Successful brands are memorable and elicit an emotional response from consumers. But achieving this depends on consistency across the brand.
Without a cohesive brand strategy, the marketing department is often left policing a disjointed and confusing message that leaves little impression. This can also lead to lost sales or clients and even employee complacency or dissatisfaction. Shared goals and a sense of belonging often motivate people. A strong brand can be a rallying cry for employees to deliver the quality products and services consumers are promised.
What Cohesive Branding Really Offers
A strong, cohesive brand offers myriad benefits to an organization. When the brand components are communicated well internally, it makes for smoother launches of new campaigns and new materials.
If departments within a university, for example, are equipped campus-wide with visual and editorial branding materials that fit their audiences, they can kick off new initiatives faster and with fewer (to no) errors. This example shows that efficiency and consistency reduce the time and money spent policing the brand.
Once everyone is on the same page with aspects of the brand — working toward the same goal with the same tools — establishing a network of partners is easier.
Here are three tips for creating and maintaining a consistent brand throughout your organization:
1. Gauge Customer Perception Via Market Research
Market research, including surveys and focus groups, can help determine what customers think of your brand and identify areas needing improvement. An internal audit will help determine what employees think of the brand and how they are applying its characteristics.
In your analysis, find out what consumers think sets your brand apart, and consider how the brand promise might evolve as customer behaviors change or new trends emerge. Pay close attention to the qualities stakeholders list in describing their experience with your organization.
You will often walk a fine line among the past, present and future, balancing what your executive team wants to achieve with the brand and what it means to consumers. That’s why surveys are crucial. They allow you to not only gauge response to current brand messaging, but to also test concepts for future audiences.
2.Create a Style Guide
A comprehensive brand guide that includes logos, styles, colors and general messaging will get all employees on the same page in spreading the word about the organization. Be sure to make the policy easy to follow, as it should be mandatory that all employees adhere to branding and style guidelines.
Create a digital logo kit of various visual components that allows for easy and accurate downloading and usage. Use a message matrix to assist individuals and departments with creating narratives for their specific consumers.
Without easily accessible, essential brand-consistency tools, organizationwide content can seem thrown together if left solely up to individual creators. A set of guides keeps staff from going rogue. Set standards in tone and visuals to build credibility.
3. Elect a Brand Czar
Designate a brand czar to carry out the strategy and maintain the brand’s consistency. This can be an individual or a small group — no matter who you designate, make sure someone is vigilant about brand cohesion. This ambassador will work with all departments and make sure consistency in brand messaging is applied across the organization.
Empower this person or group to interpret and implement branding and messaging and allow time to bring everyone in the organization up to speed.
If an organization decides on rebranding, create a brand asset valuator, timeline and budget to ease the transition.
Invest in Cohesive Branding
When Maryville University started working on its recent rebranding campaign, it put the above strategies into practice to guide its progress.
The institution started by asking a lot of questions. Its marketing team surveyed thousands of people: students, faculty, employers, alumni and the general public to guide its understanding of what makes the Maryville experience special.
Welcoming, academically challenging, student-centered, supported and professional are just some of the themes that emerged in those answer sets. Using this data allowed Maryville University to better create an authentic brand promise statement, a set of brand pillars, and goals for the future, as well as set up a timeline and criteria for carrying out the campaign.
These strategies required Maryville to identify its many assets that needed attention — more than 600 in all. Logos needed to be replaced, content updated, and shifts in advertising messages and placement. And a significant budget was necessary to cover the cost of making such changes.
If rebranding or realigning an existing brand is worth doing, it is worth investing significant time and resources in doing it correctly. Creating and maintaining a cohesive brand exponentially grows awareness and improves an organization’s reputation. The more consistently — and authentically — the brand is expressed across every channel within an organization, the more likely it is to influence customers, increase brand recall, and promote customer loyalty.
This article was co-authored by Jessica Shasserre and Marcia Sullivan, the vice president for integrated marketing and communications for Maryville University, a selective, comprehensive and nationally ranked private institution with an enrollment of nearly 6,500 students. She has more than 30 years of professional experience in business, nonprofit and higher education management roles, with an extensive background in marketing and institutional advancement.