So you’ve decided to invest in a multi-faceted, multi-channel marketing campaign. Your presence, message and branding will appear in many channels—online ads, a website, a video on your website, newspaper ads, magazine print ads, signage, brochures, etc. Wondering how you will achieve a consistent look across all these iterations, and what just exactly is "marketing consistency" anyway?
Solid campaign and branding consistency includes two equally important characteristics:
- For your audience, it means wherever and whenever a potential buyer comes across your materials—your ad, social media post, video or whatever—they immediately recognize the same company as the source and the message and brand experience is the same; and
- For your company, it means leveraging your investment as value is created and positive synergy builds across each message, channel and outlet.
Marketing consistency does not mean exactly the same everywhere.
Replicating exactly the same design or message everywhere quickly bores your prospect, and it throws away the advantages or unique features of each medium.
Making your materials look great across multiple platforms
Your marketing agency is well-versed in translating your materials into all media and can work with all formats. For example, they can provide a media outlet with an online ad that looks similar to a printed poster, or has the same elements arranged to work in the different proportion of a point of purchase display. Or, they will make sure when a customer clicks on a link on your website, they are taken to a landing page or download a brochure that has a similar color scheme, visual elements, headline treatment and message as the website. And likewise, when a potential customer is inspired to visit your website from a URL they see in your ad, your team of marketing professionals will ensure it looks familiar and that the customer does not feel lost.
Let's look at techniques for achieving consistency in a multi-channel marketing campaign.
Whether you are working with an agency or you have a team in-house, you will want to make sure all your materials have a basic consistency in look and feel. To achieve this, all marketing materials should share some common elements. Design of a campaign involves research to establish a look and feel that inspires your audience to act, is harmonious with their ideals, is compatible with their lifestyle and is emotionally appealing. This is then implemented with color palette choice, image creation or selection, writing style or tone, typeface choice(s), messaging, and choice of which media and vehicles to use to most effectively reach your customer.
A color palette not only for the brand, but for individual campaigns and/or segments of the customers to whom you’re talking. Color choices are incredibly important when appealing to specific demographics and setting the tone for your brand or campaign.
It is important when choosing images for your campaign that the content, style, color scheme support your brand story. Accordingly, those powerful brand-specific images should appear in all your materials and thus will create a consistent customer experience. This holds true no matter how the image is cropped or what proportion it is displayed in. In short, when your powerful, emotionally evocative image appears on all your materials, your customer is much more convincingly guided through your desired action: buy, join, volunteer, etc.
Strong typography reiterated in multiple marketing vehicles is part of the design choice that creates a memorable impression. When your strong message is repeated with the same styling, it has the same impact. If that message appears in a print ad in strong sans-serif Helvetica, and on your website in Times Roman Italic, a flavor of your communication power is diminished
Layout may change when translating your campaign materials from one medium to another, but there are some basic formatting styles that will display consistency: use of a grid; centered or other alignment of text and images; eye path and heirarchy; relative emphasis on text and image all have a part in making one piece look consistent with another, no matter the size or proportion
There is definitely an advantage to, say, having your video editor create appropriate title slides, graphics, etc. in house, during the editing process, if possible, rather than having those materials supplied in the proper format by your designer. That said, however, if your video editor does not have your branding guide or any existing materials for reference, you run the risk of, for example, trying to rebuild logos with the wrong typeface, or someone else other than your marketing team "reinventing the wheel" when they try to make something look good without proper background or direction. In short, provide your vendors with great raw materials and consistent direction.
Public Relations (PR) are an essential piece of the whole marketing picture. Obviously, the tone of your PR writing style and the message need to match your brand story at your mission-driven company. If you have a PR person or team in-house, make sure they are well-versed in your established messaging. PR today also often includes visuals, audio and video. There are advantages to working with an agency that has a PR team as well as marketing strategists, designers, writers and other creatives, but if you are using a separate PR firm, make sure they have access to all your creative resources.
Even though it can be seen as a less formalized marketing presence, your social media posts, images, page headers, avatars and messaging should reflect the look and feel of your main marketing materials, When your customer clicks on your Facebook feed link from your website, it should not be a jarring disconnect as though created by someone completely different. This applies to the tone of individual posts also. If your main identity items (header image, logo and avatar) have been implemented properly but the tone of posts is off, that can create a disconnect. So the person or team responsible for social media, whether in-house or at your marketing agency, needs to be immersed in your culture and brand story to ensure appropriate content and visuals reinforce your message/campaign.
An essential ingredient of today’s inbound marketing efforts, blog posts need to reinforce your brand at all levels while establishing you as a thought leader in your industry. The images you use should be carefully chosen, considering how they reflect on your company and how they can family with your other marketing efforts. Using stock images or images that have a generic feel will not be as effective as those created by your marketing team with your mission, tone, look and feel of all your marketing efforts in mind.
Printed materials have a distinct set of requirements for great reproduction. Choosing a digital printer (toner-based photocopies) or offset press (ink on paper) is one choice. With the quality of full-color materials greatly improved over the last five years, a digital press is a good alternative to, for example, cost-effectively create a full-color print to match full-color online ads. The possibilities are endless for mixing marketing vehicles, and depending on your marketing strategy you may see a 24x36 point of purchase print poster with the same look and feel as a 300x600 pixel online ad. If your materials are implemented properly, the customer will recognize and respond accordingly.
Online includes advertising, website, landing pages, email newsletters, downloadable offers, and more. When mixed with print, there are technical considerations your marketing professional will address such as color matching when you have an RGB (backlit) image next to a CMYK (reflective, print) image. If your online presence involves animation, the color palette, branding, tone, should, again, reflect your other materials—even though they may present a stationary version of the same image.
Conclusion: Consistency is the key
It is very helpful, if not essential, to have someone in charge of the role of Marketing Director, whether at your company or at your marketing agency, to assure all materials produced are consistent. An established Brand Identity Style Guide is indispensable for your marketing director, and for directing outside vendors in design and production when off-site creative is required.
If your growing company is at the point where you have invested in a campaign, identity, or marketing program, it may be tempting to try to save money or time by using multiple independent resources to create various elements. For example, you may want to ask your media outlet to design your online ad, or your printer to design a promotional folder. This may seem cost-effective and efficient, but if you want to avoid a disjointed or fractured look, feel and tone in the variety of creative elements/products/marketing vehicles that customers will see...you need to be vigilant to ensure your message and visuals have consistency across all media.