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Does the C-Word get your vote? 

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Does the C-Word get your vote? 

Would you let a trio of 100 year old women represent your brand for a week?

Channel 4 did. Millie, Beattie and Margaret took over their usual idents to mark one hundred years since women were granted the vote in the UK during a week of programmes celebrating the landmark.

But is this deliberate dodge of brand consistency a good thing or should we be aiming for continuity and familiarity with the video content we produce..?

A commitment to brand consistency or freedom to play – which gets your vote

Video (and animation) is playing a central role in our comms and there’s something for everyone. From capturing snappy scenes and editing them on our phones to hiring freelance cameramen, recruiting a full-on film crew or even creating a lively animation to tell our story – we’re all over it.

  • But what’s the strategy for representing your brand on screen?
  • Should you be toeing the consistency line?
  • Or is it okay to mix things up?
  • Do your brand guidelines even cover this?

In favour of inconsistency

Channel 4 (and it’s platform) is a fine example of how a brand continually represents itself differently, playing around with its appearance to highlight significant moments and messages. This is a part of what makes Channel4 ‘innovative and distinctive’ which is one part of its statutory public service remit.

Idents (or stings as they are sometimes called) are the short sequences shown on TV or streaming services between programmes identifying the channel and introducing the next programme. You can find some examples below. In October last year, ‘The Channel 4 Giant’ took to our screens ‘personifying the broadcaster’s unique values’ to ‘champion diversity and provoke change.’ And just last week, the charming trio of women became the face of the brand, sharing their experiences of life as women over the past 100 years.

Idents are a creative playground. Channels have played with them for years but why do they get away with being consistently inconsistent?

A few thoughts…

  • It’s about exposure, we see them so often that they need to keep things fresh
  • It’s an important part of their branding and differentiates them from one another
  • It supports campaigns or themes for the ‘season’. Think about how many times we see the golden disco ball while the Strictlyseries is running. It pops up to surprise us in between completely unrelated programmes.

Applying these thoughts to your organisation

  • Are your followers, customers, patients, residents or employees regularly exposed to your brand?
  • Do you have campaigns and themes that you want to weave into other comms?
  • Do you want to make sure your brand is always present but doesn’t get stale?

If you answered yes to some of these then apologies for adding another job to your ever-expanding list! But get this stuff in place and it’ll soon add up to a suite of videos that feel considered and coherent and will help make the brand feel more alive.

Three things to think about…

Break the script

In the book The Power of Moments, by Chip and Dan Heath, they describe how “breaking the script” and defying expectations is a useful way to create memorable moments that lead to lasting bonds. Consider how you can take inspiration from TV broadcasters by disrupting the norm to create a lasting memory in your creative video and animated content. Toy with your usual branded intros or endings to promote emotive themes, new initiatives or current campaigns.

Share the limelight

According to Marty Neumeier, author of The Brand Gap, “You have to cultivate your brand and keep it alive.” One way to ensure that you have a living brand is to see it as a collaborative performance, one that requires input and cooperation from employees to customers and everyone in between. You may not have three centenarian ladies to call on but consider who could make a ‘guest appearance’ as the face of your brand.

Make a statement

While you’ll have planned for regular events and activities, don’t forget the special or big occasions when you need to make a statement. Think Winter Olympics or World Cup and take inspiration from The BBC who always puts on a good show. Perhaps we can’t all go to this extreme but hopefully you take the point that these are excellent opportunities to embellish your approach to your ever-growing bank of fabulous video content.

Taking a more consistent approach

“Although it’s important to be adaptable, you should also take steps to protect your brand’s core,” says Neumeier. It’s okay if your brand has inconsistent elements, as long as it holds true to its defining characteristics. So as we deliver on the increasing demand for video in our organisations are we ensuring that, where possible, some sort of consistency is being applied?

Apologies here for using the C word. Consistency can sound incredibly dull and it’s easy to feel that your creative freedom will be restricted by it. But there are clear benefits to taking a consistent approach to certain aspects of your video production like intros, titles and titling, captions, segues and sign offs.

Consistent elements:

  • Support brand recognition
  • Add polish and panache to your low budget film
  • Can be quick to apply once created
  • Create a consistent approach across all videos
  • Can be used to reinforce other messages that may be core to your organisation
  • Using a consistent ‘sonic’ (or jingle) adds an additional sensory aspect to your brand

Three things to think about…

Make it a priority for all employees to maintain the brand

According to Neumeier, “One way to instill a sense of brand identity is to organise brand-related workshops and seminars. This will ensure that everything employees do is guided by one question: Is this good or bad for the brand?”

Create consistency with a checklist

‘Surprisingly it’s the obvious steps – stuff that everyone should know – that is often the most crucial and yet forgotten or skipped, particularly when multiple people are involved,’ says Atul Gawande, author of The Checklist Manifesto. A checklist can be an incredibly effective tool for comms pros, so for consistency’s sake, create a comms checklist for your video production – one that’s as short as possible, includes all essential steps and leaves no room for misunderstanding. Your brand values should form a central part of that list.

Develop a consistent voice bank

We know that the written tone of voice is important to the organisation. But what about when that voice comes to life? How does your organisation actually sound? By developing a good relationship with 2 or 3 good voice artists you’ll be able to maintain consistency with the way your videos sounds as well as how they look.

Final thoughts…

Following a number of recent brand workshops, we’ve identified an interesting gap that’s developed when managing a brand and its video content. In many cases there’s no guidance for video content. When developing a brand and it’s supporting guidelines there are two simple things to consider – constants and variables. Identify the aspects that you can be creative with (the variables) and focus on where you want to freshen things up. Maintain consistency with the other aspects (the constants).

Whether you’re staying true to your brand or delivering a surprise for your viewers, it’s clear that there’s a place for both. By knowing your audiences, having a thorough understanding of your brand and branding and blending the tried-and-tested with the unexpected you’ll be able to present perfectly pitched video content that creates inspiration and motivation and develops a lasting relationship between you and your audience.

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Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

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Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

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Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

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Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

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Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

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Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

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Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

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Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

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Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

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