Consistency: More than Meets the Eye

An image depicting a stop sign

By Sarah Alsager, President

When you see a red octagonal sign, your brain tells you it’s time to stop and your brake foot follows suit.

The sound of church bells ringing notifies you that a new hour has begun, and you may start listening to see how many times it clangs to check the time.

A PG-13 rating on that new movie coming out alerts you of the nature of the content in the movie (and tells me I’m likely not going to be bringing my 7-year-old son along).

Seeing the simple, yet unique three-word phrase “Eat Mor Chikin” may have you dashing out the door to grab some Chick-fil-A.

How? Consistency.

Consistency guides us in ways we do not even consciously recognize. Visual cues, sounds, and words prompt our brains to react in a certain way. Some universal truths are more obvious than others – like stopping at a stop sign. Yet, less obvious associations – “They’re grrreat!” and Frosted Flakes – can be a powerful tool when brands use the “consistent” approach to communications.

Establishing a voice, tone, and style not only strengthens your brand but also makes it more identifiable and familiar – which can help build trust. Certain grammatical choices should be consistent. Your words should be consistent. The type of content you share should be consistent.

We manage a website, blog, and social channels for one of our clients, the Soy Nutrition Institute. Even though the tone is slightly different from platform to platform, the style and subject matter are in sync. The Soy Nutrition Institute is all about science and research. Its mission is to identify and determine soy and health research priorities, provide evidence-based information through outreach, and facilitate and fund targeted research projects. Therefore, in all of our content, science is the foundation. Sure, we’ll have social posts that take a more casual tone, but the basis of the content is science. Check out this Soy Nutrition Institute post:

While sustainability is a buzz word often used in today’s vernacular, this post focuses not only on the sustainability of soy, but also on a study that was done to examine the sustainability of various protein sources, including soy. For SNI, it’s crucial to include the scientific backing for any claim being made. The target audience for SNI is health professionals and researchers, so it’s important to stand on firm scientific ground.

On the other hand, an organization called the Bean Institute which provides nutrition, health, and culinary information and resources related to dry beans leads with food in its content. The content we develop for the Bean Institute includes Instagram-worthy food photography, delicious recipes for every occasion, and practical tips for including beans in your meal plans. Take a look at a post from the Bean Institute:

Even though beans have a strong nutritional profile and scientific data confirming its health benefits, the Bean Institute lets the food lead the conversation. We use this strategy because the brand communicates with consumers whose purchasing decisions are driven greatly by taste and price. Messages and images (like the one above) compel the viewer to try a new recipe or add beans to their shopping list.

So, what’s the best way to come up with this approach for your brand? Here’s what we suggest:

  • Examine your current mission, purpose, and current communications content.
  • Determine the core purpose of your organization (in our examples it was science and food).
  • Use this to develop a style guide that outlines grammatical choices (e.g., first person vs. third person, stance on the Oxford comma), tone (e.g., formal vs. casual), and voice (give your brand a persona that resonates with your target audience).
  • Refer to this style guide regularly and share it with others who develop communications for your organization so they can follow it.
  • Review and adjust as needed. Even though it’s good to be consistent, you may want to make modifications to your style now and then to keep it from becoming stale. The core focus, though, will rarely change.

There is great value in communicating with consistency and guiding the way your brand is presented to the world.