What are the brands you are loyal to?
Take a moment to think about some of your go-to brands, in electronics, sunglasses, hotels…whatever. What do these brands have in common? Chances are, these companies have earned your trust because they have consistently promised — and delivered — an experience you can depend on.
The act of choosing a brand and then returning to it for that expected experience represents a fascinating aspect of human psychology: we gravitate toward the familiar. Our brains are wired to choose easy tasks over more difficult ones, having survived and evolved by making quick decisions about who to trust — and who not to. And today, when we encounter brands that are familiar, we naturally gravitate toward them because they require less mental work. They have earned our trust.
These trusted brands tend to be the ones that are most consistent.
I’m always surprised when companies don’t give much importance to brand consistency, but I understand it. It’s easy to get bored with your own branding. As a business owner, salesperson or marketing manager, you live with your brand day in and day out. Sometimes you want nothing more than to shake things up, to do something new and different. You begin to feel that change will result in attention, excitement, and in turn, loyalty.
The truth is, repeated change and inconsistency in your brand has the opposite effect. It sends the message that you’re not completely dependable, that your brand experience is variable. It implies that you’re not sure who you are as a company because you’re allowing your message and your look to vary. Without realizing it, your customers look elsewhere for the trust and familiarity they crave.
Of course, a change in your core branding may very well be needed, but that’s a blog post for another time.
As marketers, we need to remind ourselves that while we’re immersed in our own brand every day, our customers encounter it only occasionally, and in a nanosecond. They’re constantly bombarded with brands, and ours represents a tiny fraction of their day.
We only need to look to Apple or Coca-Cola or Starbucks to see how successful companies feel about consistency: it is something they are fanatical about. They’ve employed consistent branding strategies over decades, and consumers have rewarded them with decades of loyalty.
Building loyalty through consistency
Your customers may come in contact with your brand in a variety of ways, so the more consistently you deliver positive experiences across these various touchpoints, the more your audience will trust in future experiences, and the more loyal they will become.
Delivering brand consistency starts with consistent quality, whether it’s a product, service, or professional relationship. It continues with your online presence, advertising, physical space, social engagement, and customer service. Every way in which your customers see, hear, taste, or touch your brand are opportunities to build on these positive experiences, eventually creating a relationship between buyer and seller that goes beyond price points.
Creating brand consistency
It all starts with an accounting of your basic brand elements. These range from your product design, pricing, and distribution outlets, to visual components like your logo, fonts, colors and ad layouts, to your messaging and brand voice. These elements must be aligned well and produced consistently.
For the visual components of your brand, develop usage guidelines so that staff and vendors know the rules for reproducing them. Choose brand fonts that are easy to use in a variety of applications, so that you don’t have to make compromises in places such as your website. Fine-tune your color palette and consistently apply colors as they’re designated — as primary, secondary, and seasonal colors, for example. Develop your brand voice and a messaging strategy that guides all your communications. And if you have outdated versions of your branding out in the world, work to replace them with your current branding as soon as possible.
Brand loyalty builds brand success
Just as it is with our human relationships, those who are steadfast and trustworthy gain the most loyalty. Putting our trust in familiar people and things has helped us survive as a species, and we continue to operate in this fundamental way. So keep an eye on all the various aspects and touchpoints of your brand — making sure they’re consistent and familiar to your audience — and try not to get easily bored with the great work you’ve created.
When your brand is strong, you’ll win customers. When it’s consistent, you’ll keep them.