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Hard data show that more than 80% of companies fail over period of 10-20 years. And most of the survivors merge to avoid bankruptcy. Therefore, how many "strong brands" could there ever have been? Brand is how a company lives its life IN the market community. It is not how it describes itself in cocktail parties and elevators. "DAYS" of strong brands are measured in YEARS.
From the Department of Cautionary Tales: The rising, then falling, fortunes of Ling Ni-- http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/e8a1aa66-eda3-11e0-a9a9-00144feab49a.html#axzz1aOp6kzg7
It's amazing to me how much commentary the "consistency" point has generated. Probably because so many involved with brand building over the years have both worshiped at the altar of consistency, while simultaneously feeling incredibly handcuffed by the reality of it all.
Obsessing over consistency shows a lack of confidence. The more a brand believes in itself because it knows it's authentic, the more it's able to reinvent naturally, in a way that makes sense. It all happens for real...
I'm with you all, but want to pick up on Ted's point: "consistency" (of execution, as enforced by Brand Cops) isn't a virtue; more often than not it's a liability... But *authenticity* is more important than ever... which implies that adherence-through-time to the fundamental characteristics (values, experience, quality) that define a given brand is also more important than ever (even as, in this "sacrifice anything to male a quarter" world, it's harder than ever)... and "adherence-though-time" is just a jumped up way of saying consistency...
I tend to think that brands/marketers overvalue consistency, at least for an established brands, an always have. Once an expectation is established, people will assume that future behavior will match past behavior. Of course, a brand can break the illusion, but it actually has to try pretty hard. Of course none of this is true for new or small brands. Time and space always matter.
So I think we're all in agreement (more or less) that the days of the Corporate "Brand Cop" are numbered. But a big, relevant and consistently articulated brand vision is more important than ever!
I think Ted was onto something in terms of offering up a broader definition of consistency. I would completely agree that consistently using the same typeface, layout or photographer is silly these days. Consumer's don't remember the tiny details that art directors and brand managers have traditionally fought to protect. But I'd argue that a consistent vision is paramount these days. How a creative team or a crowd sourced team executes against a vision is wide open. But if everyone isn't at least marching towards the same bright light, it's just noise.
Thanks MIcah for the correction/clarification. Ted, you could have gone with Oscar Wilde's "Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative," though I don't recall him being terribly successful at selling lots of products :)
Mr. Emerson reports that you're conveniently misquoting -- "FOOLISH consistency..." I think thoughtful consistency is what Pam's recommending?
"Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." -- Emerson ;-)
Yes, one could think about their brand essences that way. But isn't that "deeper, more fundamental customer relationship" characterized by a level of consistency? There's an implied trust, a level of expectation that is fulfilled, a perception of the brand's coolness or reliability or some other attribute - a, dare I say it, consistency - that allows these companies to expand into other businesses.
Agreed on the semantics point. Perhaps a different way to think about is that brands like Virgin and Apple are consistently surprising. Rather than defining their brand essence around consistent functional or product definitions and associations, they link their brands to a deeper, more fundamental customer relationship that allows them to expand from airlines to wedding planning...while of course remaining consistent with their core brand position.
This may be a question of semantics, but I think consistency is the hallmark of a strong brand. Apple may be known for product innovation, but it's branding is the most consistent out there - we can all identify it from 100 miles away. Contrast that with Target, whose brand was, for a time, highly consistent. In the last couple of years, they have moved away from the iconic creative with which they were strongly associated, and their business has suffered at the same time. Coincidence? I don't think so...