The key to brand longevity is a brand with integrity. Building brand integrity is a form of bulletproofing your brand - think of it as brand insurance. Brand Integrity can formally be defined as the overall consistency, stability and resiliency of your brand personality and promise.
If you don't know the current integrity of your brand, consider how well your brand would survive a company crisis? Lets say a false smear campaign was launched against your brand. Would the damage be recoverable ? Would customers believe what they heard, or would they know your brand well enough to know better? Brand Integrity is the proof the everything you've said about your company is true. It's all about keeping promises, living up to your words and being honest to your customers through and through.
Brand integrity is heavily tied in with brand image and identity. Visual Identity is one of the main contributors to brand integrity. Because visual recognition is one of the easiest ways to condition customer recall, building a consistent and recognizable brand is crucial. Familiarity breeds trust - from marketing materials and photography to online feeds, a customer's trust is built when they feel like they know and understand your brand.
One of the primary things a customer will notice about you is your brand voice. Maintaining a distinct voice and personality makes it easy for customers to start a conversation with you. Much like interacting with an online friend, knowing how a brand speaks makes your brand predictable and easy to interact with. Verbal tone is one of the key steps in building brand loyalty as it helps in attracting like minded customers. Support media like ads, commercials, social media and podcasts should fall in line with a consistent voice under the brand.
Verbal Identity is especially important for brands with an online presence. Being approachable and sociable with your customers encourages them to interact and engage with your brand. Responding to customer comments, questions and complaints can be a great way to strengthen your relationship with customers who aren't yet dedicated, or are debating leaving your brand. You shouldn't always wait for your customers to speak first - invite them to comment, participate in polls and giveaways or share their own funny experiences. Part of building a strong brand is building an interactive community around it. This opens your customers up, humanizes your relations with customers and provides you with valuable insight on the likes and needs of your customers.
Being upfront about what goes on in your business (especially in times of crisis) gains even more credibility. Have you ever heard the phrase "the best friends are built through hardship"? Letting your customers know what's going on and being the first to break them bad news shows sincerity, and care for your customers. Being honest with your customers early on will build the primary trust needed to make it through a brand crisis.
At the same time, it's important to have a strong moral compass in your operations so that you really don't have anything to hide from your customers. Transparency is especially possible for brands who operate honestly in the first place. Think about it - if your running a business with honest ethical practices, you shouldn't be afraid to speak up about it! You don't have to use this as a selling point, but think of your morals as a way to position your brand as a caring and socially responsible.
In this case, we mean overall consistency of your brand beyond a recognizable verbal and visual identity. From employee service, to online platforms, to product quality, one of the best ways to build brand integrity is to ensure that your offering your highest form of service across every border, location and platform. For example, if you're a multinational company, your customer should be able to visit your brand in any location and still be provided with service that matches their home location. We can not stress enough that consistency builds trust! Define what your highest form of quality is in terms of speed, flexibility and compromise, and then communicate this promise to your customers or business partners. This is called a Customer Service Level Agreement or CSLA, which outlines the extent of the dedication and quality you promise to your customers.
It takes time to build brand integrity, but the long-term returns are worth the strict and constant effort required. The fruits of maintaining brand integrity includes loyal customers, a solid brand reputation and a distinctive personality. Brand integrity is about staying true to your brand identity and promise, and knowing what is and isn't in line with your brand. In every business move, it's important to reinforce who your brand says they are - the key is to find the balance between consistency, relevance and versatility.