Branding is most effective when it’s consistent -- but as a startup or small business grows, maintaining consistency across your sales and marketing channels becomes increasingly challenging. How do you make sure your “why” is clearly defined -- and communicated -- by every member of the team?
To find out, we asked 15 entrepreneurs the following question:
Q. What is the most challenging part of remaining brand consistent?
The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
1. Having a Consistent Voice
All companies focus on keeping their color scheme and imagery fresh yet consistent. It's equally important -- and much tougher -- to maintain a consistent brand voice. Pumping out relevant content to fans is a must, which often means you'll have different teammates telling your story on your blog, Twitter, Facebook and newsletter. Create a style guide, and make sure writers follow it.
During a client interview, I was once handed a roll of duct tape and was asked, "What are 30 things you can do with this duct tape?" The most challenging part of remaining brand consistent is finding 30 ways to talk about a brand, or duct tape, day in and day out while keeping it interesting and relevant.
Too often, companies chase trends and get distracted with the latest shift in the marketplace or current threat for a competitor. Above all else, you need to make sure you have thoroughly thought through who you are and why you are the best solution for your customer. Staying brand consistent flows out of focusing on who you are and not getting distracted.
As a young tech company, we are constantly evolving. Our technology is improving, our team is growing (in both knowledge and size) and our vision for the future is expanding, so it can be challenging to remain consistent in our messaging. Reminding ourselves that everything we do aims to serve the same purpose helps us stay focused and consistent.
Change is a constant, and even with the best branding in place, you and your business will surely evolve over time. One big challenge is how to manage and share this change with your community while also staying true to your larger guiding principles and values. Be vulnerable, and let them in behind the scenes to navigate change without coming across as inconsistent.
The most challenging part of remaining brand consistent is the want to be periodically spontaneous and creative. The identity of your brand is the one you have to stick with, and sometimes no matter how fun or engaging an idea may be, it just does not fit with the brand message. Stick with consistency. If your brand is fun and engaging stay fun and engaging.
I've found high-quality, consistent design to be a challenge in cultivating brand consistency. When we hold a new event or have a new promotion, we want a fresh design that serves as an instant visual cue to viewers that they haven't seen this before. Balancing that with existing design standards can be a challenge.
It’s easy to keep all your marketing and outbound communication brand consistent. What’s challenging is ensuring every one of your employees is a brand ambassador. To truly be brand consistent, it’s critical that employees represent the brand’s core values no matter what their role is in the company. This is far more powerful but significantly more challenging.
Growth creates change in every company and forces it to evolve. Sometimes it strengthens the brand, but quite often, it's a series of smaller shifts that can cause a brand to lose its way. Brand leaders have to make a conscious effort every day to keep the brand focused on its deeper purpose, authentic story and core values. Maintaining authenticity is the secret to consistency.
When you have products aimed at different types of customers, it's hard to maintain a consistent brand voice. Each audience segment wants to be approached with a personal touch, and you need to make your brand flexible without losing consistency.
Keeping a consistent brand isn't a problem when it's just one person communicating it. It's very different once you have multiple people communicating that brand to the press. Educating employees on the brand is critical. We randomly ask employees to describe our brand so we know everyone is on the same page and understands why we're building this company.
12. Knowing The Difference Between You and Your Brand
It can be easy to fully mesh you and your brand, especially for solopreneurs. However, not knowing the difference between you and your brand can make growth challenging and selling your business impossible.
One of the hardest parts about remaining brand consistent is maintaining laser focus. As your team grows and your company becomes more stable, you'll see a lot of opportunities for expansion, but you have to be really careful. Expanding just to capitalize on an opportunity doesn't always make sense, especially when it may be at the expense of the brand you've worked hard to develop.
As a startup, it's important to constantly adapt to your market's needs, especially in the early stage. To find your true value proposition, you might play around with different messaging and use cases to see what resonates. This can create confusion for your users and make you seem wishy-washy. Stick to your company's core voice while iterating, and make sure to communicate changes rationally.
People worry about the outside world with branding, but it is often the inside world that is most problematic. However, it's also the most fixable. Ensure that employees understand all the elements of your brand, know how to pitch the company and have the tools readily available to keep the brand consistent (i.e., your style guide).