14 Jun Brand Consistency Across Channels
A key part of marketing your brand is making sure your customers can find you and identify your products when and wherever they are looking. To do that effectively, you must develop a brand identity and deploy it consistently across media channels, products and retail presentation. Let’s take a look at what is involved in establishing brand consistency across channels and the pitfalls you should watch out for as you build your brand identity.
We’ll take an example from the yarn world. You own a yarn company. Every skein is hand-dyed, though no longer only by you because your business has expanded. You have employees not just doing the physical labor of producing and packaging the yarn, but also the creative work of marketing your products in both the real and digital worlds. What elements of your product’s appearance should you align to make your brand stand out?
Start with a logo. A graphic representation of your brand should be clear, attractive and convey the name of your brand at minimum. Well-designed words are better than the most beautiful image. Make sure it’s scalable, so you can use it EVERYWHERE: your yarn label, your business cards, your website, your email newsletter, your social media profiles, your shipping label, digital and print media advertisements. It’s your visual signature: the combination of color, font and layout should make your brand instantly identifiable.
Don’t be tempted by the incredibly inexpensive introductory offers from the printing companies, where you can choose up to X images to put on your business cards, mini-cards or stickers. It’s okay, perhaps, if you’re testing logos before you commit, but resist the urge to change things up just because you can. Brand consistency requires that you stick with an image. Save the creativity for your colorways, rather than your brand identity.
Once you have a logo to use across channels, consider the rest of your digital and print product presentation. Consistency goes down to the level of things like fonts and type size. Rather than having to change out a font because it works digitally but doesn’t print well, take the time to choose and/or design a font that works in both formats. You want your customers to be able to identify your products while surfing a list of Google results as well as when they see them on a shelf in a local yarn store. Your brand’s visual presentation extends to product colors and packaging, too. The graphic design you use on your actual products should also be able to be translated to your brand’s digital presence, so that you have seamless recognizability across platforms.
Once you’ve established these basics of visual identity, take the time to standardize your business’ identity across media channels. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth checking, especially if your business began as an offshoot of your personal craft interests: make sure your business email, website, blog and social media profiles use the same identity. You can’t mix the personal and professional anymore; as much as you love the evocative name you gave your original blog, no one will find it by searching your business’ name. Better yet, start a new blog under that business name and keep the old one personal if you don’t want to archive it. In the same way, your business should have a basic email address in the format “firstname.lastname@example.org” rather than “email@example.com.” Keep your brand and personal identities separate.
Miss Babs is a great example of an independent yarn brand that has fully integrated its visual identity. Its new logo incorporates the signature purple iris and the phrase “Inspired by Nature” that customers have come to associate with Miss Babs, but now you see that logo across social media platforms, on the yarn labels, on ancillary products. The color theme of the website invokes iris tones, and even the helpful delineation of the colorways into “Babettes” (repeatable colorways) and “Wild Irises” (one-of-a-kind colorways), along with pink and purple distinguishing labels, carries the theme throughout their product line. Whether a customer is interacting with the Miss Babs brand online or in person, it is instantly identifiable.
Once you’ve adopted a visual identity for your brand, you can move on to developing and implementing an identifiable brand “voice.” By that, we mean the style, language, tone and diction of the content you post on your website, your social media sites and your blog.
Particularly if you run a crafty business, your customers probably think of your brand as a friend. They may have Liked your business on Facebook. In a group of friends, each has a unique style of communication. Imagine reading accounts from your friends about an evening you all spent together. You’d know who wrote each story based on how it was written and what the writer chose as the focus. That’s what you want your brand voice to be. Customers should be able to tell it’s you as soon as they begin reading your content.
Voice consistency doesn’t require that one person handles all the content. Rather, it means developing consistent guidelines on style and tone that all your employees can understand and follow. There is charm in letting individual personalities shine through the corporate voice, but having a set of parameters keeps that voice consistent. For example, maybe you choose to share relevant content on business’ Facebook page. How do you determine what’s relevant and who gets to make that decision? Is it just upbeat craft tips that your products could be used for or do you want to take a stance on issues within the industry? That’s part of your brand’s voice. If many employees are contributing to that effort, they need to know what’s acceptable and what isn’t so they can stay on message.
