Think of some of the most iconic brands all time. What comes to mind? Nike? Apple? Disney?
Most likely you think about a logo, a slogan, or a general aesthetic that is unique to the brand. Whether sleek, futuristic or full of princesses, you should be able to conjure up some visual.
Why do these brands leave such a strong impression? Because they have been able to craft a consistent, creative message that sticks with you.
Any company will benefit from brand consistency in all touchpoints along the funnel. But before we talk about how they benefit, let's break down what this really means.
What are the touchpoints?
According to Salesforce, consumers interact with 6 to 8 touchpoints just to get to sales in the funnel. That's a lot of times to touch one brand before you commit to a conversation. And that's only the top of the funnel.
As someone is transitioning from an unknown prospect to a customer (and an advocate), these are some of the touchpoints they encounter.
Before purchase: website, blog, emails, social media, paid ads, public relations, sponsorships, event booths
During purchase: website (again), local branches, delivery methods, e-commerce cart
After purchase: customer support, knowledge base, customer surveys
Bonus funnel: job postings, candidate communications
As you put effort into each of these touchpoints, you want your audience to connect the dots. This saves you time, effort and money down the road.
What do we mean by creative consistency?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines consistency as "the quality of achieving a level of performance which does not vary greatly over time."
In a creative sense, that's assuring your logos, design elements, messaging, tone and imagery stay the same from one touchpoint to the next.
This is often achieved by first implementing a brand style guide and templates across teams, then maintaining open lines of communication and support with other teams creating touchpoints.
Creative consistency means a level of work with your brand over time which does not vary greatly, such that people will recognize your brand from one interaction to the next.
Why is this important?
Creating a consistent brand image from one touchpoint to the next is important to for both psychological and economic reasons within your organization. It can help your company achieve the following results.
1. Makes your brand easily recognizable
Humans are hard-wired to look for patterns. Since the beginning of time, we've looked for patterns as a way to survive. We've used them to speed up our information processing, as well as look for dangers in our environment.
Creating a consistent brand helps people easily recognize and place your brand over time. It also helps people be more comfortable interacting with your brand along different touchpoints because they know what to expect.
2. Builds trust across channels
Have you ever gotten an email that just doesn't look right because it's different than what you expected? If so, it's entirely possible that was a dangerous phishing email—and hopefully, you deleted it. Remember our reliance on recognizing patterns to survive? The same goes for building trust.
Since humans are hard-wired to look for patterns, we're also wired to be suspicious of anything that deviates from the norm. Keeping your logos, colors and messaging consistent helps people see that they can trust your brand.
This goes double for any communications from your support and services teams. Since people reach out to those teams when they're vulnerable and need help, creating a pattern of trust gives them reason to be comfortable working and sharing with your team.
3. Sets expectations with users
Have you ever clicked an ad for an article, only to find out the article was not what you expected to read? It doesn't feel good for the user. How do you know you won't be disappointed again the next time you click? Users want their expectations met as they click from one touchpoint to the next.
As users progress through your brand's touchpoints, they'll start to recognize each one as part of a larger picture. Everything you create will be part of that story. Creating consistency across everything from ad copy to messages from sales reps will reinforce the customer's expectations as they move from one phase to the next in your sales process.
4. Lays a good foundation for content
Before you build a solid marketing plan, you have to start with a few building blocks—create some personas, map your customer journeys, inventory your assets and resources. Imagine how hard it would be to produce creative brand content when you're missing those pieces.
To build an effective campaign, you have to know what imagery and messaging resonate, and what your audience expects to see. Do you have a quirky mascot, tagline or hashtag that you can build on? Then you can iterate on that concept's success to tell a better story.
5. Promotes effective storytelling
One-off, single-channel interactions are out. Omni-channel, multi-touch processes are in. This is why we use techniques like ad re-targeting and marketing automation. As a marketer, you must connect the dots from one channel to another.
Consistency across these marketing touchpoints builds a story over time. They may not see the pieces all at once, but they will feel their cumulative effects. You're more likely to respond to retargeting ads when the brand is one you recognize and trust.
6. Links everything together to create a single brand experience
Think of how much money you spend to acquire a single customer. Almost always, that acquisition is not done as a single event, but done over the course of multiple touches. Each of those touches costs money to create (either in dollars or in time). To maximize that investment, potential customers should feel these touchpoints form a single experience.
Don't try to reinvent the wheel with every project or campaign. While we should always be improving and building better campaigns than the last, it helps to start with a consistent design, template or ad, rather than continuously spending time or bandwidth to re-design it.
Building touchpoints with creative consistency leads to an effective, cohesive, trustworthy brand, and the more time your company can spend on the same page working towards that vision, the better.