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Brad VanAuken Brand Building

Strong Brands Are Consistent

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Brand Strategy Brand Consistency Coca-Cola

Most leadership teams choose “trustworthy” as the most important brand personality attribute when positioning their brands. Why? People need to trust the brands they use. They want to know what to expect. They don’t want any surprises, at least not negative ones.

So, it still surprises me when I encounter brands that are completely inconsistent in their execution across products, services or locations. Think of a fast food chain in which the menu items vary from location to location, or worse, the food or service quality varies from location to location. Imagine a brand that produces some very high quality products that are extremely durable and reliable. Now imagine that same brand offering other products of significantly lower quality, durability and reliability. What does that brand stand for? Can you trust it? Imagine a coffee house chain in which some locations’ bathrooms are immaculate and others are absolutely filthy. Or a hotel brand that offers free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast, a fitness center and a swimming pool in most, but not all, locations.

Brand managers must consider ways to maintain consistency across all of the following:

  • Overall quality level
  • Service quality level
  • Product functionality and features
  • Product availability
  • Location amenities
  • Cleanliness
  • Flavor consistency
  • Durability and reliability levels
  • Time consistency

Your customers are counting on your brand to be predictable. Otherwise, what does the brand stand for except for inconsistency itself?

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3 Comments

Mark Disomma
Twitter:
on January 13th, 2012 said

I agree with you entirely Brad – consistency builds trust. And yet one of the great ironies, and challenges, of building enduring brands particularly over multiple markets is that they must parallel the consistency and reliability that makes them reassuring with an almost instinctual skill to move with the times and thus stay relevant.

So, in that sense, they are operating at different levels simultaneously. Brands that are consistent but don’t move with the times lose their market potency and will probably fail or at least fade over time. On the other hand, as you rightly state, brands that don’t offer consistent experiences are unsettling for consumers and can border on the baffling.

In an interesting article in the Jakarta Globe at the beginning of the year, Martin Roll pointed out that global brands cannot just expect to roll their global models into other economies and have them automatically accepted.

My sense is that somewhere in the Venn diagram of those arguments lies the key to enduring success – the consistency you speak of, the evolution and innovation to remain attractive, and the insights and on-the-ground understanding to deliver brands that people feel are part of their lives.

My friend Christine Arden refers to that alchemy as the art of being “consistently surprising”. I’ve always liked and championed that idea. But … no-one says it is easy.

Brad VanAuken on January 14th, 2012 said

Mark, I agree with you completely. Thank you for your elaboration on this topic.

Jason Lim on January 15th, 2012 said

It’s unavoidable that a chain spanning a large range of customer types will have slightly different offerings, but the relevant traits should be consistent.

I also agree with Mark that “consistently surprising” is something we should aspire to. It’s something even a lubricant does (WD-40), so there’s no reason for anybody not to do it.

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