Building a consistent brand image is at the core of every business. But sometimes we feel like the word “branding” gets thrown around a lot — so much so that it has lost its meaning.
How do we define branding? Put simply, it’s communicating the personality of your company: who you are, what you’re about, who you serve, what you value. We think that good brands do this by consistently communicating their company's personality in a relational way. The best brands do it so well, it doesn’t feel like branding.
Just do it. I’m lovin' it. Betcha can’t eat just one. Without thinking, most people can see the logo of these brands in their mind instantly. “Just do it” has become synonymous with Nike. Endless jingles of “badap bap bap baa” appear from thin air when you see the Golden Arches. And has anyone ever really eaten just one Lay’s chip? Probably not.
While these businesses all offer different products, they all provide a great example of how a company and it’s branding aren’t meant to be different things. The branding is the company.
At Rivet Press, we try to communicate our personality in every shirt we print, every design we create and every email we send. Our values of creativity, collaboration and innovation drive our business. And we love making shirts that feel just as great as they look. So how can you build up your brand consistency? Here’s some thoughts that we try to keep in mind.
Who does it well?
Every company is different, but sometimes it helps to look at some business that have really found a great balance of branding for inspiration. Here are a few companies that we think have a good thing going:
Warby Parker makes great eyeglasses and sunglasses. We love their approach to design - everything is very sleek and simple, but still colorful and fun.
Apple is undeniably a pillar of brand consistency. No matter where you fall on the iPhone vs. Android debate, or if you’re more of a Google guy than Apple fanatic, they have brand consistency down to a science. Anytime you visit an Apple page or see one of their products, you know it’s unmistakably Apple.
Toms shoes does a great job of combining their good eye for design and product with a cause that people love to support. By turning each product purchase into an opportunity to give someone else shoes, Toms makes their brand more than just a stylish purchase. It’s also a chance to be generous.
Building a better brand
Everyone has a different approach to how they best position their brand in the market, but we like to divide the process into 4 steps:
1. Define your message
Before you can start showing off a consistent brand, you have to first know who you are: ya know, the basic existential questions every company must face one day or another. Who are we? What are we about? Where are we going? Who do we want to work with? The first step in this process is writing down a clear answer to these kinds of questions. You need to know yourself inside-and-out before you can tell other people.
2. Find your people
Ideally, your brand would reach everyone out there, appealing to the mystical, everyman archetype of John Q Public. But here’s the reality: most markets are saturated, most consumers have lots of options for any given product, and almost every successful company has carved out their market ahead of time. So after your message is defined, it’s time to think about who might be fans of the kind of work you want to do. Spending time to define who is on the receiving end of your branding will then help to define where, when and how you reach out to them.
3. Be who you are
So you’ve got your message and you know the kinds of people who might be receiving it. The key part of maintaining a consistent brand is then a two-step process: be yourself and do it on a regular basis. “Being yourself” doesn’t just mean staying within your brand’s personality. It also means being transparent with customers. Lift the veil occasionally and show people the human-side of your company. Be silly, creative, quirky or down-to-earth (unless you’re a funeral company or something...silly might not be the best fit). We think that most people can tell when a brand is being fake. So just be yourself.
4. Keep in touch
The second part of brand consistency is basically just the second half of the phrase - consistency. By communicating who you are and what you’re about on a regular basis, it will be easy for customers to identify with your company. Being consistent is more than just frequency. Consistency also means maintaining the same level of quality and style across everything that your company does. That includes font choices, banner ad designs, logo artwork, color choices, style of language and more.
Whether you’re just starting to think about brand consistency, or you’re an established company trying to revamp your branding efforts, we think it’s smart to get back to the basics. Remember to be authentic with your audience and stick to the four basic steps: define your message, find your people, be who you are and keep in touch.
Looking for some practical steps to move forward? We’ve found that companies we work with have boosted their brand consistency by incorporating apparel into their offerings. Even if your business model has nothing to do with apparel or t-shirts, creating a line of high-quality shirts that both look and feel great for customers (or even just internally for staff) can be a nice way to add unexpected delight and unify your brand.