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Brand Identity is All About Consistency in Design

August 12, 2018

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Branding

This article was updated on 02/23/2024

Brand Consistency is Key!

Brand identity, whether it’s a name, phrase, sign, symbol, or design, a brand personifies an item, service, or business. Your brand is the perception that people have about your business.

Without brand consistency, no successful brand can thrive. Consistency in brand identity design is one of the most essential pillars of recognition. It’s no secret that consistency is a best practice in everything from visual design to user experience.

However, it is frequently missed. Your brand’s design aesthetic should appear cohesive. Each piece should complement the other, resulting in balanced and easy-to-understand information.

Brand consistency in design builds trust.

Establish brand loyalty by aligning with the ideals of your consumers. The quality and relatability of connections with your brand are more important than the quantity of interactions a buyer has – Harvard Business Review.

When you get to know someone, you build opinions based on your interactions with them. If they dress in a three-piece suit one day, punk rocker the next, and race car driver the following, you may have difficulties determining who or what that individual represents.

Sure, this person may stimulate your interest. But would you be comfortable doing business with them or having them represent your company?

People are creatures of habit. We find comfort in things we find familiar. When we’re familiar with something, we innately trust it more. Naturally, this concept applies to design as well.

An established brand identity recognizes the importance of consistency and rigorously upholds the set criteria. Anyone working in a creative position has received branding guidelines from their clients. This document is a brand’s style guide.

Branding Guidelines outline what you can and can’t do with brand elements such as logo, color palette, font, etc. The goal is to keep everyone in lockstep to maintain brand consistency throughout their online and offline identity—this will keep everyone on-brand, from in-house personnel to any outside vendor working on collateral for you.

Brand consistency doesn’t keep your audience guessing.

You’ll know a Coca-Cola product or company asset the instant you see it, even if it’s not spelled out. All you need to see is the iconic red color and the outline of a Coke bottle, and you make the connection immediately. It may even evoke some memory you’ve had with the product, mixing Coke’s brand story with your history. I remember the only time I got Coke was when I visited my sweet grandmother.

That’s powerful!

You know it’s fall when the pumpkin lattes from Starbucks are flowing, and Coke starts rolling out the cans with the Polar Bears. That’s the power of consistency for a brand identity!

They’ve made a consistent impression on you so many times that you know everything about their products without the need to see them. You recognize the “building blocks.” The core foundation of their brand and design. So when they release something new, you already understand who it’s coming from. That’s a strong brand identity.

It’s dependable, trustworthy, and comfortable.

Brand identity is one of our specialties at Mighty Fine Design Co.

What’s the importance of brand identity?

As Coca-Cola’s example shows, brand recognition is a powerful asset. However, brand consistency is frequently overlooked in the early stages of a company’s launch.

However, what happens when you change the design of your product incorrectly?

Look no further than one of the most important lessons in the history of graphic design. In 2009, juice-selling giant Tropicana underwent a significant brand redesign.

It’s estimated that the company lost $137,000,000 and experienced a staggering 20% decrease in sales for their product, Tropicana Pure Premium. Ouch!

A rebrand mistake worth millions, the lesson from Tropicana.

It was the result of breaking with consistency. With Tropicana’s botched redesign, the company lost the recognition it had built. All by cutting what was so iconic to their product and their brand.

Tropicana’s signature visual element on its packaging is a fresh orange with a straw poked into it. This design has been how people have known Tropicana for decades—it’s still a fresh design. It’s no exaggeration to say that replacing that orange cost Tropicana millions of dollars in losses.

Brand identity, whether it's a name, phrase, sign, symbol, or design, a brand personifies an item, service, or business. Your brand is the perception that people have about your business.
You can see the difference between the original box and the redesign. The reasoning behind the redesign came from good intentions. However, they faced an immediate backlash from customers.

To make matters worse, they made a big mistake in their new brand identity design. As you can see above, they completely redesigned every aspect of their brand identity. You can see why this might harm an established Fortune 500 company. All the brand equity they had built up over the years was overlooked. Tropicana dusted off parts of the old branding guidelines and restored its former appearance and brand identity within a few months!

A business rebrand can be good for business.

As with most things, there are exceptions to the rule. You can improve and add value when a complete redesign takes place.

However, you should consider how to rebrand without upsetting your audience.

Sometimes, a complete reimagining of brands not performing well can be used strategically to bring you back into the game. In 2013, Herbal Essences incorporated components of its earlier design from the 1990s to appeal to a modern clientele.

Sometimes, what’s old is new!

Herbal Essences was the first shampoo that we recall hearing rave reviews about. Who didn’t want a “complete organic experience”? The earthy aroma, those distinctive pastel bottles, and those titillating advertisements for hair products made you yell “Yes! Yes! Yes!” in airport bathrooms. That was an effective advertising campaign to boot.

Finally, a complete redesign can be beneficial for a company that has not had the opportunity to establish a strong brand, allowing it to accurately express what it stands for. Redesigning a company’s identity can revitalize it and instill pride in its owners.

A rule of thumb is that if there are no branding guidelines, there has probably not been an opportunity to fully realize one’s brand or identity.

How do we define brand identity consistency?

