Brand Discovery 2021: Ron Baker on Brand Continuity

Date Posted: May 13, 2021

Ron Baker shares his expertise on the business case for brand continuity, why and how to do it. He's deeply knowledgeable and passionate about branding, and he gave us some great insights wrapped up in a very entertaining package.

And he didn't even say any swear words, which is a pretty big deal.


I'm Ron Baker, I'm the founder and president of Rizen Creative. We've been in the Treasure Valley for almost 19 years. We are a digital branding company for underdogs. I won't go into a lot of great detail on the background of this, my aim is to be as considerate of your 15 minute period as possible. I'll be happy to answer plenty of questions at the end. So I will do my best to get through this.

Brand continuity is my topic. You'll find no topic better in my wheelhouse. If you want to have a 10 hour conversation with me, there are people on this call that have been privy to my, to my exhaustive behavior when it comes to talking about this. But I will say this, that it's in my personal opinion, being in the branding space, as long as I have, it's probably the singular single most important thing when it comes to ensuring that your value of your brand not only sustains but grows. So, like I said, I'm going to do this in as much as 15 minutes as possible.

What is Brand Continuity?

So first and foremost, brand continuity is the idea that all communication channels between your brand, that being you, you the individuals that are either owners or managers of your businesses. The brand is you. And your customers should look and feel like they are coming from the same place. This is all very very basic concepts, but I want to make sure that I get that out there in the open first. So that way, when you hear me preach a little bit, you'll know why.

So continuity, not consistency, is the hallmark of great brands. Thank you Forbes magazine for making this point. And I think that branders and marketers have a tendency to over pontificate about how important branding is.

But the fact of the matter is we are living in a day and age now more than ever, where access to your brand is everywhere. You live in social media, you live online, you live in a variety of places. So anyone can research you at any given moment. You have to be on target. You have to have that continuity, it's not about consistency.

I'll try to clarify that point as we go through. And to that point, everyone on this call probably knows this, so forgive me if it sounds like a third grade lesson, but it's a critical lesson. And that simply is that you control your narrative. Meaning that you have to be sure to be telling the same brand story.

Brand story is at the height of all things branding.

If your narrative is consistent in terms of how people talk about you, as well as how your employees talk, how you convey your message inside of your own narratives; through your marketing materials, your website, so on and so forth. If there is continuity and all that, congratulations, you are a great brand.

However, I will tell you that more often than not. And I'm sure if I asked for a raise of hands, I'm not going to make you guys call yourselves out, that you could all probably attest to the fact that you could do a better job. We all could, me included. This gentleman, Marty Neumeier, is one of my, I wouldn't say heroes, but he certainly is a mentor from afar.

I had a chance to meet Marty some years ago at a conference. He has a book called The Brand Gap. And I put this in my slide and I know that SOLV will be sharing these decks. I highly recommend anyone that has even a remote interest in branding. Obviously you do, otherwise, you wouldn't be here today, should get this book. It's a really easy read, but I think what it does is it really simplifies in certain ways the importance of branding and I keep this thing almost next to my bed. So it's kind of embarrassing to say that that would be a nighttime read. But this quote really hits home for me. And that is "A brand is a person's gut feeling about a product, service or organization."

So what's vacant from this quote, that's so critical is you. We're talking about the customer, we're talking about the person on the other end. And so, as we speak to consistency, your job is to be consistent in how you roll out your brand, how you communicate your brand. But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter all that you do, if your customer doesn't get it. So if they don't have a great gut feeling about you, there's a chance that there's a misfire.

Who owns your brand?

So I put this up here, because I think it's a very critical point. You are not the owner of your brand, your customer is. So what makes a brand memorable? I put the five sentences up here just for the sake of just making that point. It isn't just about one thing in branding, it's about everything.

Whether you see it, whether you smell it, whether you touch it, whether you hear it, whether you taste it, it sounds crazy. But even like in Moya's business, how do I trust an Idaho wine? Well, taste an Idaho wine. Don't just assume that it's not going to taste good, but it validates what she sends out as far as a mission and saying, Idaho wines are a great thing. Oh, I'll be the judge of that. You taste it. You're like, this is pretty good stuff. Nobody can complain about a Telaya wine, they make fantastic wine right?

To me sense is critical when it comes to branding. It isn't just about what your business card looks like. So it's critical to make this point from a consistency perspective. If you think about senses when it comes to your branding you're halfway there.

So where do we start? My preach is on consistent or not consistency, but continuity. I say, it's continuity, not consistency. And this is why, where do we start? Is it with the logo? I put a question mark on that, because I think everyone in this room, and I don't know who all is on this call, but I will tell you from a marketing perspective, it's so easy to say "if we have a great logo, then we've got a great brand" and it's not quite right. And it doesn't matter whether it's at the beginning, or it's at the end, branding isn't logo.

