The meaning of brand consistency in today’s dynamic context
Posted by
Lilian Plomp at 10:00

The idea 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.

The first thing that comes to most people's mind when thinking about brand consistency is consistency in a brand's visual identity, including its logo and style used in communication.

For years, many marketing professionals have acted like a kind of brand police, flagging immediately 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 realise that it takes more to build a compelling memorable brand that people trust.

These marketers realise that it is time 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; 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.

Thus, 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 that understand the multidimensional nature of brands.

Conceptual consistency should by no means mean that a brand becomes static though, 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.

Although the product assortment and functionality of Ikea's 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'.

I feel that conceptual consistency, rather than visual consistency alone, 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 brand act, look and respond over time that gives them the power to create and maintain value.

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