When discussing design consistency, we mean maintaining harmony between the design elements, media, and values established by your brand identity. It’s about ensuring that when users interact with your brand and its design multiple times, they intuitively and unmistakably understand that it represents you.

Organizations can expect an estimated average revenue boost of 23% by consistently presenting their brand to those who don’t.
Participants in the study with consistent brand presentation are 3-4 times more likely to have high brand visibility than those with inconsistent brand presentation.

Let’s touch on a few key factors.

Brand identity, whether it's a name, phrase, sign, symbol, or design, a brand personifies an item, service, or business. Your brand is the perception that people have about your business.
Comfort and credibility play hand-in-hand with consistency. When our expectations are met, we feel comfortable and thus perceive brands as more credible.

Consistency is comfortable

Consistency is about making the end-user comfortable about choosing you.

Over and over again. Take your favorite restaurant, for instance. When you go there for a meal, you know what to expect. That’s why you keep coming back consistently. The same is true for your brand and your design.

Simply put, your customers and clients want to know what to expect from you, especially when it involves their money changing hands.

They want to feel comfortable knowing they will be delivered an experience or product worth the investment. As we’ve discussed before, perception is everything. We’re talking about the first impression you make on them. When you’re unknown, new customers won’t know immediately if you’re worth their money.

So, they investigate. When they do, you want to ensure your brand is presented as clearly and consistently as possible. Also, you want your identity to convey who you are. Organic produce companies don’t use a black-and-white palette when designing advertising campaigns.

Brand identity, whether it's a name, phrase, sign, symbol, or design, a brand personifies an item, service, or business. Your brand is the perception that people have about your business.
Consistency helps keep things invisible and efficient. That is to say, brand consistency keeps things unintrusive for the end-user and promotes a more efficient approach to design.

Design Is Invisible

When good design is invisible, that’s how you know all ships are sailing smoothly. It’s not until something is out of place with the design that you notice. More often than not, this is something dissatisfying. This feeds back into our comfort idea. When the end-user doesn’t understand what to do with the design they’re given, it results in discomfort, confusion, and a reluctance to re-engage with your brand. Naturally, that’s terrible news for your brand identity.

User experience is the key to delighting your customers.

UX Encompasses several factors, such as user-friendly product design, responsive and caring customer service, engaging and intuitive web design, and a safe and sound buying experience. Prioritizing these factors is crucial to exceeding client expectations, encouraging loyalty, and driving business growth. This will result in an enjoyable and smooth experience.

Consistency can save your business time and money

From a workflow perspective, maintaining consistency is highly efficient for your budget and time. Consistency in design makes it so that there’s no time wasted discussing each design’s overall aesthetic values. From printed collateral to websites, there’s no second-guessing on how best to present your brand—the building blocks are already established. Instead, the focus is on the concept and message.

Consistent branding makes it easier to grow into new markets or launch new products or services because the brand already has a distinct identity and recognition. Furthermore, consistent branding makes it easier to expand into new markets because the design systems are already in place! The roadmap has been established, which makes it easy to create new content or iterate on the concepts you already have in place.

Basic Tips on How to Achieve Brand Consistency

  • Create brand guidelines. This will eliminate the guesswork involved in designing assets for your brand, reducing time spent and saving money.
  • Create a clear hierarchy in your designs by aligning them with a grid. This consistency ensures that your end users know where to access material that meets their expectations and improves their experience. This is essential when thinking about designing a new website.
  • Create a design system for your website and other collateral.
  • Use common design standards when appropriate. The less mental gymnastics the end-user has to do to access your design, the better. Sometimes, less is more.
  • Colors should match your brand. Keeping colors consistent improves recognition and consistency. Follow branding guidelines to stay on brand.
  • Always stay within your brand’s fonts. Erratic font usage confuses end users and distorts your brand’s image. And don’t use Comic Sans unless your business is a lemonade stand.

Final Thoughts

From a functional and emotional standpoint, design consistency is the same as reliability. Reliability is a critical factor in prompting your end-users, clients, and customers to trust your brand.

However, don’t be mistaken in thinking consistency is the same as creating stagnancy. Bending your brand and identity is necessary to tread new, exciting ground when you already have a strong foundation in your designs.

On the other hand, incorrectly breaking them is an easy way to alienate your customers entirely, as we learned from Tropicana’s example. When moving into new territory, having a dedicated creative agency is essential to ensure your brand remains consistent throughout the process. Mighty Fine is one of the nation’s leading advertising and branding agencies. Developing brand identities is a passion of ours.

Author

John is the lead designer at Mighty Fine and has been crafting visual solutions for clients for over a decade. Hailing previously from Boston, John graduated from Northeastern University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. Outside of work, John is a creative at heart. He enjoys other pursuing other creatively fulfilling endeavors — like drawing, writing music, or finding visual inspirations in the latest video games he's playing. John’s approach to design is holistic, ensuring that every project he undertakes is not only aesthetically pleasing but also strategically sound. He thrives in collaborative environments, valuing the diverse perspectives his colleagues bring to the table, and is always eager to embrace new challenges that push the boundaries of creativity. His mission at Mighty Fine is to deliver designs that are not only visually striking but also meaningful and effective in communicating the client's message.

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