Let's just be very clear on that point, branding is what you see here on screen. This is just a menagerie of nonsense. It's not nonsense, it's all great stuff. But the point is that everything, I won't go into listing everything here, in terms of telling you what's on screen, you can see it for yourself. While the logo is at the center of that.

Certainly that's a pivot point, that's something that people identify with. It's something that they acknowledge. All of these things on here are your responsibilities when it comes to brand. So even right down to your web domain, what is your web domain say about you?

When we rebranded SOLV for instance, one of the things we talked really closely about was the importance of making them conversational. We live in a day and age where what you see on screen is all great and good, but it's quite cold and it's quite digital. And if you can humanize things, it makes you more approachable. And in their case, as a business, they are service oriented business. So it's critical for them to be able to be approachable. And so we called them simply The SOLV And the premise behind that was is that identifying them as a group, number one makes them seem like they're more than just one individual.

It takes the owners out of the equation and really looks at the scope of the company. What they do is extraordinary. Obviously for any of you that have ever participated in having them help you with their brand rollouts, as far as various applications and whatnot, they're second to none in the Valley. And also they do a very very good job of presenting themselves. They apply their brand appropriately. So when you look at a lot of these things on screen, you'll probably note that you're not going miss too many steps when it comes to SOLV in that respect.

Be Mindful of ALL Your Brand Touchpoints

I put a lot of different things in here, certainly social media, but I also think about things like, how do your people answer the phone?

When you do this very simple test, I encourage you by this. But if you have a business and you go by a certain name. Erin is on this call and I love Erin for this; I'm glad that she's here because she's my moral support in this way. Because she's been through this with me as well. We went through, a couple of years back, it's probably been a little longer than that, but when we did, we rebranded The Chamber - Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce. I asked a simple question, "what do you say when you answer the phone?" "well, we say Boise chamber". But your name is Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce. Yes, it's a mouthful. A mouthful even for me, the fact of the matter is people pay attention.

If you're going to say it, then be it. Don't tell mixed messages. So be very very thoughtful about how you hear your employees speak when they answer the phone, how you speak when you talk to others. Whether it be in an elevator pitch or what have you, be mindful of that. Because while it seems like an insignificant detail, it's the littlest of details that can have the most significant impact.

I'll add one more thing to this conversation. And that is email signature. Again, think of your brand. Your brand is a house full of different things. It's not your logo. If you have a company with a number of employees and you're sending out email, by a bunch of different individuals and you have three or four different email signatures that are going out, you are running the risk of that first impression falling flat. When somebody gets emails from multiple people inside your organization and they see a misrepresentation of your logo, or someone's using God-forbid Comic Sans or something like that. The fact of the matter is it's a degration of your brand.

You have to be acutely aware of all those little touch points, because it's so easy for us to be complacent. And if you spend the time to really focus on those little innate details, when the clients, sees that you're building trust with them, there's an inherent trust because of the continuity and all the things that you do. It's like, wow, these guys have their act together. They really seem to have a good, clear understanding of what their brand is. All right, again, all those things aside, I'm putting one example in here, just for the sake of this group of something that we had done. Mainly just so that you guys can kind of understand I'm sitting here preaching about all this, but putting it into practice.

I will tell you that my time and working with Moya and working with Tressa, even working with Erin in the Boise Chamber, my goal isn't to design an identity. My goal is to give you a platform with a lot of great suggestions of ways to apply your brand. So that way you hit the ground running with a lot of good tools that are going to make you seem trustworthy, together, competent, consistent. It's consistent in terms of it's use, but that there's continuity.

The biggest difference between consistency and continuity, consistency I would say would be like, it's the same identity all the way through. Continuity is how do you reapply what you have in brand. Whether it be through speak, whether it be through touch, whether it be through what you see, and do it in a thoughtful way that makes a consumer go, "Wow! This is a very, very thoughtful approach. And I don't feel like I'm getting cookie cutter here. I feel like I'm actually a part of something that really makes sense.".

So I say this continuity in cannabis, we did a branding effort about two years ago, for a group out of Denver Colorado. The fascinating process and working in that industry just by virtue of all of the things that go on from a federal level, as well as the state level. That said, and even in a legal level, when it comes to what you can and cannot do when it comes to branding.

But I just wanted to share this screen with you to make the point about continuity. So this is just a smattering of elements, you know, and there's so much more, but I didn't want to overindulge you with that. Because the topic is about a broader discussion around continuity.

