If the details of your brand aren’t consistent, online and offline, in marketing materials and in human interactions, then you may as well just be lighting big piles of money on fire.

I’m not talking about experiments; experimentation can be a powerful business tool when properly used.

I’m talking about just plain randomness. I’m talking about things left to chance.

I’m talking about text being different sizes on different pages of your site. I’m talking about titles being centered in some places and left-aligned in others. I’m talking about your “brand colors” being red on fliers, pink on the website, and burnt-sienna on promotional pens. I’m talking about a domain name that’s completely different from your company name.

In the moment that these crimes are committed, they may feel inconsequential. But they add up to an image of being amateur, sloppy and unfocused.

Many of these issues are caused by uncertainty. If you and your employees don’t have a clear, rock-solid concept of how something is supposed to look, people are going to guess. And the same person may make a number of different guesses in a number of different places.

This is a problem because it can take six or more repetitions for an advertising message or a brand connection to start to sink in, even if it is extremely well designed. If the message is unfocused or different every time, you ┬áseverely impair the process of building up association and recognition in your market, raising the number of necessary exposures — and the amount of money required to facilitate those exposures — all the way up to infinity.

So get a style guide. Make some decisions about what your colors, fonts, logo variants and key phrases are, and write down how and where they should be used. Make sure every employee gets a copy of this cheat sheet, and you all stick to it until you find something that is proven to work better. Then by all means, update your stylesheet. Just make sure you update it for everyone.

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