A survey we recently ran across had a statistic that, frankly, astounded us:
“68% of businesses reported that brand consistency has contributed from 10% to more than 20% of their revenue growth.”
Most people would view this as low-hanging fruit and take 20+ percent in revenue. At least, that’s what we thought.
As we read further into the survey, here is what we found: A large majority of organizations responding, 82 percent, considered brand templates essential, but only 16 percent stated all company teams consistently used brand templates. So companies believe brand presentation is critical and, when adhered to, it increases their revenue. But a significant portion either don’t have brand standards or don’t always enforce their use.
How hard is it to consistently present a company’s brand? Actually, it’s pretty hard when you consider all of a company’s touchpoints. Sure, marketing is a slam dunk, but what do customers experience when navigating voice mail or waiting on hold for customer service? All of this is brand, and it has to be consistent across every customer engagement.
In a previous post we wrote about Vian’s Axiom:
“Marketing is what you promise, brand is what you deliver.”
We spent some time thinking about companies that really have very tight alignment on all brand touchpoints and landed on McDonald’s and one of our favorites REI.
McDonald’s is remarkably consistent at every customer touchpoint, particularly with regard to visual elements. Customers know exactly what to expect when interacting with the company. Like it or hate it, there are no surprises. McDonald’s also rules on social media. They have a massive following and regularly use platforms to engage and interact with customers. That’s right, the burger chain that’s been around since 1955 has mastered brand communications on the newest media.
REI’s brand message and personality flow through everything they touch, every communication they initiate. The attitude they purvey online, in all media, and in their stores is one hundred percent aligned. They are membership-based and at times, challenge retail industry norms. One year, on Black Friday, they even closed completely. They walked away from what we believe to be the biggest retail sales day of the year and made the following statement, “Black Friday is a perfect time to remind ourselves of the essential truth that life is richer, more connected, and complete when you choose to spend it outside. We’re closing our doors, paying our employees to get out there, and inviting America to Opt Outside with us because we love great gear, but we are even more passionate about the experiences it unlocks.” In a letter to his members, Stritzke quotes outdoor visionary John Muir, who stated in 1901, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home.”
A brand is somewhat ethereal, and while this may be hard to agree with, the only place your brand exists is in someone else’s mind. Consistent branding is always built on consistent behavior, consistent voice, tone, styles of engagement, and customer interactions at every level of the organization: this is why formal branding guidelines are critical to overall success.
By “formal guidelines,” we do not mean brand police. We want a clear vision of the brand with examples for everyone to understand and embrace. A brand book should inform, enlighten, and educate. It is something that should be given to every person on their first day with the company. Let them read it and understand the essence of what you want your brand experience to be.
Without this, the customers’ understanding and perception of a brand can change with every experience. Customers will not know what to expect from one interaction to the next, and they will perceive that your brand is inconsistent or, in the worst case, schizophrenic. It becomes too much work to figure it out every time, so customers move on to their next choice in the market.
Brand guidelines are important. Brand books help communicate those guidelines effectively and explain how they can enhance customers’ overall experience…besides, who wouldn’t like a 20 percent increase in revenue from something as simple as brand consistency.
If you’re thinking about your brand presentation and consistency, we’d love to discuss it: no sales pitch, just an honest discussion about where you are and where you’d like to be.