Is Consistency Key? A Strategic Perspective

Do Brands Need Consistency?

Brands are formed in the collective imagination of consumers and live throughout the generations, a number of which are now centenarians: Coca Cola; Kelloggs; Cadbury’s and Marks & Spencer, to name a few. What these brands have in common is that they established a level of brand consistency that has made them instantly recognisable whilst avoiding stagnancy and consumer wear out.

The balance between consistency and evolution is a delicate one. Naturally, as consumer preferences and interests evolve over time so must brands. Equally, the pressure on strategists to reposition and change direction can lead to ill-conceived decisions and drive strategic misconceptions.

“I have learned that any fool can write a bad ad, but that it takes a genius to keep his hands off a good one”- Leo Burnett

A slew of articles within the marketing world explain why ‘consistency is key’. This is an oversimplification of complex phenomenon severely lacking in nuance.

Power of Association

Brand consistency is inextricably linked to memory. How we remember and what we remember is influenced by both external stimuli and internal processes. Human memory structures and the subconscious decisions we make on a daily basis drive collective consumer behaviour, they are catalysts for societal change and steer the direction in which we travel as a species. The ability to understand and influence this is an infinitely powerful tool, it is often the key to ensuring purchase decisions are made in your favour.

Consistency plays an important role in building the memory structures which activate brand recall and associations. The majority of buying decisions we make are not extensively analysed, we frequently buy on autopilot, guided by associations made over many years. Often, it is about creating the neural connections that allow decisions to be made efficiently. Disrupt these connections based upon a strategic misunderstanding and risk loss of market share, such was the case with Tropicana who rid themselves of their iconic packaging design and immediately felt the impact as sales plummeted because nobody recognised the new packaging.

“Advertising needs to cut through and build memory structures…and in that order”, Dave Trott

Value of Trust

Wide-spread scepticism and cynicism amongst consumers has amplified the value of brand trust. An inconsistent brand identity means a constant re-establishment of the cognitive shortcuts that influence purchase decisions. Marketing then becomes tasked with perpetually cutting through noise without building the necessary memory structures for establishing trustworthiness and positive recognition. Execution of modern- day consistency requires more than a logo and a name or repeating good or bad ads, it requires building a holistic experience across multiple channels.

A Way of Thinking

It is easy to declare ‘consistency is key’, ‘be consistent’ but if you’re consistently terrible you’ve failed. Consistent success is about repeating the thinking that makes your brand unique. It is about nuance, precision and exhaustive planning that unlocks the insight which forms the basis of this thinking; we call this process Ponderation. It is a distillation of clarity, the thinking behind what makes you, you. It lays the foundations for long-term, consistent success rather than fleeting moments, it inspires ideas and drives decisions, creating real results that ultimately impact your bottom line.

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