How would you react if a movie character who is well-known for portraying the sad loner in weepy dramas suddenly featured in a punchy, kicky thriller?
What if you came across a Coca-Cola ad with green and pink visual elements instead of the usual red, black, and white?
It would feel off, right?
It’s probably safe to assume that you and a lot of other people would be immediately taken out of the experience.
Human customers who visit a company’s site or social media pages are no different. Show them something that doesn’t feel like your brand, and they will likely be thrown off.
When you present a single, consistent image across all platforms and at all times, the impact you create is not unlike that of an iconic film character who portrays a certain role very well or a business you’ve come to recognize a certain way.
Brand consistency, aka the repeated communication of your brand identity to your target audience, is critical for keeping your brand recognizable and memorable. In fact, consistent branding across all channels can increase a brand’s revenue anywhere from 10% to 20%, according to the State of Brand Consistency Report.
It’s easy to see why given the fact that consistent branding projects professionalism, provides clarity, and establishes authenticity — all factors that increase trust and make it likely for people to want to interact with and buy from your brand.
Nevertheless, maintaining brand consistency requires, well, staying consistent. This is where design comes in, playing an important role in creating said consistency.
Let’s take a deeper dive into how you can keep your brand consistent by leveraging the power of design.
Set brand guidelines
Admittedly, this starts on a basic note, but it’s incredibly important.
Brand guidelines are the rules that your brand’s personality is based on; they codify how the various parts of your brand ‘behave’ when they interact with humans. In design, your brand guidelines reinforce your brand identity, ensuring that every visual delivers the same design language, thereby creating a cohesive and consistent brand experience for users.
Here are the standard elements you should include in your brand guidelines:
The best way to set a color palette is usually to choose a dominant color and three or four complementary tones for a secondary palette. This way, your visual assets are consistent but not monotonous, and they can strengthen brand recognition through the uniformity of colors.
It’s a good idea to include the color palette codes in your guidelines, for example, RGB and CMYK codes.
You should set rules or guidelines for how you want your logo to appear in different formats. These should include:
- The color variations and file formats you'll allow
- Guidelines for vertical and horizontal formatting, as well as minimum and maximum sizes and spacing
- Usage permissions, i.e., where the logo should and should not appear
The brand guidelines should give guidance on the type of stock or proprietary photography, icons, illustrations, and other imagery to use.
Typically, you'll need a primary font and a secondary typeface for elements such as titles, paragraph text, and captions. Keep in mind that your font choice, much like your color palette, will help ensure consistency and increase brand recognition.
Tone and voice
When it comes to choosing your voice and tone, you want to be thinking about what type of personality your brand would have if it were personified. Would you be friendly and cheerful, humorous, positive and inspiring, serious, elegant and sweet…?
When we talk about voice and tone, many people are quick to think about product messaging and copy. But it’s equally important to showcase your brand’s voice and tone using design. Put another way, your color palette and visual elements must represent your brand’s voice and tone.
If your brand personality is loud and energetic, then bold, bright colors like red and yellow would probably work for your brand. On the other hand, these colors would probably not work so well if your brand personality is calm and relaxed.
Similarly, if you’re a contemporary brand, fresh and modern images are ideal, as opposed to visuals with a vintage feel, for example. The visuals should represent your brand personality and target audience, so potential customers can identify with what they see.
The more consistently you create assets that follow the guidelines, the more impactful and unforgettable your brand will be.
Be internally and externally consistent
This goes especially for brands that have a suite of products used by different demographics. Internal consistency refers to the user experience consistency that a product maintains within itself (for example, across its logos, colors, and other brand elements), whereas external consistency is the consistency maintained by a range of products.
Take Apple, for example. The brand rolls out several products for people of various ages and backgrounds. However, not only is each product consistent within itself, but all of Apple’s products are consistent among themselves as well.
In similar fashion, Louis Vuitton may have a wide range of products that cater to different people, but when it comes to all their products, there’s no mistaking who made them. This is what your brand should strive for — consistency, whether you’re looking at a single product or your entire product selection.
When working on consistency, don’t overlook the seemingly small details. Minor details like sizing, spacing, notifications, and page transitions can have a big impact on how well people recognize your brand.
Use universal design patterns
Design patterns enable you to make your designs as standard and uniform as possible. When you use them across all the touchpoints through which a person engages with your brand, you create familiarity, which reduces the human cognitive load of your product and strengthens brand recognition.
But before you start making your patterns consistent across platforms, you need to set those patterns first.
What templates will your design team be using? How will you adapt your logos to different platforms across social media while still keeping enough elements constant? What icons will you display on your site and across social media? How will you ensure that your colors are instantly recognizable without being overbearing and obvious?
Striking the right balance between being apparent without being blatant is key here, and you need to do it across everything that your brand is involved in.
Align your brand with your actions
Whether it’s an advertising jingle, a social media post, a motto, or a company policy, you need to embody your brand values. There are no two ways about this: you can’t expect to be a respected and recognized brand in today’s world if you’re unwilling to walk the talk.
For example, if your brand cares about diversity, ensure that the visual assets you create reflect that ideal. Quick check: do your images show people from different backgrounds, or is it always the same group every single time? If your company is aiming for sustainability, make sure to incorporate elements of such a practice into your communications and actions.
The more you integrate your values into your designs and actions, the more you will be able to stay consistent.
Organize your marketing assets
Is it possible for a team to create consistent assets if they can’t easily access branding resources like your branding guidelines?
You can create and maintain brand consistency by ensuring that all your team members have access to the same pool of assets and resources to draw from. For example, using an intuitive asset management and organization tool that’s built specifically for designers, you can store all your marketing assets in one place and integrate them in ways that aren’t possible in a traditional file storage system such as Dropbox or Google Drive.
Such a powerful asset management tool can help you power through brand consistency:
- Online goes in tandem with offline: When all assets are in one place, teams creating offline advertising and promotions can easily align with web-based campaigns.
- Fewer snags, more collaboration: You’ll have fewer bottlenecks and more effective collaboration when everyone on the team can access what they need to complete their work, and they’re also able to quickly reference others’ work in progress.
Increasing brand consistency, the creative way
We live in a digital world with many different marketing channels. If you want your brand to be memorable, you need brand consistency.
Your design function will help you achieve a lot of this consistency, but only if you have the right resources and supports in place. If you want to keep everyone on your team on the same page and create consistent assets, one thing you can’t skimp on is a good storage platform.
This is where Playbook comes in. The platform is specifically designed with your creative brand assets in mind. You can store, share, and manage your designs all in one place. Plus, team collaboration is simple, making it easier for everyone to stay on brand.