Whether you plan to expand into a new market or hire new team members, preserving your brand’s identity while your business grows is vital. A good brand identity makes your business instantly recognizable by everyone who interacts with your work. From employees to partners and from existing customers to new clients, your brand’s personality should always shine through. However, protecting your company’s mission as the entire business evolves can be difficult. According to a recent Gallup article, “the great challenge for healthy, growing organizations…is staying true to their founders’ vision while adapting to change.” In this post, we explain why brand consistency and preserving brand identity matters. We also outline how to protect your brand while growing your business.
Why Brand Consistency Matters
While brand consistency matters for all companies, not all founders know what this means in their own business. The article “The Importance Of Brand Consistency” from Harlem World Magazine explains. In short, “brand consistency refers to how a company delivers messages that are consistent with its fundamental values.” Messaging must also be consistent with the company’s “brand promise, customer experience” and brand assets. Brand assets are the visual elements — like typography, color palette and logo design — as well as brand messaging and other written content. These elements are what makes your brand unique and identifiable. From internal emails between team members to public marketing efforts aimed at your target demographic, your brand’s message is predictable and reliable.
Benefits of a Strong Brand Identity
There are many benefits to brand consistency. Writing for Entrepreneur in the article “5 Steps for Making Your Brand Identity More Consistent,” Raubi Marie Perilli identifies a few. Perilli writes that consistency “projects professionalism,” “establishes authenticity,” “provides clarity,” “offers internal direction,” “provides simplicity” and builds customer trust. It also creates and fosters an emotional connection between the brand and your employees, current clients, partners and new customers. When you stay true to your brand’s original mission and own unique personality, you show that “it is a part of who you are.” It is not “just something you created for marketing or promotional purposes.”
Consistency helps you maintain this strong brand identity. It insulates your brand as the business grows and changes. As William Aruda notes in an article for Forbes, “consistency gives you a firm foundation for evolving into offering even more options.”Maintaining a strong brand identity ensures you continue to appeal to your target audience while resonating with new potential customers. By living up to your brand’s promises, you earn the right to “evolve and expand.”
1. Craft a Mission Statement That Defines Your Company’s Purpose
If you are reading this post, you probably want to expand your business without compromising. You want to grow without sacrificing the quality of your services, the culture of your company or its values. In her CEO Today article “How Do I Expand My Business Globally Without Compromise?,” Zoe Morris writes that expansion is about “multiplication, not dilution.”
Growth values not if the original mission of your organization is lost along the way. Before taking any other steps to protect the brand, you and your team should craft a mission statement. This statement should define your company’s purpose and outline its vision for the future. Morris recommends coming up with a mantra “that summarizes what’s most important to your business.” Use this mission statement to “benchmark all potential decisions and moves.”
As you craft this mission statement, think about what sets your organization apart from others. What was your reason for starting the business? What is its purpose? Writing for the November 2020 issue of McKinsey Quarterly, Sebastian Leape, Jinchen Zou, Olivia Loadwick, Robin Nuttall, Matt Stone, and Bruce Simpson elaborate. They note that “winning companies are driven by purpose.”
Carefully consider your company’s purpose before finalizing its mission statement, as “superficial approach to purpose just doesn’t work.” When your mission statement truly reflects the values and purpose of your business, it “eliminates the gap between walk and talk.” It serves as “a source of competitive advantage.” An explicit mission statement also makes brand consistency much easier to achieve because the business’ purpose is transparent and unchanging.
2. Create a Brand Deck Early On
Second, you and your marketing team should develop and disseminate brand guidelines early on. Your brand deck should include the mission statement you just crafted. It should also include design elements like your logo — and acceptable variations on its design –, your brand colors, fonts and other imagery.
Information about your brand’s unique voice and tone should also be featured. You might choose to include a list of terminology that does not align with the brand and should not be used in marketing materials. Define your target audience too. These branding guidelines should be shared with both team members and potential partners. By sharing them, you keep everyone on the same page and ensure you project the right image to consumers.
