Maintaining consistency within a brand builds trust in customers. The predictability it creates lends itself an air of reliability. For example, when you think of Coca-Cola, one color comes to mind—I don’t even have to say it, they’ve been around for ages and have always had this association. You know what a Coke is going to taste like, so if you’re in the mood for that, you’ll have one and it will always taste that way.
What restaurants and bars need to focus on, especially when maintaining multiple locations at once, is providing their guest experience consistently throughout each of their establishments. By doing this, customers can feel attached to a brand, become loyal to that particular business, and potentially even champion it to others.
Brand consistency is the entry ticket to compete in the highly competitive industry of hospitality. But what is the core concept, and what benefits can you expect from keeping everything on-brand?
What is brand consistency?
No matter where you are in the world, Starbucks coffee will taste the same, display their iconic green logo, be served in their branded white cup, and have your name written on the order. With well over 20,000 locations worldwide, that’s not an easy task—but it’s clearly worked very well for them.
The digital marketing experts at MerlinOne define brand consistency as “the practice of always delivering messages aligned with the core brand values in the same tone, presenting the brand logo in a similar way, and repeating the same colors throughout your visual brand elements.”
In the hospitality industry, we understand that those values and visuals exist largely in the physical world for guests. From the moment they walk in to the moment they’re out the door, you want them to experience your vision—your brand.
You wouldn’t have one location in New York set up as a pure sports bar, another in Missouri as a punk-rock café, and one in Chicago that’s a fine dining spot and then call them all “Joe’s Banana Stand.” That’s obviously an exaggerated example of a mistake, but inconsistency in any aspect of your brand’s venues can feel almost this confusing.
So, why focus on brand consistency?
Good branding becomes implanted in your customers’ minds. Through this, they become loyal guests and potentially even advocates for your business. In today’s world where the consumer has more power than ever, brand advocates and word-of-mouth (which, ironically, is largely communicated online) are invaluable.
When considering brand loyalty, consumers ranked “consistency” as the most important aspect, according to a study done by Brandworkz and Software Advice:
Brandworkz extrapolates that consumers place such high importance on consistency because they “are looking to recreate what they like about a product every time they make a purchase.”
In a restaurant or bar, your product isn’t just the food and drink sold, it’s the entire guest experience. So, when people enjoy themselves at one of your locations, it’s important to deliver that same level of excellence across all of them.
After all, if a brand advocate is on social media recommending your business, their friends and followers may not even be in the same city or state as them—and if these newcomers don’t get a similar experience to the one your advocate had, they’ll be left wondering what went wrong.
Christina Sanders, a marketing expert with CustomerThink, found three factors of brand consistency that drive consumer loyalty:
1. A Consistent Customer Experience: a business must set standards for what products and experiences they deliver to their customers.
Sanders writes, “Being willing to say ‘no’ is the only way to stay consistent in the quality of the product you deliver and in the way you deliver it.”
This doesn't always mean investing in the most expensive fabric cloths and hottest arcade games. But you'll probably want to draw the line at one-ply toilet paper and replacing the napkins with paper towels. Everything from the decor and employee uniforms to the music and what's playing on your TV screens needs to meet your target demographics' expectations, if not exceed them.
2. Consistent Values: this relates to how the public sees the way you run your business. If you don’t back up your words with actions, people either lose faith in your company or simply won’t be interested to begin with.
For example, if your restaurant champions itself on being the hippest spot for millennials to enjoy craft beers and quality apps but your location’s atmosphere is dull and boring, they will roll their eyes at your whole brand.
3. Consistent Brand Identity Elements: these are the visual elements that help consumers identify your brand and make you stand out from the competition.
Sanders defines brand identity as including “all of the visual components of a brand that represents the overall values and experience of a brand.”
Everything from developing a simple, recognizable logo to deciding what typography, colors, and icons will be associated with your brand contributes to the trust and comfort of your guests (just think of how weird it would be to suddenly see a McDonald's logo printed in blue and green!).
Keeping these elements consistent directly translates to comfort for both your clientele and your staff, making it easy for them to talk about and advocate for your brand.
This doesn’t mean that everything about your company must be set in stone forever. Change can—and should—still happen! Over time, menu items change, logos change, décor changes, etc. Just keep the consistency of that change throughout the many facets of your business, and hold on to the values and vision that made your business what it is.
Brand guidelines and materials
An eye-opening survey was conducted by Lucidpress and Demand Metric of over 200 organizations regarding brand consistency. Surprisingly, 95% of these organizations have branding guidelines, but only ¼ of them have formal policies that are consistently enforced. And over 60% of these organizations say that materials are always, often, or sometimes created that don’t conform to their guidelines.
This has far-reaching implications for hospitality-based organizations with multiple locations, especially regarding guest experience. If even one of your locations is out-of-tune with the rest for one reason or another, your brand is inconsistent.
As Zach Williams, marketing expert for Venveo, put it, “The key to creating a consistent brand experience across every medium is to be as intentional as possible in all touch-points with your audience. Everything should point them towards one emotional feeling and goal.”
As a company whose core focus is helping our subscribers exceed guest expectations by delivering innovative and engaging audio/video experiences, we play a significant role in influencing the atmosphere of restaurants and bars. At Control Play, we've had the privilege of seeing how our service is used across multiple locations in different ways to maintain brand consistency.
The first example comes from S&B Burgers, who have 11 locations across Oklahoma and Illinois. Their restaurants have an atmosphere that's part record shop, part stage concert, and part classic diner—it's a great look! Obviously, music is very important to their brand and guest experience, so they ensure that the same DJ-quality music video playlists are featured in all locations through Control Play's playlist team. The songs playing in each location vary, but the genres and selections remain the same in order to maintain that vibe.
Compare that with how RollHouse Entertainment designs their ideal guest experience. They have venues all around Ohio and cater to a large and varied demographic. They like to pay close attention to who their audience is in each location in order for their music to positively impact those guests' experiences. Control Play's service allows them to choose the right genres and videos for each venue, while still delivering on their promise of "giving you the very best time."
However your brand decides to maintain consistency in the guest experience at different locations, Control Play makes it easy, accessible, and rewarding. Our service is a big step up from other simple streaming apps, and we'd love to show you why.