What you'll get from this blog entry:
- Why you must have brand consistency
- Your brand promise and why it matters
- Your brand consistency hot spots
- The first step to getting consistent
Let's start with a story:
The year was 2001. I was spending a week in Barcelona. For the first few days, I gorged myself on local cuisine — mainly tapas, tapas, and more tapas...until I couldn't stand tapas anymore.
As luck would have it, my hotel was across the street from a McDonald's restaurant.
I know what you're thinking: “Sacrilege! How could you even consider eating at an American fast food joint while traveling in Europe?”
Trust me, I would have thought the same thing, but after eating tapas to wretched excess, I was craving comfort food. And there it was, under the all-too-familiar Golden Arches. It was the symbol of so many cherished childhood memories, of wrapping my little mouth around a juicy Big Mac — “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun!” — yes, I still know that commercial jingle by heart.
So I walked right into the Barcelona McDonald's. And to my delight, there it was: that familiar menu, with hamburgers, quarter pounders, fries, and yes, Big Macs. The chairs and tables were all the same style I'd experienced at U.S. locations. I had truly come home, if only for a few minutes, to escape the terrible tapas!
McDonald's had made good on its promise to me: that the experience of visiting and eating at McDonald's would be exactly the same, regardless of time or place. I could faithfully trust this. I could faithfully trust McDonald's.
This is a great example of the power of brand consistency. By keeping its brand 100% consistent across the decades and across the globe, McDonald's had retained my loyalty. I knew exactly what I'd be getting and I knew that I would like it.
Now, what if there had been five different Spanish burger joints on the same street, all with fancy graphics, nice decor and smiling staff beckoning me to try their European burgers instead of my cherished, trusted McDonald's?
In that moment of seeking comfort, McDonald's brand consistency would have won this American's business. The Spanish competition wouldn't have stood a chance.
Be a stickler for sameness.
Let's review why you have a brand: so people can tell your product and services from the competition, form a relationship with your company, and become loyal to your company because of that relationship. Product/service benefits become secondary. First and foremost, people continue to buy from you because they have a happy relationship with your brand.
But, you'll have no brand if it isn't consistent.
To have a brand, customers must know what they can expect from your company every time they encounter you. You tell them by making a brand promise. The brand promise looks something like this:
- To treat you like a V.I.P. every time you reach out to us
- To deliver top-quality products and services to you every time you use us
- To provide the same experience to you every time you visit our stores or website, or communicate with us by phone, email, instant message, or social media
- To look the same everywhere, all the time, so you can always easily identify us
- To always be there when you need us
- To make choosing us easy — you always know how to find us, what you're getting and that it's the best choice for your personal wants and needs
- To stay true to the values, ethics, character, and personality that endeared you to our brand in the first place.
Your brand is the sum total of all experiences a customer has with your company and offerings. You've got to make sure all of those experiences are the same. No exceptions.
As soon as a customer's experience starts to deviate from the expectations you've created with your brand promise, that customer will start trusting you less.
Do this enough times, and that customer will start to seek a competing brand that can win and keep his or her trust.
That's why you have to be a stickler for sameness.
Brand consistency hot spots
Here's a basic list of the areas of customer experience where you must keep it the same.
- Corporate identity — how you present your logo, fonts, colors and overall graphic design.
- Graphic design — your website, marketing communications, retail decor and package designs must all look exactly the same.
- Voice — this is the personality and character that comes across in your marketing communications. It's also how your staff communicates with customers in real time. The voice must fit the brand — and that voice must be consistent. Everyone who writes for you and everyone who speaks on your behalf must be saying the same things, in the same way.
- Product quality — your company's operations must ensure that the customer gets a great quality product or service, every single time. This is a function of both your company's operational processes and its culture.
- Customer Service — you've got to give your customers V.I.P. level service, every single time. Why would you ever give anything less? This is also a function of both your company's operational processes and its culture.
- Ease of use — everything about using your product — from discovering it in the first place, to learning about it, to buying it, to accessing its features and ultimately to getting the desired benefits from it, must be consistently easy. So must getting help and resolving problems (see Service above). In other words, every step of the buyer's journey must be kept easy.
- Behavior – you must behave not only consistently with commonly accepted standards of ethics, morality and decency, but also with the values you profess for your brand – such as corporate responsibility, environmental sustainability, support for diversity, philanthropy, fair trade sourcing, etc. Chipotle, which built its brand on meticulous food sourcing, did itself no favors when it allowed food with e.coli into its restaurants. And Volkswagen destroyed its credibility as a maker of green, high-mileage cars with its emissions tampering scandal. Its behavior was drastically inconsistent with the brand values it had promised — and the company is currently paying the ultimate price for its malfeasance.
Clearly brand consistency deals with so much more than merely corporate identity and graphic design. Indeed, brand consistency involves practically every facet of a business (or nonprofit), at every level. Businesses succeed or fail based on their ability to provide a consistent brand experience to their customers. That elevates brand consistency to one of the highest-level strategic concerns for your company.
Consistent doesn't have to be boring!
Nike has had the same swoosh and the same mission for decades...and is never boring.
Southwest Airlines is consistently friendly, helpful and irreverent... and never boring.
Mini is consistent in its identity, voice and brashness...and never boring. Ditto Virgin.
Victoria's Secret...need we say more?
See? Consistency can be sexy — no matter what you're selling. If it appeals to your target market, be brash, be funny, be silly — just be consistent about it. And while you're at it, be consistently helpful, friendly and supportive too. Your customers will never get bored with being treated well.
How to get consistent:
Start with a Brand Audit. The Brand Audit will help you get crystal clear on what your brand stands for — your brand promise — and how to make good on that promise. The end result will be a brand book — a guide to help your team present your brand consistently at every customer touch point. It's your blueprint for delivering a consistent customer brand experience. Every. Single. Time. You can read more about the Brand Audit here »
Here's to the Brander's Journey. See you at the next junction.