Brand Continuity: Creating an Image Greater than the Parts

Brand Continuity
Getty Images / Cadalp

Let's face it. Every industry loves its own proprietary language and the world of marketing communications is no different. Today, marketing and advertising are all about branding, but in its early days it was known as positioning and a key element in the effort to establish a marketing identity - regardless of what you call it - is something called continuity.  

What exactly is that? It's the strategy and process of coordinating all the elements of a marketing message to achieve a consistent, memorable, overall look and feel of a company, service, or product.

 

Sounds impressive, doesn't it? It's really all about making sure that everything you do as a company has a coordinated look and feel about it. Graphically, that means creating a standard logo, selecting a corporate color (or colors), a particular typeface, even a photo or illustration style. Content-wise, it means determining key points for your marketing messages that clearly, concisely, and compellingly elucidate your unique selling proposition ( another industry terms that falls in and out of fashion on a regular basis). 

This is not as simple as it sounds. It requires an unfaltering, dedicated effort up and down your marketing chain to avoid going "off message". Time and time again I have seen engineering departments grab logos and typestyles and use them with haphazard abandon on everything from data sheets to PowerPoint presentations. I've seen sales people ignore mandates from the home office and routinely put out their own marketing pieces without a shred of semblance to the carefully crafted look painstakingly created by their own marketing department.

The result is always the same - a dilution of the company's identity and often a related drop in market share in response to the lack of an effective, unified marketing message. That, in turn, requires a needless squandering of precious marketing resources to reestablish the company's former brand awareness in the marketplace.

 

It doesn't have to be that way. A little discipline and a lot of vigilance can head off these potential image drainers and nip them in the bud before they become a real problem. By paying attention to continuity, your company can reap a multitude of benefits - heightened market visibility, enviable awareness among potential customers, and a more effective use of your marketing budget, yielding the biggest bang for your buck. Overall, a keen eye toward continuity helps you achieve levels of image and branding efficiency unavailable to practitioners of hit-or-miss marketing with little or no image consistency between messages and media. 

It starts with your corporate identity. 
I never cease to be amazed at how casually some companies treat their brand identity. There's no shortage of firms that use two, three, even four versions of their logo on a regular basis, with no particular rhyme or reason. The same goes for corporate colors - often a victim of one or more employee's personal taste ("I HATE that color, I'm going to use green instead...I think it looks better"). This dilution of an image is made even easier by the proliferation of PowerPoint and other tools used by more and more employees.

If this is happening to your company, I have three words of advice: STOP IT. NOW. 

The longer this practice is allowed to continue, the more it will cost your company in time, money, image awareness and, ultimately, in market share

How do you combat this insidious problem? By establishing company-wide standards and maintaining them. Issue a simple style sheet that everyone can understand and follow and then enforce it. That means establishing a corporate color (or colors), a particular typestyle (especially one that is duplicated in computer fonts) and creating a logo that works well in 4-color (the process colors used by printers to print in full color), 2-color (usually black and a particular shade of a color from the Pantone Matching System, identified by a PMS number), and black and white printing.

If you create high and low-resolution files in these three versions and make them available to the people most likely to need them, you will go a long way toward unifying your image out in the marketplace. 

And follows through in your message.

Now that you've got your company look under control, it's time to work on your message. This often starts with a mission - or for the more esoteric entrepreneur, a vision - statement. Sure, many of these typically contain a lot of over-heated rhetoric designed to make the board of directors warm and fuzzy, but they CAN be valuable. While others may be long on hyperbolic language and short on real meaning, work to make yours meaningful, concise, actionable, and unique. Be ruthless. Is this who we really are? Is this what we really want to be? Does this really set us apart? Once you've honed your statement to accurately reflect what your company is and what it stands for, it will enable you to create a meaningful slogan or tagline to be used in your marketing messages. Avoid the trite and contrived. "The Leader in (blank)" has been done before. Trust me.

A good tagline will inform every message that follows. It will help flavor copy written for your sales literature, website, advertising, even internal messaging. It will make generating consistent, focused text easier because it will help set the tone and form the basis of the message. And that message, aided by the consistent visual combination of logo, color, and typestyle - wielded with ruthless discipline -- all combine to create a powerful, memorable marketing impression.

That, my friends, is the power of continuity. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote "consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." He was wrong. Consistency, otherwise known as continuity, is the most potent weapon of great marketing minds.

Edited by Laura Lake