I’ve said this before and because it’s important I will repeat it now and probably again in the future:
Consistency is key to establishing your brand identity.
Your brand is defined by your company’s vision, mission, values, and operating guidelines. It is interpreted by your clients, employees, vendors, and community from your daily actions and inactions. It is found in your business card, your website, how you answer the phone, and how you dress to meet with business associates. (For more on branding, search my blog entries.)
In the book Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras there is an entire chapter devoted to this concept of consistency. In their words:
“The essence of a visionary company comes in the translation of its core ideology and its own unique drive for progress into the very fabric of the organization – into goals, strategies, tactics, policies, processes, cultural practices, management behaviors, building layouts, pay systems, accounting systems, job design – into everything that the company does.” (p. 201). In plain English: Visionary companies think about and incorporate the elements of their brand into everything they do on a daily basis.
While Built to Last discusses large companies that have done extraordinarily well, each of the companies researched was at one time a small business. And they became a respected large business by staying consistent to their brand.
It is never too soon to start thinking about your brand and what your company stands for. It’s actually simpler and easier to build this into your small business when it’s young. And it comes with a bonus: once you are clear on your brand you will attract your ideal clients and employees.
So how do you maintain consistency? Following are some key pointers:
- Know your brand
- Use your brand in all marketing materials
- Make all decisions based on your brand
- Watch the details
- Learn what is core and unchanging and where flexibility is necessary
First, know your brand. Take the time to complete a written definition of your brand. Make sure that the vision and mission statements are short, succinct, and easy to remember. Simple words are easier to remember and connect with than three and four syllable words. Then post the results where you will see them daily. If you have employees, talk about the brand with them on a daily basis.
Second, use your brand in all your marketing materials and campaigns. If you have an external marketing coach or company, share your brand definition with them. Make sure it is clear to them how your brand is to be translated into pictures, actions, and messages. Share with the marketing people not only what is acceptable but also what will not be tolerated. For example, the RedKnight Consulting brand is about being both fun and professional. When images or copy is too stodgy or boring I instantly ask for changes.
Third, make all decisions based on your brand. Whether you are thinking strategically or tactically, consider how your brand should inform your decision. You want to stay consistent in both large decisions like whether to pursue a new product or service offering, and smaller ones like selecting the paper to use for printing your business cards. Just as importantly, you must push the perspective down through the organization. At Walt Disney it is not uncommon for even front line positions to ask themselves “What would Walt do?” when faced with an uncertain choice.
Fourth, watch the details. People notice the details even when they don’t realize that they are noticing the details. The details are in the fonts you use on flyers, the smile on your face when you answer the phone, and how you treat your vendors. For example, at Nordstrom salespeople are issued business cards to reinforce that they are sales professionals.
Finally, learn what is core and unchanging and where flexibility is necessary. Certain elements of your brand, for example your values, are unchanging. They are always upheld and people who don’t agree with them are let go, even customers. Other elements like your vision and mission may change on rare occasions. And still other aspects as found in your operating guidelines will evolve over time. Then there are a whole range of tactical approaches to applying your brand that demand flexibility. Therefore, it’s important to clearly distinguish between what defines your brand and what is just an expression of your brand at work. The definition is essentially core and rarely changes; the expressions will change all the time.
Consistency is key to establishing your brand identity. It takes many repetitions for people to truly understand and appreciate your brand. Unfortunately, every time you or a representative of your company act contrary to that brand image you damage your brand by confusing people. And when the consumer is confused, they will not buy, refer, nor recommend you to others – if only because they are unable to clearly articulate who you are and who would most benefit from working with you.
What can you do today to be more consistent in your brand image?
Have a great day!