You’ve successfully launched that brilliant start-up idea you’ve been toiling over for years, and you’re finally ready to share it with the world. Your app is taking off fast, your user base is growing exponentially every day, and that first big article about your brand went viral overnight. You couldn’t have imagined a better outcome- until six months later when users started asking, “why is your logo green in their newsfeed but blue on your website.”
What the hell happened? – You didn’t have a style guide.
You don’t have to be that poor guy frantically scrambling for an intern who knows Photoshop anymore- you can easily sidestep this problem by creating a thorough style guide for your brand.
A brand style guide is a comprehensive collection of how your brand looks, feels, sounds, and behaves. It includes images, icons, fonts — essentially anything associated with your brand on any platform and at any time.
What’s the point? – Consistency.
Haven’t you seen those ads with Coca-Cola where everything they sell is coke red, black, and white? There’s a reason for that. Consistency creates trust and credibility for your brand — you want people to know what they’re getting before they even see it.
You can have the most innovative idea on the market, but if your customers don’t know what you’re selling, they won’t buy it.
What goes in the guide?
This part is up to you. Every brand has its own unique needs and expectations. So be sure to think about your users before creating a style guide. It would help if you included as many components as possible- logos, fonts, anything
So, What’s Brand Consistency?
In the simplest of terms, brand consistency is the degree to which your brand remains the same across all channels. Every time you change something about your brand — s, fonts, iconography — it creates confusion among your customers.
A well-defined style guide helps to reduce that confusion by keeping all of your branding components uniform and consistent.
Examples of Brands that Have Perfected Brand Consistency
Here are some brands who do it right:
Coca-Cola – This one is obvious. They have a precise red associated with them, and they maintain it through every ad, label, website — everywhere.
Honda – The Honda brand has been around for a long time. And they have stuck to two s for just as long. In fact, it’s much easier to remember what kind of car they make when you only have the s blue and yellow to go off of.
Apple – This company is well-known for having completely in-sync products, stores, and ads. Every Apple product is complemented with the same sleek white packaging. New iPhones are always available in that familiar, bright (and sometimes blinding) white. All ads feature the same black background, which sets off the product.
Purdue University – Purdue University has a very distinct brand that they accomplish through the consistent use of specific fonts, s, and images. They also show their love for Purdue on every website through their “Boiler Up” tagline.
In each of these cases, you can see how easy it is to recognize a company based on its logo, palette, fonts, or images. That is brand consistency.
Why is Brand Consistency Important?
Why do some brands vanish into obscurity while others become household names? It’s because the latter has done an incredible job at making their brand visible and known to people worldwide.
So, how do they do it? By creating a strong visual presence for their brands through consistency. Every time you see Apple or Coca-Cola, you immediately think of them as household brands. And it’s not just because everyone knows their products — it’s because they have set up shop in your brain through consistent branding.
That said, here are seven reasons brand consistency is important to growing your business:
It builds trust with customers
Brand consistency helps you establish a concrete reputation by cementing your products and services in their minds. If the image of your logo, colors, or style guide is familiar to them on Facebook ads but not on their blog, they will feel confused and disoriented – two different emotions that won’t lead to buying your product.
It eliminates confusion
Customers end up confused when you change things about your visual presence, like colours or style guides. If they see a black and white ad for a new iPhone that everyone knows only comes in white, they may think it’s not the real deal and ignore it entirely. Body copy written in Comic Sans may lead some readers to believe you’re a late-night infomercial.
It sets you apart from competitors
A study on how colour affects purchasing decisions found that 45 percent said they purchased a product because it matched their personality. In comparison, 38 percent did the same thing based on the product’s colour.
So, what does this mean? Suppose you have a particular colour that sets you apart from your competitors. In that case, people are more likely to remember your brand and associate it with that specific colour when they see it.
It breaks down language barriers
When customers know exactly how your product is supposed to look, they won’t hesitate to buy it when they see it. That is significant because a majority of your customers may not speak the same language as you do — which means, if there is a discrepancy between what they expect to see and what they know, they won’t be inclined to purchase it.
It increases sales
Brand consistency is all about eliciting a response from your target audience. Remember, a well-defined style guide helps to reduce confusion and create a sense of familiarity with your brand — two factors that have been proven to increase the chances of someone buying from you.
It builds loyalty among customers
Since brand consistency allows potential customers to identify your products easily, expect them to feel like they are in good hands whenever shopping with you. That is why companies like Coca-Cola, Apple, and Honda receive so much loyalty from their customers — it’s because people already know what to expect when they buy their products.
It saves time
One of the main reasons branding guidelines have been implemented across the web is to increase the production speed of design work. Using similar elements across channels and in different ads allows you to create the ads, social media images, blog graphics, etc., in a shorter time.
