Google. Apple. Disney. Budweiser.
What do these brands have in common? At a combined value of more than $500 billion, they are among the world’s most valuable brands.
How does a brand build such value and loyalty over time when you don’t have Disney’s budget? Hint: It’s not about big branding budgets.
Click on Google’s browser and search for an answer, you’ll get a similar experience almost every time. Buy a new Mac book or iPhone. The packaging will be simple and clean and the product will be sleek and beautifully designed. Visit Disney and your family will experience pure joy and wholesome entertainment at their theme parks. Reach for a bottle of Budweiser, and you’ll recognize the red and blue emblem and experience the same taste with each sip. Consistency is key. So, how do you create a valuable, consistent brand on a budget? Follow these eight steps and you’ll be well on your way to building a more valuable brand.
Monitor and measure customer experience
One of the first actions that prospects will take when researching a brand and products is to check Google or social media for reviews. In fact, 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses. Negative or positive reviews will influence their decision to buy from the company. Five-star reviews from past customers show that someone cared enough to tell others how great your product or service is. Only 48% of consumers said they would trust a business with fewer than 4 stars.
You can’t out-market a bad brand reputation. One and two-star reviews show that there have been service failures that were not addressed properly. While we understand that there are just some people that can’t be pleased, it’s important to respond to these reviews on the platform to show a willingness to make it right. But don’t just stop at responding, put a training process in place to improve the experience. Incentivize employees for positive reviews or base part of their employee evaluation to ensure the company is promoting great customer care.
Develop brand guidelines
Apple has used the same Helvetica font since 2014. This font selection didn’t happen by accident. The brand chose a clean, modern font to complement its simple design.
Consistent use of the same colors, fonts, photography, and messaging helps to establish a memorable look and feel for brands. Developing a style guide will help establish the style rules of the brand to maintain consistency across all of your applications – email signature, letterhead, business cards, website, collateral, signage, social media, uniforms, etc.
Train employees and vendors about brand guidelines
Brand guidelines are only effective if a company and its vendors adhere to them. Appointing someone in an organization as the ‘brand police’ will help create checks and balances for maintaining a consistent brand experience.
While this isn’t a full-time position, politely reminding team members and vendors about the importance of brand guidelines is an important role in defending and protecting brand consistency.
There’s always that one salesperson or HR employee that goes rogue with linen background stationary and inspirational quotes in every email signature. While that may be their personal style, it doesn’t have a place in the company communication.
Regularly review brand assets
In addition to email signatures, ‘brand police’ should also review brand assets like the website, collateral, signage, uniforms, and trade show collateral and displays for consistency. It’s easy for items to get out of date as the brand style is refreshed. Trade show booths can be costly to produce, so they may be the last item to get updated. However, the more consistent the brand is, it will leave a long-lasting impression on customers and prospects.
Communicate with customers
Consistency in communication is just as important as it is for the visual brand. Stay top of mind with regularly scheduled or automated emails. Send birthday emails or tips to improve their business or life. Ask how customers are doing and if there’s anything the company can do to improve with surveys. Remind them about new services or products but don’t sell in every email.
In addition to email, maintaining a consistent social media presence helps communicate with customers. Create a monthly calendar of content that’s easy to duplicate and update.
Like email, social media should not feel like it’s trying to sell something on each time. Consumers use social media to gauge brand personality and culture and will tune out if they’re always being sold. Add value and personality 80% of the time by posting company updates, tips and advice, testimonials, and employee spotlights. Promote the business just 20% of the time.
Maintain a consistent web presence
Have you ever walked past the same shop where the products in the window never change? Do you stop looking because you know it’s the same ‘ol stuff? A website works the same way. Serving up the same content for months or years without updating will only detract new visitors. Even worse, Google is less likely to serve the website in relevant search results since it is not seen as providing a great user experience.
Maintaining a blog, podcast, or hosting video webinars and updating the content regularly will help keep a website fresh and attracting new visitors.
Trademark and Copyright IP
So, now that you’ve done everything outlined in this article to create a consistent brand, how do you protect your intellectual property? Trademarking brand marks and logos is one way to prevent others from copying your brand. Intellectual Property attorneys can help with this process by performing a search on the brand and similar marks to ensure your brand isn’t too similar to others. Website content and collateral should include a copyright note that the content is original to your brand.
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About the Author
Stacey Harrison is the lead brand strategist and designer at Heart & Hustle Brands and has provided creative direction for healthcare, industrial, and financial services brands for 20 years. She started Harrison Creative Group in 2017 to serve businesses that need a professional brand image on a budget. In 2021, the company rebranded to Heart & Hustle Brands to walk in the shoes of clients that experience a change of name or brand refresh.