In her article “4 business benefits of a consistent brand experience” for Phoenix Business Journal, Sheila Kloefkorn explains why a thorough brand deck matters. Kloefkorn writes that standardizing “public representation with official brand guidelines….helps you stay on message.” Without a brand deck, it can be impossible to keep team members and partners on the same page.
It can also frustrate clients who struggle to decipher what working with your business would mean. As Kloefkorn notes, “mixed messaging throughout your marketing collateral confuses your audience.” Mixed messaging also “makes it hard for them to develop expectations about a potential business engagement.” By developing and circulating your brand deck early on, you ensure consistency across all internal communications, content, ad campaigns, partnerships and projects.
3. Consistently Produce, Share and Repurpose Content That Matches Your Brand
Third, you and your team should consistently produce, share and repurpose content in line with your overall brand strategy. Crafting both timely and evergreen content keeps current clients engaged while attracting new customers. Producing a variety of content allows you to reinforce the brand image while introducing new products, services, locations and directions for the business. This content could include videos, social media posts, blog posts and email newsletters.
In her article “How to Maintain Your Brand Identity“ for HerBusiness.com, Australian entrepreneur Milenka Osen explains why repurposing existing content is especially helpful. Osen writes that by repurposing existing content, businesses can cut down on time spent researching topics and sourcing images. This could mean turning a “video tutorial into a blog post” or turning a “blog post into an infographic.” Choose your most popular evergreen content to refactor and circulate new iterations across social media channels and your blog.
4. Standardize Certain Processes While Allowing Creativity in Others
Next, you and your team should try to standardize and automate certain processes. As we note in our post “How to Know When It’s Time to Grow Your Business,” standardization does not kill creativity. Rather, standardization frees up valuable time while maintaining consistency and reinforcing a strong brand identity. This allows you and your team to be more creative when and where it counts. Standardizing certain processes enhances productivity, creativity and brand identity.
By avoiding standardization, businesses actually hinder their progress. In his article “Midsize Companies Shouldn’t Confuse Growth with Scaling” for Harvard Business Review, Ron Carucci explains. Carucci writes that “organizations without standardized processes become a mass of confusion, redundancies, and cost overruns.” Standardization is also key to maintaining work-life balance for yourself and your employees because it makes businesses more efficient. To learn more about striking the right balance as a business owner, read our post “Tips for Maintaining Work-Life Balance as Your Business Grows.”
5. Pick the Right People
Another key to protecting your brand identity while growing the business is to pick the right people. Whether a partner, a manager or an entry-level employee, choosing the perfect people for your business is vital. Writing for McKinsey Quarterly in “More than a mission statement: How the 5Ps embed purpose to deliver value,” Sebastian Leape et al. explain. Leape et al. write that “your employees, indeed all of your stakeholders, are your sources of strength and a hard check against inauthenticity.”
To protect the brand, they recommend that managers “actively screen for individuals who share the values that support the company’s purpose.” Quoting one contributor to the article, Leape et al. suggest business owners hire “‘hire people who reflect the values of the company.’” They should never hire those who are misaligned but whom management hopes they can change.
As Stanford Professor Michael Dearing puts it in an article written by Leigh Buchanan for Inc. Magazine, business owners should only need to provide “the clay of values and goals” to their employees. They should then be able to step back and afford “employees room to shape them for specific locations, markets, or customers.” Choosing people you can trust to faithfully execute the mission of your company is key to protecting your brand identity.
6. Don’t Move Too Fast
This next step is fairly self-explanatory. When growing and evolving, business owners should try to avoid moving too quickly. Moving too fast leads to inconsistency in quality of service and brand identity. As mentioned above by Zoe Morris in “How Do I Expand My Business Globally Without Compromise?,” expansion is about “multiplication, not dilution.”
Businesses often feel pressure to keep up with changing consumer preferences or to meet growing demand from their target demographic. In doing so, they can easily lose what sets them apart from any other company in the market. A business with a unique vision and special approach muddles its message and turns off existing clientele when it rushes along.
Quoting author Robert Sutton in the article “How to Grow Without Losing What Makes You Great” for Inc. Magazine, Leigh Buchanan explains. Sutton tells Buchanan that “fast growth…makes it tougher to identify and nurture the practices worth scaling.” Business owners focus so heavily on “ratcheting up the positive that they don’t bother to clear away the negative–bad stuff that.” In short, growing quickly but haphazardly “may not cause a fast-growth business to fail outright…but it won’t live up to its potential.”