How to Evaluate or Track Brand Consistency
So, now that you know what brand consistency is and its importance, how do you track it? It might seem like an impossible feat, but there are several methods or ways to go about it. Here are some that we’ve found to be most effective.
If you’re familiar with Google Analytics, then you know how useful and versatile it can be. The awesome thing about Google Analytics is that it allows you to track referral traffic (where your visitors are coming from), as well as behavioural data (which sites people visit before coming to your site). That is extremely useful because you can tell what percentage of the people coming to your site are from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.
Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook provide a lot of valuable information about what people are saying about you online — this includes trends, which brands are getting the most mentions, and whether or not people are complaining about you. You should also pay attention to other social media sites. Statistics have shown that for every Facebook or Twitter mention your brand gets; there will be 100 or more people talking about it on other social media networks.
If you’re not regularly scouring the web to see what people are saying about your brand, then perhaps you should set up some Google Alerts. These will send you real-time alerts when new content is published with keywords or topics related to your brand, and the results will also include a link to see what people are saying.
Running surveys is another great way to track your brand consistency. These should be fairly straightforward, asking whether or not people find your brand easy to remember, what s do they associate with it? What emotions does it bring up?
Keep a journal
Similar to surveys, another way to track brand consistency is by keeping a journal. That can be done on your computer or notebook, and it should include things like the colours you used in your ads last week, how many people visited your website today, and if there were any complaints about your product.
7 Metrics for Measuring Brand Consistency –
Business metrics are the seemingly trivial things like revenue, the number of employees, and the number of locations.
Consumer Perception Metrics
Consumer perception metrics are the more emotional and subjective observations like whether or not your services/products can be trusted, and what kind of image your business portrays.
Branding metrics include things like: how people rate your company online? The number of times “your brand” is mentioned on social media sites? And the percentage number of consumers who identify with your brand.
If you’re thinking about going for growth, your performance metrics should include things like the number of contests your brand has won. The number of people following your brand on Twitter or Facebook? And how many times your brand is mentioned in the media (both online and offline).
Profitability metrics include things like the number of sales, the amount of money earned from a particular campaign, and the percentage number of repeat customers.
Budget Metrics include all the money being spent on marketing, advertising, and promotions. It doesn’t just look at how much you’re spending in a year or month. It should also track how that money is being spent. For example, if you’ve done various types of advertising in print, online, and in-person — you should be able to track each campaign separately.
Brand Health Metrics
Brand health metrics include statistics like the net promoter score (how are people likely to recommend your brand?), the social media sentiment score (are people talking negatively or positively about your brand on social networks?), and customer satisfaction ratings.
If you’re thinking about changing your company name or logo, getting some of these metrics in advance might be a good idea. But if your brand is associated with only negative things, a better idea would be to start from scratch rather than overhauling your current brand.
Create Brand Consistency in 8 Easy Steps
Step 1: Start with a great, memorable name
If you’re already in business and don’t want to re-brand, you should at least re-name your company if it doesn’t have an appealing or memorable name. Think about this for a minute. What if Apple Computers had called themselves Acorn Computers? Or what if Google was named Backrub?
Add meaning to your name
After choosing a great name, you should at least add some meaning or significance to the name. Do this to give your customers a reason to remember it. If you use an acronym, make sure it’s meaningful too.
Test the Name
Once you’ve chosen your name, test it. You can do that by having friends or family members say it out loud before you and see if they can spell it correctly.
Be sure to run the SMILE and SCRATCH test
Qualities of a Great Name
S – Suggestive: Evokes a specific image or memory.
M – Memorable: Can be remembered easily.
I – Imaginative: Good names use creative imagery.
L – Literal: Names that say what they do.
E – Easy to pronounce and spell: This will help your business become more recognizable, especially if people can pronounce it.
You can also test your name by looking at the deal-breakers. That is what we refer to as the SCRATCH test.
S – Spelling Challenged: It looks misspelled or too unusual?
C – Confusing: The name may be confused with other words or names.
R – Repulsive: It’s too slangy, offensive, or negative sounding.
A – Absurd: Is it over the top like Moon Units Zappa? Or is your name just plain weird?
T – Too Trivial: Does the name only describe the product or service?
C – Curse of Knowledge: Does it only make sense to you and other experts in the field?
H – Hard to Pronounce: If you can’t pronounce it, then chances are most people won’t be able to pronounce it.
Step 2: Create a Style Guide
A style guide, also known as a brand book, is a document that outlines things like your company’s values and identity. It tells others how to communicate visually using the different elements of your brand.
