MULTICHANNEL MARKETING: Keeping the brand consistent

How do you use creative to keep your brand image consistent across multiple channels?

David Christenson: With the rush to get online and the pressure to grow, many catalogers and retailers have not maintained their brand image in a consistent format so that their customers will immediately recognize them. Preserving the integrity of the brand in the design of the Website has been the area of the greatest inconsistency.

Your brand image is defined by:

1) the logo, or the basis of your corporate identity;

2) the design formats, including consistent use of the color palette, photography styles, and typefaces that make your advertising and catalog visuals easily recognizable;

3) your “voice,” as represented in your tag line and your copy.

Brand image should be extended to the smallest details of your culture, such as store packaging or the blow-in card you use in your next book to announce your Web presence.

But most Web pages sacrifice brand image in favor of “busy-ness” and high density. Because early Web page designs filled the screen with type and images, everyone is assuming thatthat’s the best approach.

When designing your Website, don’t abandon core design principles and create clutter. The best Website I have experienced is that of apparel marketer Banana Republic. The site typifies the brand image we all know: clean design, minimalistic graphics, a neutral color palette, and a clear, simple presentation of its message and product. No screen has too much on it, and all of them are user-friendly, with the same easy-to-read fonts that are used in the print catalog. Banana Republic also displays its 800-number next to its logo on every screen, which should be standard practice for Website presentation.

Carol Worthington Levy: Brand is a tool that, when developed using strong market research, is unbeatable for building sales and loyalty. A primary advantage to using brand consistently is the strength of return visits by your customers.

Here’s why: It’s often said that you can’t really call someone a customer until she has ordered from you the second time. To bring your customer back, you need to please her with regard to service, quality, integrity, and so on. You also need to offer a real impression of who you are, so that your customer remembers you and feels good about visiting you again. This is where brand speaks the loudest.

A big challenge in maintaining brand consistency among channels is in recognizing brand as being more important than the autonomy of the people working on individual elements. In an inhouse environment, there is more chance that the look and voice of the brand will be consistent and strong, since usually it’s held together by a unified marketing team and a group creative director.

When educating your creatives about your brand, written items such as your creative brief for the project, your marketing brand statement, and examples of “how you got where you are” can be helpful. This is an investment in your brand’s consistency, so it is well worth the time. Allow room for questions and dialogue, and if you have any graphic-standards guides, provide them at the beginning – not after design has been started.

I like how TravelSmith, which sells apparel and gear for travelers, carries through its branding in its catalog, in its lead-generation space ads, and on its Website. The catalog’s brand identity is very clear in the design and voice. TravelSmith also makes certain that its famous little black travel dress is part of the brand. Not only does it use the dress in its ads, but it also places it prominently on the Website for visitors to latch onto right away.

Rhonda Cohen: Retaining a consistent brand image is an absolute necessity. Cementing the brand in a consumer’s mind and capturing a high level of recognition of the brand’s identity across multichannels of communication are the ultimate objectives.

There must be common “threads” that run through every means of visual communication to the consumer. If the consumer receives the same strong visual message, positioned appropriately for a particular medium, the building of a brand is guaranteed.

Williams-Sonoma, the resource for fine cookware and kitchen products, has done an excellent job of communicating a strong brand image. The look and feel of the Williams-Sonoma catalog extends to its Website as well as to its stores. Starting with the consistent use of the Williams-Sonoma logo and continuing with clear, crisp product presentation plus a unified typographic style, the cookware marketer retains its brand image across the various channels.

Brands such as Coach (fine leather goods) and Origins (cosmetics) have also been successful in creating and retaining a strong brand image by using the same logos, photographic styles, and merchandising strategies in each medium. In the case of Origins, it also applies its unique copy voice in its ads as well as in its selling channels.

Of course, each channel has different parameters within various channels of communication. While catalogs can print a fair amount of information, Web customers expect even more details, while stores can carry only a small amount of information on posters and other signage.

Knowing what is appropriate for a catalog, such as elaborating your message through copy, vs. for a Website, where the consumer wants to be shown rather than told, is also important. Technical limitations – such as how large an image can be shown on a Website compared to within a catalog – must also be considered.

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