Did you know that well-managed, consistent brands may be worth up to 20% more than their less-consistent counterparts?
Consistency is the foundation of brand equity, defined as the value of your customer’s perception of your brand.
Brand equity isn’t built overnight. For the vast majority of organizations, it's built very slowly. Your customer's perception of the brand improves over time as they continue to have positive experiences and encounter the same messages each time they interact with you. For these reasons, building and retaining brand consistency should be at the top of every brand manager's mind.
Consistency is Everything to Your Customers
Consistency is critical for any brand, but it’s an especially important objective for distributed brands. Customers don’t distinguish between your two restaurant franchisees in different zip codes. They just expect to get the same kind of meal and the same kind of experience.
While positive in-store experiences are one critical aspect of brand consistency at distributed organizations, brand managers also need to work on maintaining consistency in marketing messages between the national and local levels.
Consistency should be at the core of how brands approach communications with local marketing representatives, select technology, and create templates for local marketing execution.
Before you can focus on boosting your brand's consistency, it's imperative that your brand has the foundational elements in place to build consistency upon. These are the key elements that you always have to refer back to as you try to achieve consistency. These are your mission, and the reason your brand strives to be consistent.
For more insights, we recommend Why Brand Equity Matters for Local Partners of Big Brands.
The Foundation of Brand Consistency
Understand your brand’s mission
Great brands are built on three main pillars that help to propitiate brand equity over time. These three pillars help to shape your brand's mission and set a strong foundation for brand consistency:
- Who does your organization serve?
- Why were you founded?
- What unique value do you have to offer your customers?
Brand mission is a little different than vision, or your unique value proposition (UVP). It’s defined by marketer Carla Johnson of Type A Communications as, “The how,” how you as a brand make a difference in your customers' lives. Your brand mission goes beyond your basic values and vision to describe the execution of how you approach the world as a brand. While your brand's assets and messaging may have slight variations based on region or location, your mission should not change.
Create Brand Equity
Some organizations are able to unlock massive brand equity overnight by being uniquely innovative; think Uber and Facebook. For most other organizations, brand equity is built over decades.
Nike’s brand value was recently estimated by Forbes to be $15.9 Billion. They’re not the only global company who make athletic apparel or high-performance footwear, but they’re among the best-known. Some of their billions in annual value is attributable to their brand equity; and the fact that they’ve earned consumer trust and loyalty by consistently delivering high-quality marketing messages and products to create a positive customer experience.
You trust that your favorite brand of laundry detergent will produce consistently clean clothes. You trust that McDonald’s fries will taste the same anywhere in the world, and that their advertising reflects the way their food tastes.
Consumer trust is ultimately about the right balance of truth and flair – or the credo HK McCann founded his agency with: “truth, well told.” It's about casting your organization in the best possible light in your marketing messages, and delivering on the essence of this promise over and over. All of your advertising should be working towards building or increasing the trust your customers have in your brand and its mission.
With brand mission, brand equity, and brand trust in mind, let's explore ways to boost your brand's consistency and foster it.
Brand Consistency Checklist for Multi-Location Brands
The following checklist is meant to serve as an overview of brand consistency for distributed brand managers. Use the following steps to understand where your organization lies in adopting the keys to consistency, and where you have opportunity to grow.
1. Develop Your Brand Guidelines
Your brand needs specific guidelines of how it should be executed in different forms at the local and national levels. Your brand standards and guidelines should captures two key elements:
- Treatment of the brand's visual identity (logo use, colors, fonts)
- Communication of the brand's message (voice, tone, and writing style guide)
Are your local stores encouraged to use social media? Are store employees required to wear uniforms? Every aspect of the customer experience should be documented in brand guidelines, from how digital content is distributed to how in-store print signage is displayed.
Brand guidelines should be readily-accessible, continually-updated, and serve as a comprehensive overview. Your marketers need the tools and language to execute on your brand promise again and again, in new and interesting ways without deviating from the core components of your mission.
2. Inventory and Organize Your Brand Assets
Access to color swatches, logos, prior campaigns, photography assets, and templates are key for both head office and local marketing partners. Brand managers need to understand the different marketing assets and branding elements their organization has, and categorize them.
Clearly identify which assets are for head office, which are for local teams, and which should be accessible to both. One way to make the most pertinent assets easily accessible is to look at frequency of use. Highly used assets should be easy to find, and grouped together. Ensure your brand has a clear system in place for organizing assets, specifying who should have access to assets, and clearly make regularly used assets readily available and easy to find.
For example, your in-house graphic designers need access to this inventory in order be as efficient as possible, and reuse existing assets whenever possible. For many distributed brands, with large numbers of digital assets, this can be best achieved with tools for digital asset management.
3. Provide the Right Access to Locals
Once you know who accesses your assets, and when they access them, you need to make it easy for them to find and use relevant assets for their individual needs. It should be easy for your local marketers to find the right assets, when they need them, without any confusion. Essentially you should:
- Restrict access to things that local marketers shouldn't be able to use (pre-release assets, inactive/old campaigns, expired photography, usage-restricted assets, regionally-owned assets from outside operating regions)
- Make it easy for them to access the "right" things (campaigns they're looking for, projects they need to complete, assets they want/need to use).
For many distributed brands, this is achieved with the adoption of a local marketing automation (LMA) tool that automates distribution of assets by region or local marketer role.
4. Make Local Design Customization Easy
Brand consistency is best served when your local marketers can not only find the right assets, but use them in the right ways.
Local marketers should be able to:
- Get and download assets and convert them into the right format
- Edit/modify certain assets that are stored as templates
- Quickly deploy assets into the marketing channels they want to use the assets in i.e. emails, printed banners, or social media.
Additionally, brands can use templates to make it even easier for local marketers without design experience to craft beautiful, compliant campaigns. With locked and unlocked template fields, to control which aspects of a layout can be edited, you can make it simple for local affiliates to quickly generate campaigns.
5. Collect Feedback from the Field
Your brand marketing team should check in regularly with local marketers to see how they’re using your brand assets. Regional marketing managers who gather feedback from local marketers are a great resource to work with and understand what makes your local marketers tick. Note their successes and their frustrations, and apply this feedback to the way you design future campaigns.
Your local marketer's insights can help you solidify your brand promise and evolve your messaging to meet customer expectations. Their local knowledge can help you identify when brand promise isn't resonating with a particular set of customers, or when campaigns fall flat. Use their on-the-ground experience to help you learn more bout what is and isn't working.
6. Celebrate Local Success
Create a local marketing hall of fame which encourages your franchisees, dealerships and representatives to use your templates and technology in brilliant ways. Promote the best examples of compliant, creative local marketing execution to encourage other affiliates to deliver on the brand promise.
Consistent Brands Are Successful Brands
Brand managers who truly understand their brand mission and build out processes that support local execution help their brands build equity. If your local stores have compliant, beautifully-designed signage and consistent quality, your customers will never be unpleasantly surprised or confused by your marketing.
Consistency and quality at the local level should be a guiding light for how you design and run your local marketing campaigns. When it’s easy for your local marketers to succeed with templated marketing assets, and you’ve created a two-way information flow between the field and home office, your metrics, revenue, and growth will likely all move in a positive direction.
To learn more about how the world's most effective brand managers achieve consistency on a local level, read our free eBook: Distributed Marketing on Steroids: The Brand Manager’s Guide to Designing and Managing Local Marketing Assets Without Breaking a Sweat