7. Develop a Project Approval Process
Seventh on our list of ways to protect your brand is to develop a project approval process. Keep in mind that ensuring projects meet your company’s standards and match its brand identity is not micromanaging. Rather, it is vital to keep everyone on the same page and producing the same level of service from project to project. Plus, the business owner herself need not fashion nor direct this process. She can delegate this task instead – usually to members of the marketing department.
In her article “Maintaining Brand Consistency in a New Market” for TK Business Magazine, Andrea Engstrom recommends “finding an internal champion for brand consistency.” Engstrom writes that this person “or department should be most familiar with your brand standards.” They should be “responsible for the creation of an approval process for all branded material.” By implementing and adhering to a simple approval process, you and your team will “prevent mishaps that can damage your brand reputation and image.”
John Hall agrees in his article “5 Ways to Maintain Brand Consistency As You Grow Your Business” for Forbes. Hall recommends assigning development and execution of this project approval process to your marketing or creative director. Together, your marketing and creative directors “oversee many of the impressions your brand has on customers.” These interactions make them the right people to tap for this task. For advice assigning tasks to team members, head over to our post “How to Let Go and Delegate Without Losing Creative Control.”
8. Focus on Your Company’s Internal Culture
Eighth on our list of ways to protect brand identity is to focus on your company’s internal culture. Your company’s internal culture is a key part of the business’ brand, as employees are responsible for translating your brand to clients and partners. In their article for Gallup, Nate Dvorak et al. note “the ability to create and grow a culture is what makes your organization unique.” Your business’ culture is also what “enhances its chances for long-term sustainability and success.” As one might expect, research has found that “the more aligned employees are with the organizational culture, the better they perform.” This is especially true in service-based industries – like interior design and residential building design – with a variety of client-facing team members.
Training managers to reinforce positive elements of your company’s culture is an important step. In her article “Scaling Culture in Fast-Growing Companies” for Harvard Business Review, Jordana Valencia explains. Your business’ culture is its “underlying beliefs and values.” Oftentimes, these values are what attract clients to your business and retain employees within that business. Valencia writes that “culture can swiftly get lost in translation” when businesses grow. However, defining culture “in terms of clear, observable behaviors” can help keep everyone in line with the company’s values.
To reinforce these behaviors, both Valencia and the Gallup writers recommend making managers “cultural ambassadors” in the workplace. Dvorak et al. note that managers should be able to “communicate, demonstrate and prioritize organizational culture and make it relevant, day to day.” They should also be able to “help team members understand how their daily contributions connect with the organizational culture.” Lastly, managers should “recognize and reward performance in a cultural context.”
Valencia elaborates on this final point in her article for Harvard Business Review. She suggests that managers “praise individuals during small team meetings, in private, or even over email or chat.” Though this might take only a moment of the manager’s time, “it can make a strong and lasting impact on institutionalizing target behaviors.”
9. Conduct Repeated Brand Audits
Lastly, businesses should conduct repeated audits to ensure marketing activities and brand partnerships resonate with clients while reflecting the company mission. In his article “The Brand Report Card” for Harvard Business Review, Kevin Lane Keller recommends that companies “monitor sources of brand equity.” Then, they can redirect brand strategy — like social media ads, blog posts and email newsletters – as needed. Keller writes that a brand audit “assesses the health of a given brand” by providing both an internal “brand inventory” and an “external investigation.” Together, this assessment determines “exactly what the brand does and could mean to consumers.”
Brand audits are often recommended when businesses are considering new products or services, but Keller suggests scheduling them on “a periodic basis.” According to Keller, “tapping customers’ perceptions and beliefs often uncovers the true meaning of a brand.” It reveals where client and company perceptions of the brand diverge. This can show leaders “where they have to refine or redirect their branding efforts or their marketing goals.”
We hope you enjoyed this post about protecting brand identity, mission and values as your business expands! Still have questions about how to protect your brand? Ask us anything in the comments below!