The Importance of Consistency in Branding: An Artist's Perspective
A vital part of scaling a business is establishing a scalable brand -- the intangible impression in people's minds, that results in tangible impressions on your balance sheet. Creative minds fuel branding practices, so we got a a successful creative mind -- and small business owner -- Jessica Libor, to offer insight on how consistency in branding impacts bottom line business functions.
As an artist, for a long time I resisted consistency. In my young creative brain, experimentation is what kept my mind engaged and interested. I wanted to explore and discover what was within me creatively. However, I soon saw that consistent branding is the key to an artist's success in the marketplace.
An artist is a small business owner: not only do they make the product that they sell, but they also decide where to position it in the marketplace and how it is seen! The best and most successful artists are known for a certain style. This manifests by people having a similar experience whenever they experience the artist's work. The consistency that results creates a brand.
Any business owner can apply the same idea to their company. If you create a similar (positive) experience for your customer, your brand will become strong and recognizable, and people will feel comfortable recommending your company to others because they know what to expect.
A brand is like a personality: and like a personality, it expresses itself in everything your company does. As an artist, my brand encompasses the work I make, the places I show, my personal presence and style, my viewpoints and opinions within my field, and what I offer people with my work, teaching, and inspiration. Like the artist, business owners can assign their company a “personality” and make it consistent across all fronts. Your business brand personality should include:
Your company should have at least one specific color to identify with that you use on all of your materials, but not more than three. This color will become identified with your company and will trigger recognition in people's minds when they see it. Artists use a certain color palette to express their style, so do brands. Think red for Target and green for Starbucks—huge brands that have selected one color to help describe their brand's feel and gain recognition in those that they serve.
Feel and Style
You want your business to have a certain voice in the marketplace, and attract your ideal customer. It's here that you really have the opportunity to give your brand some creative flair. As you are developing your brand's feel and style, think of the ideal client and what they are looking for in your company. Your feel and style should be tailored to attract that client. Anthropologie does this by defining in detail their ideal customer, and making everything in their store appeal to her. The style of your brand is how the overall design of your presence in the marketplace (website, social media, and physical location in the world) looks, while the feel of your brand is found in the experience people have when they come in contact with your brand.
Artists, like businesses, build their brand through consistency. When we see impressionist water lily paintings, who could it be but Monet? He was known by his consistency. To use Starbucks again, people go to Starbucks because they know what to expect. Sure, there may be a local coffee shop nearby with artisan coffee, but in a pinch, will they take that risk? They may be anywhere in the world, but when you see the Starbucks green logo, you know there will be good coffee served inside. There is a high level of brand trust because of this. This is because of consistent standards enforced within the brand. The water used is always filtered, the coffee beans from the same source, and the cups are always clean. Define your “always” within your company and stick with it to ensure high standards with everyone you interact with.
Artists, like businesses, build their brand through consistency. When we see impressionist water lily paintings, who could it be but Monet? He was known by his consistency. To use Starbucks again, people go to Starbucks because they know what to expect. Sure, there may be a local coffeeshop nearby with artisan coffee, but in a pinch, will they take that risk? They may be anywhere in the world, but when you see the Starbucks green logo, you know there will be good coffee served inside. There is a high level of brand trust because of this. This is because of consistent standards enforced within the brand. The water used is always filtered, the coffee beans from the same source, and the cups are always clean. Define your “always” within your company and stick with it to ensure high standards with everyone you interact with.
Focus on your Strengths, not your Weaknesses
Don't fight upstream by trying to be all things to all people. It actually degrades your brand, because anything that you are not your best at, will drag down the rest of your work in value. It is better to have an amazing reputation and skill at something very niche, than an average reputation and output providing many services.
As a young artist, I went through phases of trying many different styles and mediums. I tried bright colors, muted color tones, acrylic, oil, portraits, mixed media, and many different subjects. All this is necessary for the young artist to develop their skills and create a style of their own. However, at a certain point I began to see that some pieces were stronger than others, and I drew a correlation between these pieces. I started to realize that the other experimentations, while fun, were taking energy and focus away from the stronger pieces. As an artist, as with many other professions, time is our most valuable asset. You want to be known for your best work, not your experimentations. “People will judge you for your worst piece,” a professor once told me in college. “So don't feel like you need to put all your work out there publicly. Only present your best work.”
It was good advice, although a bit harsh to my ears then. Wouldn't it be good to show I could do more than one thing? Better yet, that I could do everything? In a short answer, no.
Let me explain. If a collector or gallery sees that your work is all over the place—sometimes you make a beautiful painting that you sell for a few thousand dollars, and sometimes you sell a very different style of art at street fairs for $10, galleries and collectors will be inclined to believe that your work is to be judged on the lower end of the spectrum, and will be confused as what to expect from you. They won't want to take a risk in buying into your brand if it is inconsistent. It makes for a shaky investment if people can't be sure of the quality or style of work to expect from you. The same can be said for any business with their clients!
The biggest damaging thing you can do for your brand is to be inconsistent. This is true for any brand, creative or corporate. This can even be true if different branding strategies you use are all good, or neutral. If an artist's work is dramatically different in quality, design or price point at every exhibition, it is confusing to collectors who are considering buying. Likewise, if your logo looks different on your website, social media, and business cards, it is hard to take a company seriously. It looks like they you are still finding your voice, and serves as a warning sign for those who are considering hiring you. Also consider that anyone who endorses your company, then is vouching for you. It will be hard to get people to identify with and endorse you if anything about your brand is inconsistent.
Therefore, I've learned that the best way to build your brand is to play to your strengths, consistently. As an artist, right now my work is about the connection of nature an the feminine, in a highly realistic painted style, that celebrates the glamour and splendor of nature and its inhabitants. I don't try to be a photographer, a sculptor, and an abstract artist as well, since those avenues don't play to my strengths. Since deciding on an aesthetic that plays to my strengths, and strengthening other aspects of my brand, opportunities for exhibition and sales have sought me out, instead of the other way around.
Every business can think of their brand in the same way. Branding is about presenting a consistent personality of your company to the world. Consistency in your colors and logo create a recognizability that your customers will come to know and trust. Decide on a feel for your business—is it organic and grass roots? Sleek and professional? Think about your product, your customer base, and your own feelings for the kind of business culture that you want to create. Where do you stand in the marketplace? Create a statement for your business—what you stand for, what you say, and how you want your product to make your customers feel. What kind of service do you give your customers? What values are you all about? As you are hyper focused on a specific brand culture, people who resonate with your vision will be drawn to you, and you will get the customers and alliances that only compound your brand's social proof.
Artists can teach us much about the power of branding as we draw correlations between an artist's work and personality, to the work and personality you put forth in the world as a business owner.
Whether as an artist or corporate company, consistent branding is paramount in creating successful momentum in the world. Look inward first to define your brand's colors, feel and style, client service, consistency, and strengths, stay focused, and watch as the path appears at your feet.