Five Examples of Consistent Branding Done Right
Think of your favorite brands. What’s the defining characteristic they all seem to share?
Brands are different, after all. What works in low-cost fast food might not work in upscale dining. But that doesn’t mean two different companies can’t embrace the same branding principles and leverage them for greater success with their target customer.
Why does brand consistency matter? According to some statistics, people only remember about 17-25% of the things they listen to on a broad basis. If your brand isn’t consistent, then it’s going to be forgettable. Here are some examples of brands that decided to be memorable by applying consistency across all their branding efforts:
Brand #1: Dropbox
Dropbox likes to think “minimal.”
The online cloud-storage service that provides a plethora of services for getting work done in the digital age keeps its branding consistent through simplicity. That’s been evident in just about any place you can think to interact with Dropbox—in their software, their website, their social media presence, even their 404 pages.
The message at the center of it all? Dropbox makes life easy and light: they seem to say that when you store with Dropbox, you’ll have less of a burden. Dropbox is easy to take with you on mobile, easy to use, and easy to sign up for and every aspect of the branding reflects that same essential ease.
Why it works:
Dropbox’s minimalism appeals to a broad target market, which is essential—they’re a service that should also appeal to a wide range of incomes and ages. By stripping things down and keeping it minimal, Dropbox becomes whatever the user wants them to become, which is appropriately reflected in the services Dropbox provides.
- When you have a broad audience, let them fill in the blanks. Dropbox, like Apple, keeps a modern, minimalistic style to its brand. Yes, it’s quirky and creative, but when you visit Dropbox, you won’t have a lot of frills or options. Dropbox has a broad target audience and doesn’t allow its brand to pigeon-hole its services.
Brand #2: Southwest Airlines
You’re likely familiar with Southwest Airlines—it’s hard to miss those planes covered in paints of bold, primary colors. That’s reflective of the overall Southwest Airlines approach: to be the airline that stands out from the rest.
There’s a reason that Southwest Airlines performs well in brand intimacy surveys—according to one expert quoted at the Chicago Business Journal, “Southwest has done a better job at delivering intimacy through an authentic brand that gives consumers the feeling that the airline ‘is on their side.’” This level of personalization and attention to detail stands out in an industry where airlines are forced to cut costs by cutting back on the customer experience.
Why it works:
How has Southwest Airlines achieved its brand consistency? Their “people first” approach is more than just a personality—it’s also how they position themselves in the market, looking to create regular flights with lower fares and more generous personal options for travelers. How do they express that? Consider that their current logo features a striped heart and their stock ticker on the New York Stock Exchange is “LUV.”
- Make your brand fit your mission. Southwest Airlines would come across as inauthentic if they only paid lip service to their customer-centric approach. But their brand is in line with their strategy. While no airline could possibly be consistent enough to please every customer, Southwest Airlines makes a habit of strategically placing themselves in positions where they can please the customer, whether that relates to pricing, convenience, or something as simple as luggage fees.
- Create a brand that customers will like. If you’re going to pick a brand and stick to it, you might as well pick one that makes customers happy. That’s what Southwest Airlines has done, and the statistics bear it out—it’s now the most popular U.S. airline.
Brand #3: Planet Fitness
Chances are you can already picture the Planet Fitness near you. Why is that?
It’s because they’ve achieved a high level of branding consistency over the past several years. In addition to their “lunk-free zone” advertising campaign and policy of non-judgment, Planet Fitness has consistently targeted the demographic that doesn’t want to go to the stereotypical iron-heavy gym. The colors are different. The advertising is different. Even the physical locations are different.
It all falls under Planet Fitness’s branding strategy of becoming the “anti-fitness fitness club,” according to Inc.com. After launching that brand in 1992, Planet Fitness grew to over 4.4 million members by 2013—and, more recently, hitting the 10 million member mark.
Why it works:
Planet Fitness found success by going deliberately against the grain. Planet Fitness decided on a more relaxed approach to fitness that appeals to people making New Year’s Resolutions and those who simply want to get into a gym to begin their path to fitness success. By developing a counterintuitive brand—complete with advertising campaigns specifically targeted to show off its “anti-fitness fitness club” appeal—Planet Fitness made itself one of the most popular fitness clubs in the United States.
- Go against the grain when you can. Brand consistency won’t matter if you don’t have a brand worth mentioning. Don’t be a brand like everyone else’s—find the opportunities to stand out from the crowd while still resonating with your audience. Planet Fitness found success by going against the grain, but also serving a market with a lot of growth potential. What market segments might exist in your industry that haven’t been tapped yet?
- Don’t use other brands in your market as a reference point. If you’re taking the counter-intuitive approach, do you really need to embrace the same styles as your competition? Planet Fitness succeeds by being different than its competition; if it were to franchise itself as another type of “Gold’s Gym,” it would have been forgettable.
Brand #4: Capital One
If you’ve come across Capital One’s advertising in the recent past, there’s a fair chance you can quote their motto back.
That’s because Capital One has done an exceptional job of boosting brand awareness—up to 90%, according to some statistics—with their regular quoting of “What’s in your wallet?” Capital One tends to target a younger crowd, those in the market for financial products like the ones Capital One has on offer. The simple, straightforward approach is the result of what the case study linked above called their first “sustained advertising campaign.”
Why it works:
The lesson with Capital One is that you don’t have to have a long-established brand in order to be consistent. In fact, Capital One hadn’t had much success with sustained marketing campaigns before, with only a little bit of advertising experience before going on its long “What’s in your wallet?” run. But Capital One did make a commitment to its brand and has stood by the commitment. The result: more brand awareness.
- Start where you are. “Consistency” doesn’t have to mean “old.” Yes, it would be great if your brand could point to 500 years of history going back to another continent—but not everyone enjoys that advantage. It’s perfectly fine to begin your consistency from where you are, building up a stronger reputation with your customers through sheer marketing guile. Capital One has shown that it’s not only possible—but when done right, it’s inevitable.
Brand #5: L.L. Bean
You don’t have to be a mega-successful financial company to create successfully consistent branding.
L.L. Bean, however, does have history on its side. The company has been around for a long time, allowing it to build upon a well-established story of selling classic American clothing for decades. But what L.L. Bean does well is tell a simple story: they’re not here to overcomplicate their brand and get away from what it is they do best. They know you come to them for high-quality, crafted clothes—and that’s what they deliver.
Why it works:
L.L. Bean does a great job of demonstrating its brand consistency by utilizing every tool at its disposal—its website and its catalog both look like New England style inspiration boards. Log on to their site and you won’t be regaled with endless options or sold a new app—you’ll get right to their latest offerings. No frills attached.
- Build on your history, but don’t change it. If you’re the opposite of Capital One and you do have history on your side, then be willing to build on that history. L.L. Bean catalogs from the 1960s look surprisingly similar to today’s styles. But that doesn’t mean the company doesn’t adapt with the times, either. It simply builds on it. L.L. Bean both embraces its history in providing clothes while presenting a consistent brand.
Building a More Consistent Brand
At its essence, brand consistency is about two things: depth and width. The depth of your brand is contained in its history and its current awareness with your audience. But don’t forget the width—how wide-spread your brand is and how much you include it in everything you do, from company letterhead to your email signature.
Building a consistent brand doesn’t have to require a long-established history. You can start building a consistent brand now. But it’s important to take lessons from the brands above: know your audience, choose a brand that differentiates you from the competition, and be willing to stick to that brand as you discover what works best in your market.