For global brands, especially those in retail or fast-food, consistency is still high on the list of desired ways to communicate and behave. We want to be sure that the customer has a similar experience in each of our outlets, and that the picture of the brand he or she gets from our communication is clear and doesn’t contradict the reality.
This is fair enough up to a certain point. Of course we want someone in a strange town to recognise our coffee shop and feel a sense of familiarity and knowing what to expect. And design manuals do have a place in terms of making sure that our badges and logos don’t start running off and doing their own thing. This is the positive side of consistency – stability and constancy, reliability if you like.
But is it enough? The buzz words describing brands in the 21st century also include a lot about flexibility, adaptability, agility and ‘embracing diversity’. And can you really stay ahead if you never pleasantly surprise your customers? Consistency can also mean lack of change, lack of deviation, uniformity.
When people talk of consistency in relation to brands, it is worth looking behind the word to see what the speaker really means. If it starts to sound like speaking with one voice (dictated from some global HQ), regardless of who we are speaking with, dressing in a brand uniform with no regard for individuality, carrying our “matching luggage,” then warning bells should sound. This is about control of the organisation, not doing the best for the customers.
I prefer to use the word integrity with its dual meaning of unity/coherence/a whole and the quality of honesty.
It’s more difficult to achieve, but in the end, which is more likely to attract more support – a consistent brand or a brand with integrity?