Without a strong brand identity, your marketing efforts will likely fall flat. The manifestation of your brand, its values and how you talk about them ultimately informs how your customers think and feel about you as a business.
The questions and work that go into establishing a brand identity is really only half the battle, though. Much like a vegetable garden, your brand has to be consistently maintained and cared for to ensure it remains effective.
Maintaining brand consistency is fundamental to building awareness and trust with your customers over time. If your business puts out content that looks, sounds and feels different, you’ll struggle to capture attention and leave a lasting impression.
By investing time and effort into establishing processes, designing templates and consolidating your brand assets, you can ensure that your brand remains consistent over time.
Audit Existing Assets
Assuming you have an established brand identity, the reasonable next step is to audit your existing marketing materials. Whether it be presentations, design assets or the tone of your copy, you should have a clear understanding of your existing materials — and the people creating and utilizing them.
“Once you have those things collected, get the people and your leadership together into one room,” says Senior Growth Strategist Nick Frigo. “Your next step is to ask everyone ‘Which of these assets do we need to use and why?’”
You want to audit your existing assets because everything you use should align with your existing brand identity. If a piece doesn’t convey your message accurately, it should be scrapped.
“A key problem, especially in businesses with limited resources, is that everyone is creating things for the brand,” says Nick. “If there are a variety of pieces that all look and feel different, it dilutes your brand consistency.”
With that in mind, there is some prep work that can be done in advance. Do your research and find out where the pain points are for your team. What assets do they feel are lacking? Are there multiple templates floating around? Are they starting from scratch each time they create something for your company?
Knowing this information ahead of time can help you set realistic goals and expectations when you meet to audit your content such as how many templates you expect to leave the meeting with or what the timelines will be for creating new materials.
Design and Consolidate Materials
By reviewing and questioning the reasoning for every piece, you can start to determine the types of assets you actually need. Designing new materials or refreshing existing ones, while time-consuming in the short-term, can alleviate work and brand headaches in the future.
For example, if each member of your sales team currently has a custom pitch deck, it makes sense to create a branded template that each person can edit on their own. In this way, you can ensure that each team member is on message and using similar assets.
While this process will be informed by your audit, there are some general staples to maintaining a brand identity that you can expect to work on.
When establishing your brand identity, you undoubtedly selected fonts, colors and a logo that reflect your brand’s values and personality. The key to maintaining what you have established is consolidating those assets into a library, documenting processes and making everything easily accessible for team members.
“This library can be a place where all of your assets live: templates, fonts, colors, logos and guidelines for their use,” says Nick. “The simpler you can make it for someone who isn’t a designer to create something within your brand, the better it is for your entire team.”
Putting your font hierarchies, color palettes and illustration styles into a style guide helps provide designers with best practices and rules for staying consistent with your brand. Consider utilizing a tool that stores fonts and colors such as Adobe Creative Cloud Library or Brandfolder to make files easily accessible to team members.
An important element of your branding strategy may also include the use of photography or illustrations. Depending on your company, you may or may not have the team members capable of curating these assets on a regular basis, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stay consistent.
A stock resource tool such as Shutterstock or Pickit offers the ability to sort by color and style, enabling you to better align with your established identity. During this phase, it’s a good idea to collect additional assets to build out your library.
“If you can tell your team here are 150 photos [or illustrations] that have been checked, licensed and are on-brand, that would be a good tactical move,” says Nick. “It’s another upfront investment of time, but it’s also more work saved on a regular basis.”
Finally, given the work-intensive nature of this process, it’s important not to get bogged down in organizational red tape.
“Don’t have your leadership team get involved in every creative or design decision unless it’s absolutely necessary,” says Nick.
During the initial branding process, it’s vital that your leadership team is able to shape the discussion and provide the necessary context and vision for the brand. Assuming they were well-involved and signed off on the brand, any designer in-house or outsourced, should be able to step in and curate assets for your identity.
“Consider the 10-80-10 rule,” says Nick. “Your leadership should give 10% to get the designer to a place where they can execute the other 80%, with a final check at the end if necessary.”
Now that you’ve put in the work to audit your assets and create new ones that align with your brand, it’s time to get your whole team brought on board.
“The best way to maintain a consistent brand identity is to make sure that your entire team is bought into the message and style so they’re using it consistently and effectively,” says Nick.
In addition to consolidating your brand assets like presentation and premium content templates into one place, you should provide ample instruction on how to use them. Again, maintaining consistency means making it as simple as possible for anyone to design something that is both effective and aligned with your message and style.
“If you record a video explaining how you utilize a template, drag photos into it, make edits to it — on a technical level, that is an awesome thing to do,” says Nick.
While written instructions can be very helpful, it’s hard to beat the ability to see someone do exactly what you’re trying to do. Recording a screen share instructional video of how to edit templates, when to use certain fonts or what to look for when downloading photography are excellent ways to educate your team. These videos can live alongside specific assets in the library you have built out.
From an onboarding perspective, creating brand instruction videos give new team members the necessary insight to dive straight into work. They can begin creating decks and speaking about your organization and product in a way that is both meaningful and accurate because the necessary educational resources exist.
Even if you have a team of designers who curate everything for your brand, ensuring maximum consistency, there is value in doing this work.
“By giving the power to your salespeople to edit templates and work within the brand, it enables them to pursue new opportunities at a moment’s notice without worrying about design or leaving the brand’s identity behind,” says Nick.
By spending time curating assets that are aligned with your brand and providing instructions to your team, you are laying the foundation for your design and messaging to remain consistent and recognizable. Doing the associated leg work is no small feat, though. Organizations that do it properly shouldn’t have to worry about it again for a long time.
A brand should grow over time, but a full rebrand or refresh should be conducted only when absolutely necessary. That means the work detailed here can ensure brand consistency for years to come.
By maintaining a consistent brand identity, you can build better awareness with your target audience and ensure that your brand is contributing to your business’ growth.