Another part of your brand’s voice is tone.Tone is the way in which you tell your brand’s story and it should flow through all of your communication. Do you prefer descriptive language and abstract concepts or factual statements backed by statistics? Take an example from pattern designers. Naming your pattern should be consistent with your voice–many designers adopt a theme, like Thea Colman, who publishes her patterns under the brand name Baby Cocktails. Her designs are named after adult beverages and come with descriptions that reference both the drinks and the knitwear. Other designers may have a theme for a collection or series, but change the theme with each collection, allowing for a shift in interests and focus. When customers see a pattern on Ravelry with your theme, they are conditioned to identify it as yours. (Of course, Ravelry helps this with Your Pattern Highlights, knowing that crafters, like readers, often favor the works of a particular writer.) The descriptive copy for your pattern should match your brand’s tone, too. If everything else you publish is factual and informational, don’t go poetic. Deliver what your audience expects.
Diction and word choice also play a part in your brand’s voice. Is the information on your yarn labels given in conversational or formal language? (“A bouncy merino 3-ply” vs. “100% merino spun with an S-twist, with 3 singles plied with a Z-twist.”) Do you label your skeins with both English and metric measurements? That’s a choice and one that makes a statement about your brand’s intended audience. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, but be aware that it is a choice. Again, while we are using examples here from yarn labels, remember that the product descriptions on your website should be presented in the same brand voice as the information on your labels.
When we speak of focal identity, we are describing the choices you make about where your customer can find your brand. Who are your stockists? Or do you sell only through your own website? At which shows or retreats do you sell your products in the marketplace? In which publications or on which websites do you advertise? What designers are writing patterns for your yarn and where are those patterns being published? Every one of these items is a choice that reinforces the brand identity you have established visually and vocally.
Let’s say you want to expand your presence in local yarn stores, but because your production is limited, you can’t grow too quickly. How do you determine where to go next? You have picked a geographical region in which to expand, and there are five possible stores in the given radius. Where do you go? Consider the fit. Which store has shop samples of patterns for which your yarn would be good? Have any of them brought in teachers/designers with whom you have worked or want to work? Will your yarn be the highest- or lowest-end yarn in a particular store’s inventory? Are the other brands they stock company you want your brand to keep? Does the LYS and its branding feel compatible with your branding? Does it have an online sales platform that reaches customers you want to reach? Chances are the LYS owners are asking themselves the same questions about your brand. You’ll know when you’ve found a match.
Think of the conferences, festivals and retreats as the craft equivalent of entertainment festivals. Does your brand belong at Coachella or Comicon, Spoleto or Sundance? Does your brand belong at a fairgrounds festival with live animals nearby, or on a convention-center floor in the downtown of a big city? Do you want it associated with the heritage of the craft or the cutting-edge of where the craft is headed? There are retreats, festivals and conferences with marketplaces that meet all these descriptions. You can apply to be a vendor at whichever opportunity best suits your brand. And remember to be true to your vision: you don’t have to spend your marketing resources trying to keep up with the latest trend when the traditionalists are the ones who love your product and are doing exciting things with it.
If you’re having trouble clarifying your brand vision, you might want to spend some time thinking about who your ideal customer is. In marketing, this is called creating a brand avatar, and it can help focus broad statistics about your sales and customers into a specific fictional persona or set of personas to whom you direct your brand identity. For a good introduction to this idea and templates you can use to create your brand avatar, you can start with Shae Baxter’s post “How to Create Your Ideal Customer Avatar to Attract New Customers.” Once you have an ideal customer avatar, you can develop a brand style guide that incorporates all the elements we’ve outlined in this post designed to appeal to that avatar.
Brand consistency, once established, makes running your business easier. We can help you with every step of the process. To learn about the services we offer, from graphic design and social media strategies to creating digital content and e-commerce capabilities for your craft business, click here to contact Leanne.