Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Power of Consistency in Branding

“We thought we’d update the logo a little.” “It’s not a new tagline. It’s just a catchy phrase that we are using instead of the tagline.” “We thought the icon would make a great decorative element.” “We are thinking about creating a new name for the organization.” “We developed a new product so we created a new brand for it.” “We created a different tagline for each audience. Pretty clever, huh?” “We were getting so tired of the old logo.” “It’s more fun to present the brand in a wide variety of colors.” “There was no room for the icon so we left it off.” “This is a funky stylized version of the logo targeted at younger audiences.”

What is it about marketers that cause them to want to create something new all of the time? I have been told that I am a creative, out-of-the-box thinker, but when it comes to brand identity, I learned a long time ago that consistency is the secret to success.  With enough repetition, people encode the brand’s identity (usually not as read words but as the recognized look, shape and feel) in their brains, preferably linked to things that matter to them. If you mess with the overall look and feel of the brand, these linkages and associations are likely to break down.

So, how does one combat these tendencies? In the following ways…
  • Develop a sound brand strategy and identity from the start
  • Base them on deep customer insight
  • Carefully think through your brand’s architecture and identity system, anticipating as many new products, services, media and other applications as possible
  • If possible, also consider any potential industry or business model changes
  • Develop brand identity standards or guidelines and distribute them widely
  • Assign a brand identity overseer / enforcer
  • If there is a need to reposition the brand, think carefully about how you can preserve the current awareness and positive associations while moving the brand to its new position
  • Incremental, minimally perceptible changes are almost always more effective than extensive ones

For instance, we explored changing Hallmark’s tagline from “When you care enough to send the very best” to “When you care enough to give the very best” to accommodate gift giving beyond mailed greeting cards and “Because you care enough to send the very best” after reviewing research that showed that some consumers only choose to use Hallmark branded products for special occasions. Even if we had made both changes (“Because you care enough to give the very best”) few people would notice the changes because they are minor and incremental. [Note: Neither of these changes occurred while I was at Hallmark because the executive team was very cautious about making any changes to Hallmark’s identity.]

In summary, think twice when you have the urge to change something about your brand’s identity. More often than not, after careful consideration, you will decide that the change is not in the brand’s best interest. Redirect your more creative tendencies to new product development or out-of-the box marketing campaigns and tactics.

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