Before you get started designing for print or making stuff for the web, make sure you have a strong foundation in place by creating a style guide. That is especially important if you’re creating logos and other visual elements for your products and services.
A quality style guide has:
- A section about the company values and mission
- A description of what makes your business unique
- logo usage guidelines
- Colour palettes
- Stock photography guidelines
- Checklists for when you are ready to design for print or create visuals
- A list of approved words and verbiage
- Preferred fonts, colours, spacing, logo building tools & templates used in the creation process
- Examples of logo usage and examples of what not to do
Top examples of awesome brand style guides
1. Airbnb Brand Style Guide: This is a great example of a style guide that includes how to use their logo, a list of approved colours, and examples. In short, it’s complete with checklists for its brand design.
2. Slack’s Style Guide: This brand book covers everything from their logo usage guidelines to preferred typefaces & spacing standards.
Follow this link to read the entire guide.
3. The style guide for Apple products:
This is a great example of how to make your style guide visually appealing. The comprehensive guide even includes common pixel measurements in the grids, popular fonts they use on different devices, logo templates & standards for retail merchandising.
Here’s the entire style guide
4. Google’s Material Guidelines
Before Google had its own language, it created the Google Material Design Guidelines. This style guide is extremely comprehensive and covers everything from grids to colours, logos, etc.
Follow this link to read the entire style guide.
Step 3: Design for Consistency
To create a design system that works, you must start with something consistent across your brand identity. That demands that you define your products or services and everything it’s all about. Conduct extensive research, which means talking to your customers and finding out what they care about.
You have to understand how they perceive your company. Ask yourself questions like, “what are my customers’ expectations?” How do I want them to feel when using my product or service? How can I exceed their expectations?
It’s only after you’ve established that you can answer these questions in detail that you can go ahead and start creating your company designs.
Consistency is achieved by:
- Value Proposition: Having a strong mission and clear value proposition (the reason your company exists in the first place)
- Your Products or Services: Understanding who is using your product or service (demographics and psychographics)
- Visual Identity: Having a solid and consistent visual identity (logo, colours, typography)
- Typography: Keep it simple – choose one font family to use throughout your design system
- Colours: Define the colours your brand uses and stick with them – unless you’re Apple
- Photography: Choose a style of photography you’ll be using for your brand, and make sure you use the same one from start to finish
- Typefaces: Avoid using more than two typefaces at once and use ones that are readable and in line with your brand values
- Spacing: Use consistent spacing standards throughout your design system
- Materials: Choose materials you’ll be using consistently for signage, print, etc. Keep it simple – don’t use too many
- Usage examples: Be sure to include usage examples in your style guide so that everybody knows what they can and cannot do.
- Usage examples: Make sure to include usage examples in your style guide so that everybody knows what they can and cannot do
- Guidelines: Keep your style guide up to date and make sure it’s easily accessible for everyone on staff
Step 4: Communicate Your Brand Values
The following processes are specifically about telling people how to use your brand identity, broken down into language (word usage), visuals, photography & typography.
- Language: Ensuring your phrasing is consistent across every touchpoint of the customer journey
- Visuals: Make sure visuals (layout, hierarchy) are clear and consistent
- Photography: Define how people should photograph what you do
- Typography: Define how to use typography that’s consistent with your brand
Step 5: Build Your Design System
Now that you have a style guide and a plan for maintaining it, the next step is to build out your design system. The following process will help you do just that.
- Define the Elements to create: Define what elements you need to create (typefaces, colours, symbols, etc.)
- Define the Elements to Reuse: Define what elements you can reuse (modules, components, templates)
- Visual Language: Build the visual language by defining how your modules and components work together to form consistent experiences across devices
- Draw it out: Floor plans are used to define where items like furniture go in a room. Similarly, it would help if you defined where different visual elements go on screens.
- Build it out: Once everything is defined, all that’s left is for you to build your design system using your components, modules, and templates.
- Make it personal: Your design system is meant to be used, so don’t forget to include usage examples when you build it!
- Include tools: Tools like a style guide, a photo editor, and a colour palette can be used for designing your brand identity
- Test it: Once you’ve built out your design system, make sure to thoroughly test the different components and modules in each of the different platforms you plan on using
Step 6: Maintain Your Design System
You built your design system, and it’s now up and running. Now, the real work begins: maintaining it! The following process will help you maintain your brand identity to ensure that your customers experience a consistent brand message at every touchpoint across all channels.
- Monitor it: Monitor the different platforms you’re using to ensure everything is running smoothly, and be quick to fix anything that isn’t!