But in this case, this is a brand that was called Schwazze. Schwazze is actually a function of detailing a marijuana plant. And it's an actual action in which you trim away certain leaves so that it gives more light into the plant. It's really quite fascinating. Showing you this, I just wanted to at least make the point what your brand touches again so many different things. In this case with Schwazze everything from packaging, to potentially outdoor applications and messaging, to social icons, this is what we have to always remember when it comes to the continuity of our branding.

Sometimes it's like our logo doesn't fit inside of that little circle. Let's say inside my social media application. That's a problem. That's why you work with good branding firms to make sure that there's a solution. So that, that way you look like you have your act together. Your sole focus is ensuring that your client or your customer feels like they can trust you. And when you have your act together. It makes it a whole lot easier for them to do that.

Anyway, I just show you these, everything from like a mobile device, to various, scenarios when it comes to your color usage, your typography, all these things play a critical role in ensuring that you follow some level of guideline. And that guideline ensures that there aren't things that are missed. This is something that is shared then with anyone that has any level of application with the brand, as well as outside vendors. It's mission critical. If this company was working, let's say with The SOLV Group, they would be able to provide these contents directly to SOLV. And SOLV doesn't have to assume anything. Everything is outlined here. Every company at some level or another should have this approach because it ensures that the investment that you make in your brand is not compromised, plain and simple.

So we know it's noisy out there. There's a lot of stuff going on. And so again, I say continuity and it's like, holy cow Ron, that slide that you showed me with all those things, I do a fraction of that. Bottom line is that you just have to figure out how to manage the volume. We know that it's noisy out there, but the point of when I say managing your volume is do what you're really good at when it comes to your brand. When it comes to application, when it comes to how you answer the phones or whatever, you don't have to do everything, pick half a dozen things, pick two things. I don't care. The point simply is whatever it is that you're doing on behalf of your brand, do it with intention and do it consistently with continuity. If you can do that, you are going to elevate the value of your brand hands down.

Brand Continuity Challenge

So I asked Tressa and Karri this question before all of you jumped on this call, I said I would be remiss if I just sat here and I preached to you, this is ridiculous. It's like, if you came to this call, you came to this call with an intention to learn something.

So I want to take it one step further. If you'll indulge me, you don't have to participate in this. This is certainly voluntary, but I've got this thing that I'm calling brand continuity / accountability challenge. And here's what I'm asking in the next 30 days, with the permission of SOLV, of course - I challenge each and every person on this call to pick one thing. Make one commitment to continuity in your brand.

And what that means is, maybe it is your email signature. Maybe it is an evaluation of how you call yourself what you call yourself when you answer the phone or what your logo looks like in comparison to how you identify. But I'm simply asking this group that if this seminar is important to you and brand continuity is important to you, I would highly encourage this. Moya had mentioned Tressa and myself; Moya, we've been involved with Vistage. And I'll tell you that one of the behaviors that we do in that is that we make commitments to one another. We make a proclamation that says, this is what we're going to do. But the beauty of those things is, is that you have somebody to hold you accountable.

So I'm here today to say, here's my email address on this screen. You'll get this deck and all that fun stuff, but I would just challenge this crew. That's on this call, think about this. And in the next couple of days, email me what your commitment is. And in 30 days time, I'm going to call you, or I'm going to email you, and I'm going to say; Erin, this was your commitment. Did you stick to your commitment? And, it's not because I'm a bully it's because when someone holds you accountable, there's a very good chance that it's going to get done. And I'm doing this because I don't want to over pontificate about the coolness of branding and all that. I just want people to be better at it. And so this is your chance to do that for yourself. So I'll leave you with just a couple of last thoughts.

And again, we have the silly little sign in our office that says, do what you love. Hey, look, we love what we do. I mean, hopefully that resonates on the way that I'm kind of giving this information to you. But we do, so again, my name is Ron Baker. My email address is Write it down. We'll pick it up from this deck either way. I am happy to support you. I'll leave you with one more Marty Newmar quote, because I can't help myself. And that one is this, brand is not what you say is it's what they say it is. So it's another emphasis as we kind of circle around toward the end of this, portion of the presentation. I just want to make you guys clear on something, the energy and the effort that you put into the consistency and the continuity of your program will ensure that the people on the other side of the phone, on the other side of the door, the people that walk into your business, the people that patronize you in one way or another, they're the ones that matter.

Don't get me wrong. I love everyone in this room. I don't know you guys, but I love branding and I love companies. And I think that the only way that you survive and you succeed is by being conscientious of who it is that you're serving. With that, thank you to SOLV. Thank you, Karri. Thank you, Tracy. Thank you, Tressa. And obviously the other speakers as well. I really do appreciate your time and I hope you guys found this informational and helpful. And with that, I'll turn it back over.

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