Monday, December 5, 2016
Brands and Consistency versus Surprise
I and most other brand consultants and especially brand identity experts talk about the importance of consistency in brand identity and execution. This is because a consistent identity is what leads to successful memory encoding and decoding. Any amount of inconsistency works against this process. Consistency in execution works because people have the assurance of knowing what to expect. Consider a McDonald's experience in one place versus another. And finally consistency is important because people can count on it. The brand is trustworthy, predictable and reliable.
Having said this, a brand can benefit from presenting elements of surprise or unpredictability, but only if those elements are pleasant surprises.
I have often said that a brand is the personification of an organization and its products and services. Given that, it is instructive to consider the role of consistency and unpredictability in people.
It is important that you can trust me, that you can rely on what I tell you is true. It is also important that you can predict how I will treat you (hopefully well) and what you can expect from me and what you cannot expect from me.
Having said that, would it be terrible if you discovered that I had an amazing voice and sang you my own rendition of "Happy Birthday" on your birthday or that I am an accomplished oil painter and painted a lovely picture of your prized possession, your sailboat? I think not. If we surprise people in delightful ways, it can only add to people's perceptions of us. So paying it forward or committing random acts of kindness are not elements of unpredictability that detract from the brand experience but rather are elements that can enhance it.
So, your brand's identity must remain consistent to increase brand recognition and recall. And your brand must remain trustworthy and deliver on its promises. However, building a more subtly textured personality and random elements of surprise can create a more nuanced and interesting brand that is more intriguing to people as long as those elements of surprise are positive.