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Brand consistency is dead, long live the brand

Posted on February 15, 2013
Filed Under: Brands, Creative ideas, Get inspired
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We couldn’t agree more with Harley Augustine, Brand Director, Elmwood Asia, when he said this week that the old chestnut of ‘brand consistency’ has slipped quietly into extinction. He goes on to say that any branding professional still telling their clients or colleagues that ‘brand consistency is everything’ might as well enlighten them about the world being flat and who shot JFK while you’re at it. Why? Because brands aren’t admired by consumers/customers for being visually steadfast and regimented anymore. Instead, they’re applauded for their fluidity, flexibility and ability to move quickly with both the times and the global population’s lightning fast shifts in expectation, need and desire.

Great brands morph magnificently like chameleons today, leaving the rest looking like tired, lazy wizened old lizards. Coke. Google. AOL. DC Comics. These guys, and others, understand that flexibility is the new consistency and that looking the same every day isn’t the public drawcard it used to be. They also understand that the only consistency they need to focus on is that of the commendably patient new hero of modern branding, their story. Get that right and they can, and should, look however they please to suit the two most important things: the narrative at hand and their audience.

Yeah, yeah… bold claims, I know. But Coke proved this with their Australian ‘share a Coke with’ execution, which saw the logo removed from its packaging and replaced with people’s names. Consumers know that their consistent story is ‘happiness’, so it made perfect sense.

Google proves it every time their homepage logo changes to highlight and share a milestone or erstwhile historical nugget. Users know that their consistent story is one of ‘effortless information’, so their ‘doodles’ are bang on.

In January SAAB released their new global brand identity (it’s first change in 11 years) and, you guessed it, it’s a word-mark that acts as a window to all manner of visual expressions… a la AOL… so they can share their “move your mind” story in fresh, never-ending ways.

So this is all very nice, but what’s driving it? Why is brand consistency going the way of the dinosaur? Why is it no longer okay to look and feel the same every day? Because we the consumer want to be entertained more than ever before – and our idea of entertainment these days is rooted in surprise, fluidity and randomness. ‘Same, same’ simply won’t be tolerated, but ‘same, same but different’ will be celebrated. It’s by no means rocket science. Our collective attention span is shorter than ever before. We want it now, not then. We live for the moment, not the memories. There’s always something better on another channel (and if not the there’s always something to watch in the 72 hrs of footage that’s uploaded to YouTube every minute). There’s always something fresh in the Twitter feed. We’re inundated with empowering choice and control, so things that stay the same are both easy to reject and dismiss. We want to be entertained, not enlightened.

Think about it. How many times have you changed your Facebook profile picture, Twitter avatar or Linkedin mugshot in the last 12 months? At least once or twice, I’m sure. And why do you do it? To show the world what’s happening in your worldIf you change your profile pic on Facebook your friends don’t freak out, do they? No. They know who you are and what you’re about – how you look at any given point in time is irrelevant, if not that it further expresses your personality and builds upon your own personal story. Brands with strong stories are no different. They’re not tied down to a 100% consistent brand identity… instead they use their identities to project new, surprising narratives, attitudes and character traits that amp up their stories.

All hail MTV, I say… talk about being ahead of the curve, eh? Consistency is dead. Long live brand anarchy

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