Brand exists only in the minds of your audiences. The exercise of branding is an exercise in shaping human perception, which means giving up some degree of control over your brand identity, leaving it open to the interpretations of your audience, allowing those who create ads, brochures, and social posts to bring their touch to your brand story, and inviting open conversations between your customers and prospects.
The dynamic, free-flowing nature of brand identity is essential when building a relationship with your audience—no one feels connected to rigid, locked-down, robotic marketing. But it also makes your brand consistency efforts all the more difficult and important. If you don’t align your brand across every touchpoint—including those seemingly out of your control—all the work you put into establishing a strong identity in your logo, design elements, photography, messaging platform, etc., will become completely lost in translation.
Before we go any further, we should establish exactly what we mean by “brand touchpoint,” so you can understand just how far and wide branding stretches. A brand touchpoint is any place where your audience interacts with your organization. This can be as tangible as a brochure, packaging, or website, or as abstract as a conversation between two employees, a Google review, or a keynote speech.
No single touchpoint stands on its own. Your audiences will encounter your brand across a variety of materials in a myriad of different ways.
It’s easy to see how brand consistency can quickly become unwieldy for companies of every size. Large organizations are battling with the sheer volume of touchpoints they put out into the marketplace as well as the individuals producing those touchpoints. On the other hand, smaller organizations don’t always have the time and resources to properly implement a carefully established brand identity.
Now that we’ve made it sound virtually impossible to maintain consistency across all your brand touchpoints, let’s make things a little more manageable.
Start by taking a look at every landing page, piece of stationary, customer service conversation, and email signature. Document these different materials and intangibles and consider how each should be updated to better align with your established brand identity. Does your letterhead carry an old logo? Is your customer service team taking too much liberty with the names of your product lines? Are your sales presentations filled with off-brand clip art and outdated mission language? If this seems overwhelming, know this doesn’t have to happen all at once. You can review smaller chunks of materials on a rolling basis until you get a handle on every touchpoint.
Every one of your touchpoints should be tied to a goal. If you can’t determine a goal, the touchpoint doesn’t have a purpose and can be removed from your arsenal. For example, the main goal of a landing page may be to capture leads and get your audience interested in your product offering. The goal of a tradeshow tchotchke may be to draw your audience to your booth and keep you top-of-mind after a tradeshow. The goal of a receptionist greeting might be to demonstrate your brand culture from the moment your clients walk in the door. Documenting these goals will help you measure the value of each touchpoint and provide context for the hard decisions in step five.
This step is often overlooked, but it’s crucial when building an effective, connected, and consistent brand strategy across all touchpoints. As we established, no single touchpoint stands on its own. Your audiences will encounter your brand across a variety of materials in a myriad of different ways.
By understanding how these materials play together, you can determine how each touchpoint should carry your brand. For example, a touchpoint like an introductory brochure that hits your audience at the top of the sales funnel may hold your brand standards more rigidly than a video thanking them for being a loyal customer long after they’ve converted.
As you’re assigning goals and looking at touchpoint dependencies, you’ll likely run into situations where you’re missing a touchpoint altogether. Maybe you have a great download to capture leads, but after that, your audience doesn’t hear from you until they get a sales call. It might make sense to add an email series into the mix to warm your leads. Add these missing touchpoints to your spreadsheet to ensure they, too, align with your brand as your team executes on them.
Your brand touchpoint inventory is likely becoming a little overwhelming at this point. But, don’t worry, you don’t have to take it all on at once. Take a look at the data to determine which pieces work the hardest for you. Which touchpoints are most likely to take your audience from awareness to close? Of the new touchpoints you uncovered in the gap-finding step, which do you think will expedite this journey? Triage your execution accordingly. This way you can focus on establishing consistency across your most critical touchpoints first.
A number of people will be involved in creating, executing, and delivering on your brand touchpoints—that’s part of the challenge. Before you even start updating existing and creating new tangible touchpoints, you’ll need to put together a workflow that includes brand governance checkpoints.
For instance, if an individual on your sales team needs to create a new presentation, you may want to make sure they get the presentation template from the brand team, get access to slides with any approved product language, and give the brand point person in their department time to do a final review. These workflows should be designed to enable your team to act as responsible brand stewards without bogging them down in too much process.
You may think your brand guidelines will be your number one tool as you work to build brand consistency throughout all your touchpoints, but those guidelines are no good if people don’t know where to find them or how to use them. Share your brand documentation in a place that is both easy to find and to update.
New brand identity rollouts, employee onboarding, and new vendor partnerships are natural training points, but it shouldn’t stop there. Regular refresher trainings will make sure your entire team is aligned on your brand identity. Everyone should understand not only the rules, but the reason behind the rules. Knowing how the standards contribute to the success of your brand can be a great motivator.
Keep in mind, touchpoints can be delivered by everyone within your organization—from your CEO, to your customer service front lines, to your marketing specialists—and your external partners. Everyone should be viewed as a brand steward, so make it a point to train everyone accordingly. You may not have to give your receptionist the full brand download, but everyone should understand and uphold the bigger picture.
This process of brand alignment never truly ends. Your brand and your touchpoints are going to grow and evolve over time. Once you go through the initial overhaul and ensure the majority of your touchpoints are on track, it will get much easier. But you’ll still want to go back to reassess, revamp, and retrain to ensure your branding continues to support the favorable perceptions you’ve established in the minds of your customers.