s important for your enforcer and their team to review new materials for their consistency with your guidelines. These reviews matter, whether you’re working with a trusted partner, a freelancer, or your internal design team. This review also gives you important insight on edge-case scenarios for your branding that might have otherwise been missed when creating your initial guidelines. Your video content might not share all of the rules of your printed content, for example. But if you don’t have someone reviewing your content, you could see undesired inconsistencies or mistakes.
The task of brand enforcement isn’t just about new materials, but ensuring that old materials are promptly modified or rebranded. Say your company is attending a trade show, and you have a large campaign, and budget, dedicated to your presence there. You’re going to shake a lot of hands, hand out a lot of swag, and send a lot of tweets. Are you going to want to show off your old image, or your new one? Making a smooth and prompt transition to new branding is key to a consistent standing.
Ensuring that your brand is consistently shown across the market is an arduous task, but creating a strong brand with formal, current, and consistently updated guidelines is one of the most effective ways of cultivating your image among your audience.