- Manage your mistakes: Mistakes are bound to happen, so be prepared to deal with them as soon as they crop up
- Update it: Update your design system regularly, and monitor new releases of the different platforms you use to make sure nothing breaks
- Maintain consistency across channels: Don’t forget that even though you’re working with multiple channels (social media, email marketing, etc.), everything needs to adhere to the design system you’ve created
- Be documented: Document everything your brand does, using an editorial calendar/style guide/brand book/whatever works for you!
- Don’t forget about maintenance! Maintaining a solid design identity is hard work, so be sure to give yourself enough time to keep it up!
- Don’t make everything perfect: Given the number of touchpoints you need to maintain, don’t get stuck trying to make everything perfect!
- Train your team: As we mentioned in step 1, every team member needs to be in the know when it comes to your brand’s design language. So make sure everyone understands the guidelines and how to use them.
Step 7: Expand Your Design Identity
Congratulations! You’ve created and maintained your design system. Now, you can use it as a blueprint for building out new channels or expanding into new territories. The following process will help you do just that:
- Determine what needs to be built: We recommend starting with the most important thing first, so if email marketing is your most important channel, then you might want to start with that.
- Determine what you need to build: In addition to the actual design system, determine what tools and resources you’ll need to maintain this new channel/territory
- Think about your audience: Remember that your design system needs to be built based on the needs and wants of your audience.
- Treat it as a standalone project: Just like with your original design system, treat this building process as its own project (don’t forget to create tools and documentation!
- Take things one step at a time: Much like with your original design system, don’t get ahead of yourself! Learn to build each component or element one step at a time.
- Give yourself plenty of time: Don’t build this new channel/territory in a day. We recommend budgeting enough time so that going from idea to execution won’t break the bank.
- Test and iterate: Like with your original design system, be sure to test everything you build and use input from relevant teams throughout this process.
- Know when to call it quits: If it becomes clear that building this new design territory isn’t worth your time and resources after all of this work, then learn when to call it quits!
Step 8: Audit Your Brand Consistency
Now that you’ve expanded your design language, it’s time to take stock of how well everything is working (or not). The following process will help you conduct an audit and make any necessary adjustments:
- Prepare for the audit: Take inventory of what needs to be audited (everything from your website and print collateral to social media pages and emails!)
- Gather any relevant info: Make sure you’ve got any analytics data, surveys, or qualitative research that can help inform the audit (remember to ask questions like “What do we like about our brand? What could be done better? Why?”)
- Audit what you’ve got: Look at all of your touchpoints and determine how well they adhere to the design system you created.
- Evaluate what needs adjusting: If anything in your touchpoint list doesn’t align with the design language, then go ahead and make necessary calibrations.
- Make adjustments as needed: We recommend getting all relevant teams involved in this process. After all, they’re the ones who use these touchpoints daily, so they’ll have good insight into what needs to be adjusted and how
- Repeat this process: You should continue to audit your branding, adjust if needed, and repeat this process indefinitely.
7 Tips for Building Brand Consistency
Focus on the end-user
Your brand’s design system should be built around your audience. What do they like? What are they looking for in your touchpoints? How would you want to be communicated with? These are all important things to consider when creating a design language that will serve people in the best way possible
Put Your Logo on All Your Business Assets
Your logo is the foundation of your brand’s design language. That being said, it needs to be everywhere, from signage to promotional items. But don’t forget about branding touchpoints like emails, website buttons/links, and social media profile photos
Create a cohesive Brand Strategy
You can’t communicate your brand’s key messages to the world without a cohesive strategy. A few common examples of marketing touchpoints include:
- Website – When creating new pages on your site, always think about how these changes will affect other channels and sites that link back to it.
Make sure all interactive elements tie into other channels and websites for a better experience
- Email Newsletters – Emails are the digital form of direct mail. Some brands treat them as such by creating emails that look and feel like mini magazines
Include your logo on every touchpoint, from invitations to postcards. That will help tie everything together in a cohesive way
- Social Media Channels – social media is the perfect place to reach new audiences and let them know about what you’re up to. Keep channels consistent across the board with your logo, style, tone, content, etc.
Use Consistent Design Patterns
Doing this will help brand consistency by default. For instance, if each email has a call-to-action button with an arrow pointing down at it, then your audience will begin to recognize this pattern subconsciously
Develop a Schedule for Marketing
Schedule all your marketing activities. That will help you stay more organized and find the perfect time to post.
Ask for feedback often
Don’t be afraid to ask your audience what they think of your content. Many brands treat surveys as a vital part of their marketing strategy, and it’s easy to set up with SurveyMonkey or Google Forms!
Give Yourself Time to Do it Right
The more input and feedback you get, the better your brand language will be. And don’t forget about testing: test your designs and touchpoints regularly to make necessary improvements as you track your success.