One of the awesome benefits of having a social media presence is that you can virtually be everywhere your potential client or customer is. The downside of being able to be everywhere is that your brand can easily become diluted and difficult to recognize.
When that happens in your marketing materials, you’re essentially putting barriers up between you and the person who is looking for your goods or services. When it happens within a publication or event materials, you’re diminishing the overall effectiveness of the project.
Will the world come to an end? Probably not. But when you throw in a nice dose of consistency and cohesiveness into your presence or project, you’re sending a subliminal message that makes your audience not only feel good, but also to feel more comfortable when making purchases from you.
Cohesiveness is a key player in creating your brand across all the platforms upon which your customers experience you. It’s not just about slapping your logo on everything, though you do want your logo present. It’s about taking two steps back to plan the experience and to ensure your target customer or client answer the following questions BEFORE he or she ever thinks to ask them:
- Is this the company I’m looking for?
- Am I in the right place?
- Are these the folks I know and love?
- How do I find my way around this site?
Let’s face it, humans are creatures of habit. No matter how innovative we are, we like things to be the same. This can be difficult when it comes to social media simply because each platform–Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, whatever–offers different options for creating your brand. The struggle is to remain cohesive regardless of how inconsistent the platform is.
Let’s take a look at one of our search engine optimization and social media marketing clients, Robert A. Neal, DDS, based in Frisco, Texas. Dr. Neal came to us with an existing logo and website that was built in 1997 when he opened his office. Or main goal was to raise his rank in the search engines, and one of our tactics was to expand his presence to include an updated website, branded forms, a blog, and a presence on several different social platforms.
Before starting on our designs, we centered a discussion around how we could make Dr. Neal’s presence cohesive. We asked the following questions for each piece:
- Does the piece make sense with everything else?
- Is the overall message evident?
- Does it make people feel the same as they do when they walk in to Dr. Neal’s office?
- Does the piece fall like part of Dr. Neal’s brand?
Since Dr. Neal had an existing brand, we took his logo and ran with it–pun intended. And while the design or presence is not identical on all platforms, his patients know right away that they’ve found the right dentist out of XX in his city.
Website and Blog
Facebook and Twitter
Forms and Such
Consistency is another area that is necessary to make your customer feel at ease. Consistency is important for many of the same reasons as cohesiveness. So much so that the two really go hand in hand. Rather than how the different aspects of your branding work together even though they are slight different, consistency focuses on what things are the same every time a customer or client encounters them.
A great way to recognize the difference is to consider something like an event or workshop, such as the materials we recently did for the Denton County Alternative Dispute Resolution Program (DCAP) Sign-up Party. This is an annual event during which Denton County attorneys gather to choose when they will do mediations for the organization over the next year. We were asked to create several pieces centered around a western theme:
- RSVP cards
- Advertisements to run in the organization’s newsletter
Once we had determined the theme and created a “brand” that was cohesive (recognizable) across the collection of pieces, we focused on the elements and styles that would be the same regardless of how the user experienced it. We asked:
- Is the message consistent within the document itself and among all pieces in the collection?
- Is the branding consistent?
- Are the language and editing choices consistent?
In a small project such as this, it’s fairly easy to maintain consistency as there are limited choices available. We focused mainly on the graphics used in the pieces, fonts, font color, font sizes, word choice, color, etc.
For larger projects such as newsletters, magazine spreads, and books, we create a style sheet that captures all the little details such as word choice, voice, font sizes, spacing, spellings, acronyms, and just about anything and everything else that has been decided upon for the project. Spending time to record and adhere to these things allows us to provide a similar experience each time someone uses whatever it was that we created.
If you have a really large or international project that translated into one or more languages, consistency plays a direct role in your translation and localization costs. But that’s a completely different post in and of itself.
When your clients experience consistency within and among your publications, they become comfortable. And when this consistency extends across the boundaries of virtual and physical presentation, this plays an exponentially more important role. It lessens the need for them to “learn” each time they encounter your business and lessens potential and realized frustrations. It makes them happy. And when your customers or clients are happy, it shows up in the bottom line.
When you have a great blend of consistency and cohesiveness, your customers will feel it without even thinking about it. They will feel confident in that interaction. Consistency and cohesiveness are the elements that protects your business and your customers against spoofers, spammers, and copycats.
- Customers often recognize discrepancies in stray emails sent under the guise of banks, credit agencies, and airlines because the language isn’t consistent with what is typical and click delete instead of giving away sensitive information.
- We usually recognize SPAM when we see it because it is not consistent with what we typically see from a business or individual.
- In the case of copycats, consistent use of style sheets and a cohesive presence can be one of your best protections if someone decides to “steal” your website or document and use it for their own purposes.
And if all of the above doesn’t convince you of the importance of implementing consistency and cohesiveness in your presence, I’ve one more bit of information for you to consider. In addition to being an intangible element in persuading your target audience to purchase your goods or services, using consistency and cohesion will save you money. Yes, it SAVES you money!
- Design and language choices have already been made and recorded for easy access. No more looking back at last year’s archived information to see whether you used A.M., AM, a.m., am or any variation thereof!
- Elements can be shared across documents. The descriptive text on your menu will be consistent with what’s on your proposal, contract, website, etc. And, if you’re doing translations, will only need to be translated once.
- ideas for another example?
The first hurdle of implementing consistency and cohesiveness is simply getting started. The second is usually adhering to your choices. If you work for a company, your marketing or documentation department will champion your cause and help you. If your company doesn’t have such departments, never fear! We’re always happy to help out!