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The challenge of keeping your brand consistent as you scale-up your business
What is your brand? And why is consistency so important?
An organisation’s brand is what sets them apart from the competition in the eyes of the consumer. This is achieved through the brand identity, i.e the visual elements of the brand such as colours, logos and design, as well as the overall brand messaging. However, a brand is so much more than that. Representing all that you are about as a business. At its very core, a brand is an assurance to customers that they can expect a certain level of quality from the product or service. If customers know what to expect from a brand, and they like the outcome, this can create a strong sense of loyalty that will keep them coming back. Customers trust brands they recognise. And customers like brands they trust.
With the purpose of branding being to gain recognition, trust and loyalty from customers, the importance of keeping a consistent brand should become clear. Inconsistency in branding will lead to customers questioning whether the offering is trustworthy. Customers may begin to lose any sense of familiarity they had developed with the brand. This change can lead to their perceptions of the brand shifting, especially if these feelings are reaffirmed by a noticeable alteration in the product or service delivery. This may ultimately lead to customers looking towards the competition to satisfy their needs. Put simply, consistency through all facets of the brand is the key to establishing and maintaining trust from customers.
Challenges presented to your brand as you scale-up
The growth of a company can make it increasingly difficult to convey this consistent brand as desired. Challenges will almost certainly be presented by the increased number of staff and sheer volume of branded materials which will be outputted by the business. So… how do you keep your brand consistent whilst experiencing growth? Following these suggestions in a number of key areas should help to maintain a consistent brand in the face of expansion.
How to keep your brand consistent: Brand Guidelines and Templates
Developing a “brand guidelines” or “playbook” will help to guide the organisation’s visual and communications outputs. These guidelines should capture the style and personality of the brand and translate them to the reader. All staff should be familiarised with the guidelines, then hopefully internalise and follow them. This can lead to all branded materials being created in accordance the guidelines, with the question “Is this on-brand?” being at the forefront of their minds. This step is solid measure for ensuring quality and consistency across the board.
Furthermore, useful templates, frameworks and general brand assets should be made readily available to staff. If members of the team are creating any branded materials then the utilisation of existing logos, banners and imagery, for example, will not only make their job much more straightforward but also keeps the work on-brand.
If the previous filters aren’t preventing off-brand materials from being produced then a firm approval system should be in place as a last line of defence to prevent such materials from going out. This process operates in a similar fashion to an expert chef working the pass in a restaurant kitchen, inspecting food and making sure it is up to standard before it reaches the diners. With an approval system in place, off-brand materials can be sent back with amends before they ever are released to the audience. Naturally, it becomes harder and quite frankly an inappropriate use of time to personally approve everything that “goes out” as the business grows and employs more staff. These responsibilities can be delegated to trusted members of staff who understand the brand and its importance. Collaborative work tools such as Slack and Social Media approval programmes such as Planable will make the role much easier.
Maintaining a strong organisational culture
Measures such as introducing brand guidelines and a clearly defined approval system are effective means of quality control that help keep the brand consistent throughout growth. However, maintaining a consistent brand is far more overarching. The most consistent brands are heavily influenced by factors such as organisational culture. The brand should represent everything that the business stands for. Fostering a strong and authentic organisational culture, that is embraced by employees, is paramount to keeping a consistent brand. If a team fully buys in to the culture of the business then producing content in-keeping with the brand can almost become second nature.
Hiring the “right” people
Maintaining a strong organisational culture throughout a scale-up can be a challenge. Nevertheless, it can be achieved through a number of practices such as hiring the “right” people. Employees who align with your culture and are ready to pull in the same direction. Also, be sure to lay out your company values and mission. Just what are you about? What do you stand? And what do you hope to achieve? Staff should be regularly trained. New staff should be on-boarded to ensure that they have an appreciation of these values. A large influx of new staff can dilute a culture during growth, but remaining true to these values and consistently working to maintain the culture should shine through. In turn, helping the brand consistency.
Marketing activities are on-brand
During a scale-up new marketing opportunities may be explored. A company may look to leverage the reach influencers to engage their target demographic. As you may suspect, it is vitally important that any influencers used are also aligned with the brand in order to maintain brand consistency. Doing your research on influencers, making sure they are on-brand, will engage the desired audience and convey a message aligned with the organisational values. Social media channels should also be scrutinised to make sure they are reaching the right audience. For example, if your demographic are mainly business executives who are most active on Linkedin then it would not be advisable focusing your outputs on Facebook. Not only would this miss the mark with your demographic but it also may be out of keeping with your the image your brand is looking to present.
Whilst experiencing growth you should never let your standards drop. Be true to your brand. Understand that there is a constant need to work at your brand in order to maintain consistency. This requires full commitment. Appreciate that all activities conducted by the business will reflect upon the brand. If these activities are off-brand then it will only serve to muddy the waters and confuse customers. Coco-Cola are champions of brand consistency. Keeping their brand very similar for decades with only subtle changes. They thrive off the wealth of positive sentiment and trust that has been nurtured in the customer. This can only be achieved through their absolute dedication to continuity, and is truly a benchmark for other brands.
Key areas for keeping a consistent brand during growth.
Quality Control Measures:
. Brand Guidelines
. Templates/Readily available brand assets
. Approval systems. Delegated authority
. Fostering a strong Organisational Culture
. Clearly defined Brand Values and Mission Statement
. Hiring the “right people”
. Training and On-boarding
. All marketing and business activities represent the brand.
. Full commitment to the brand.