Branding is one of those nebulous, mystical terms. With its unintuitive metrics and nontactical strategies, branding is an integral thing that often gets overlooked. For some, even bringing up the word in conversation is enough for their eyes to glaze over and mentally check out.
But, in marketing, everything we do is rooted in our brand. Where marketing pushes, branding pulls—and you can’t have one without the other.
With marketing, you focus on guiding your audience to their destination. That destination may look different for any given brand, but it’s always the same act of pushing an audience towards a specific goal.
With branding, you focus on the experience that your audience is having on that journey. You pull them in. This is what we call brand experience.
Understanding brand experience
Have you ever seen an intriguing ad and clicked through to see what was up only to be sorely disappointed? The ad drew you in, with it’s well-worded messaging and great design, and you arrived on the landing page only to find that it looked like a scammy situation. The visual identity was Web 1.0 (circa 2003) and the messaging was terrible. If it was an ecommerce experience you probably feared for your credit card’s safety. Not a great experience, right?
This is a classic case of brand inconsistency and it can make or break your conversion rate.
Branding is a dynamic sequence of experiences that you create for your audience. A brand is what your audience experiences over a long period of time. It shapes the way your audience feels about your product or service and it ultimately sets you apart from the competition. You need to deliver a distinct experience but, more importantly, the experience needs to be consistent all the way through.
Why consistency is key
If you’re anything like me, you’ve lost your keys a few (hundred) times and had to retrace your steps to find them. Or you’ve walked into a room, on a mission, only to forget what you went in for and had to leave to remember. Or maybe you’ve smelled a certain scent and it took you right back to a particular memory.
All of these instances are examples of a powerful little thing called context-dependent memory. Us humans tend to forget things when they are out of context and often rely on context to remember things. And, the more we remember or feel we know something, the more we trust it.
This is true with your brand too. The more your audience remembers or recognizes your brand, the more they trust it. That crucial trust builds relationships, drives positive brand perception, and keeps your brand top-of-mind.
In order for your audience to remember you, you need to provide them a consistent brand experience throughout their entire journey—even when the context changes.
Whether they’re searching on Google or scrolling on Facebook, their experience with your brand must be the same to be remembered. From your messaging to your visual identity, consistency is key.
“In order for your audience to remember you, you need to provide them a consistent brand experience throughout their entire journey—even when the context changes.”
Ensuring consistency from start to finish
Let’s go back to the scammy landing page scenario above. This hypothetical ad was well written and had a great design, but the landing page was a hot mess. You decided not to buy and felt duped. These inconsistencies led to a terrible experience.
This scenario is an exaggeration, but it happens in the wild more often than you’d think.
When a campaign is being developed, core brand ingredients like messaging style, tone/voice, or visual identity can get overlooked.
With so many moving parts, it can be tough to ensure complete consistency. Enter brand guidelines. This living document ensures any ingredient of your brand remains consistent. The way your brand looks, feels, talks, and acts needs to be cohesive. Having guidelines in place, for anyone who represents your brand to reference, is a sure-fire way to make that happen.
If you have brand guidelines, hallelujah! Seriously, take a second to pat yourself on the back. Approaching your content with brand consistency in mind is crucial. But, it’s just as important to know exactly who you’re marketing to and what they need so you can remain consistent in what you’re pushing. Having user personas, for your team to reference, ensures that you’re consistent in the what, how, and why behind your marketing. Knowing who it is you’re talking to allows you to know exactly what to say and how to say it, regardless of touchpoint.
How brand consistency affects paid search
Let’s look at another hypothetical scenario. Your brand, CoolTechCrew, is launching a new product. A user who saw your recent Facebook and LinkedIn ads does a quick search to check you out. They see an ad from an imitation brand, GreatTechGang, but they remember how your brand feels and communicates. The consistent experience you delivered allowed the user to recall your brand and they go right to your website. They weren’t fooled by a similar name or messaging.
It is important to look at all touch points when developing your campaigns (there are a lot of moving parts and it’s easy for components to get siloed.) You always want to remember that it is a journey and experience for your audience, even though different team members may be developing different parts. Ensuring your brand experience is consistent enables brand recall. That recall typically leads to more branded searches and, in turn, fosters brand protection.
Tying it all together
Travel along your audience’s journey. Does everything look, feel, and sound the same? Are you providing your team with tools like brand guidelines and user personas to ensure consistency? Is the experience you’re delivering memorable? If something feels off, it’s time for a brand audit. Delivering a consistent brand experience is the most important, secret ingredient to any marketing recipe. That experience is behind every interaction your audience has with your brand and without it, all other efforts won’t be as successful. We encourage you to review your brand experience and to make sure that ingredient isn’t being left out of the recipe!