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All aspects of marketing thrive under a consistent, long-term approach but none more so than branding. Without coherent techniques and a consistent effort, it is impossible to build a successful brand or business.
Consistency creates trust
Credibility and trust are two of the cornerstones of successful brands. Most of the world’s leading brands have built their reputation on these cornerstones. Building trust between a brand and a consumer not only takes time. It also requires a consistent effort from the brand team.
Like music producers create “one-hit-wonders,” most brands can produce a single, positive customer experience. Granted, this initial good impression means the customer relationship is off to a good start. But it says little about the long-term relationship between consumer and brand.
In fact, the example is perhaps a little too simplistic. With very few exceptions, brands today operate within a crowded marketplace. Consumers are surrounded by marketing, advertising and branding messages. They are unlikely to make that initial purchase without having already built some kind of relationship with your brand. As a result, consistent brand messaging matters even before any purchase has taken place.
Uncertainty leads to hesitancy
Researchers have found that predictability is critical for brand consistency. Put simply, consumers like to be sure of what to expect from your brand. Consistent messaging, backed up by a compatible brand experience allows your audience to form an expectation about your brand.
The opposite of predictability is uncertainty. Psychologists define uncertainty as “not knowing what is going to happen.” This lack of predictability makes it hard to plan for the future. In the case of a high-value purchase, uncertainty means that potential clients cannot be sure whether buying from you equals making a good choice.
Most of us base our predictions for the future on past experiences. In the absence of past purchases, your brand is the closest thing potential consumers have to weigh the risk associated with the purchase in question. If they perceive your brand as trustworthy and reliable, the likelihood of a purchase increases. Consistency is the path toward this brand image.
Consider the opposite: Since the beginning of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has caused uncertainty across the world. At times, consumers found it impossible to decide whether they could reserve a table in a restaurant, let alone book a holiday.
Over time, uncertainty causes humans to be stressed. Combined with fear, such as the fear of infection over the past two years, uncertainty can cause anxiety.
What does this have to do with your brand? When it comes to planning a purchase, uncertainty may not lead to anxiety, but it makes potential customers hesitant. Without sufficient evidence that purchasing from your brand makes sense, they may simply hold off or choose another brand.
Making consistency work for you
Consistency is important in all aspects of marketing. Take content marketing, for example. Here, consistency starts with regularity. Blogging once every month is a great start. If you are blogging weekly, it is worth selecting one specific day when you share your content. This type of consistency creates predictability, which, in turn, creates trust.
In the context of branding, consistency starts with defining your brand values and your mission. Both need to align with business objectives. Your brand messages derive from your values. The main purpose of your brand messages is to communicate your values to your customers.
Brand messages need to be consistent across all marketing channels. You may be reaching different audiences on social media as opposed to your email marketing, but your brand promise and your purpose remain the same. The goal is to establish a connection between the audience and the brand and reassure the audience that they know what to expect from the brand.
Apart from brand messages, your brand identity also needs to align with your messaging. Any design elements need to be used consistently and predictably. The easiest way to achieve this is by establishing clear brand guidelines.
Consistency triggers positive emotions
Effective branding triggers an emotional reaction in your audience. To help consumers connect with your brand on an emotional level, they first need to trust the brand. Consistency builds that bridge by increasing consumer knowledge about the brand.
Regular brand messages that create a coherent picture help the audience understand what a business is all about. Once consumers know your brand, they can start predicting your actions. If their expectations are matched or even exceeded, consumers trust and connect with the brand. They feel safe enough to make a purchase based on what they know about the brand.
Customer service is a great example. A brand that has built a reputation for outstanding customer service will find it easier to convince first-time customers to commit to a high-value purchase. Despite not having direct experience, consistent messaging across different channels has created a sufficient level of trust on the side of the customer to make the purchase.
So, how is it possible that brands still offer less-than-perfect customer service? The answer has to do with the value of the purchase and the risk associated with it. The lower the risk, the easier a purchase decision is.
Consistency and change
If consistency is so important to establish trust, how can brands change? Naturally, brands need to change and adapt as market forces change. Otherwise, they would soon become irrelevant.
Humans do not necessarily resist change, especially if the change improves their lives. Communication is often the key to implementing change positively and retaining a brand’s credibility.
In some cases, changes to a brand may affect its identity but not the underlying values. In other instances, it is obvious how a change in brand values is both positive and necessary. Climate change is an example of the latter. A few decades ago, few companies would have considered that taking a stance on climate change is important for them. However, as awareness of the dangers of global warming is increasing, more consumers base their choices on criteria such as sustainability.
As a result, brands need to change to continue to be perceived as a force for good. Change can be necessary to maintain consistency.
All successful brands evolve. Brand evolution and consistent branding are not mutually exclusive if a brand is built on strong values. Consistency reinforces positive values and builds a strong foundation of trust and credibility from which a brand can continue to grow.