Last week we discussed the fact that your brand is much more than just your logo, it is what people feel about you on an emotional level when they think about your business. When you think of Coca Cola, the fact that it is a “fizzy brown drink full of sugar and god knows what else” doesn’t enter your mind. Instead you think “cool, refreshing, happy and fun”. When Foxtel comes to mind you don’t think “expensive box that sits under my tv and provides me with more inane programs than I could ever have time to watch”. What you’re actually thinking is “a fantastic range of programming options that caters for every person in our family.” These two companies achieve the above by ensuring that every single time you come in contact with them, whether it is through advertising or at point-of-sale, there is consistency in the way they present their message. Take a moment to consider what message you are trying to give and what emotions you want people to feel about your business. If as a small business you think you have limited ability to influence people’s thoughts about you, think again. I can think of no better examples of consistent branding than from two stylists I keep tabs on. One is Nikki Parkinson who is Queensland based. I only ‘know’ her in the online world but I continue to be impressed by her unerring consistency. She is very active on facebook and twitter – two places where it is easy to drop your guard and utter something unprofessional or off-colour (Stephanie Rice anyone?) but I have never seen Nikki go off brand. The easy, relaxed and inclusive tone she uses on her website and in her blog is carried through on social media and in email communications. Also, being a stylist, unless it is for illustrative purposes on her blog, you will never see Nikki presented in any way but “immaculate”. A few months ago, there was a call-out on facebook and twitter to share a picture from when you had just given birth. Lots of photos were received and published including many that could have been considered ‘unflattering’. As we all know, giving birth is messy and you check your dignity at the door! In the photo Nikki submitted she looked gorgeous and I am sure some people rolled their eyes and thought “come on Nikki, just for once show us a picture of yourself looking crappy” but no, she stayed firmly on brand. The other stylist is someone I know in real life. I have used the services of Jennifer Gillson (Styling by Jennifer) and again, have been impressed with the consistency of her branding throughout. All the tools of her trade are stylish and upmarket – from her business card to the file she gives you containing consultation notes to the box that cosmetics are presented in. And of course she is always stylishly presented herself. Whether she is giving a presentation to a group of eight giggly women, meeting me in my home for a personal consultation or dropping something off to me after doing a school pickup, Jen always looks relaxed, confident and professional. Her manner is gently assertive yet totally non-threatening and this tone is carried through consistently on her website, her emails and any verbal communication. The point I am trying to make about these two ladies is that they don’t switch off. Their line of work dictates that regardless of whether they are in a social or work situation, they must stay on brand as any deviation in behaviour or presentation can and will hurt their brand. This is true for all small business owners. Everyone you meet could be a potential client or customer or referee and for this reason, you need to stay true to your branding in all situations. All written and verbal communication needs to be consistent. The way you present yourself needs to be consistent. Your website, your packaging, the way you dress for work, your behaviour in AND out of the office all need to be consistent. Inconsistency is very jarring for people. Your closest friends who might know that you are a brilliant psychologist will think twice about recommending your services to others if you’re also an obnoxious, abusive football fan who screams obscenities at umpires and player. As a small business you rely heavily on word-of-mouth recommendations from friends, family and existing clients. While it may seem like an exhausting proposition to stay ‘on-brand’ all the time, it easier than you think to be consistent, and the rewards are plentiful!