Brand consistency in today’s dynamic context

Posted by Opinion desk on 29 May, 2012 / Features

by Lilian Plomp, strategist at Yellowwood

The concept of brand consistency is nothing new and has become a buzz word among marketers and brand specialists.  However, the interpretation of ‘brand consistency’ seems to differ considerably from one individual to another.

It is precisely this discrepancy that may explain why some brands succeed and others fail to truly create sustainable brand value.  In today’s hyper connected socially-driven and omni-channel environment, it is essential that marketers realise that they are custodians of the entire brand experience, not just the corporate identity.

So what are the core components of a brand experience?

For most marketers, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about brand consistency is a brand’s visual identity, including its logo and the style used in communication.

For years, many marketing professionals have acted like ‘brand police’, immediately pointing out when a communication element was not considered in line with the set colours in the style guide.

Although a consistent visual identity may certainly help anchor brand associations in consumers’ minds, increasingly more marketers are realising that it takes more to build a compelling and memorable brand that people trust.

Conceptual Consistency

These marketeers are recognising the need to create conceptual consistency throughout the entire brand experience. This entails translating the brand essence to all elements of the organisation: from visual identity to products and services, channels, pricing strategy, employee behaviour, communication strategy, purchasing strategy and CSI initiatives. Essentially, creating true brand resonance across all customer interaction points.

An example of a brand that gets this right is Ikea. Its product assortment, catalogue, store lay-out, supply chain approach and communication efforts (including its latest sleepover co-creation campaign) all breathe the fundamentals: ‘wide range, affordability, style and ease of use’.  The customer journey feels like a coherent logical brand pattern, that connects Ikea’s essence and visual identity to its behaviours.

However, conceptual consistency doesn’t mean that a brand becomes static, it just implies that there should be a logical pattern between all the individual elements that make up the total brand experience. 

It still leaves marketers sufficient room and flexibility to respond to market dynamics through a reconfiguration of the individual brand elements (e.g. new product packages), or by adding new elements (e.g. new services). But the common thread should be clearly reflected in all these elements, retaining the meaning and essence of the brand in its new context.

Let’s look at Ikea again. Although its product assortment and functionality of  its products differs between regions, and new products and themed showroom corners are constantly added to its range, the overall Ikea experience remains consistent, no matter when, where or how consumers interact with the brand. This makes the Ikea experience memorable and ‘sticky’.

Conceptual consistency, rather than visual consistency alone, also lies at the core of many of today’s successful contemporary and dynamic brands such as Apple, Amazon, Google, Umpqua Bank and Starbucks.

It is the coherence and consistency between how these brands act, look and respond over time that gives them the power to create and maintain value.

Today’s marketers must broaden their focus and orchestrate a clear and holistic brand pattern for consumers.  A pattern that crosses the borders within the marketing department and between other departments, channels and agencies, in order to create a congruent flow of brand encounters throughout the customer journey.  It’s time to replace the brand police with brand guardians who understand the multidimensional nature of brands.

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