How Do You Maintain Brand Consistency?

Derrick DayeNovember 16, 20103 min

Branding Strategy Insider helps marketing oriented leaders and professionals build strong brands. To that end, we are happy to answer marketing questions of all types. Today, Tim, a Reporter for Inc. Magazine in New York City asks… 

1) What are some companies that differentiate their brands well, and how do they do it? 

The first brand that comes to mind is Apple. The following differentiate Apple:

  • A history of innovation (iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc.)
  • Intuitively simple user interfaces
  • A very consistent “look and feel” — Apple icon, styling, etc.
  • A well-known co-founder and CEO in Steve Jobs
  • The very viable alternative brand to Microsoft-based PCs, with a very loyal and outspoken customer base

2) What are a few tactics you would suggest for successfully maintaining brand consistency? 

  • First and foremost, the brand’s promise should be clear, compelling, unique and believable and it should be delivered at each point of customer contact. This is a conscious and deliberate effort on the organization’s part.
  • A well thought through brand identity system that is distinctive yet flexible, one that anticipates a variety of future uses
  • Strictly enforced brand identity standards, perhaps through a digital asset management system
  • A brand identity manager who oversees a brand identity council
  • Very strict brand licensing requirements, including requiring a strict fit with the brand promise, identity and quality standards
  • I would also craft a specific brand personality, brand archetype and brand voice and visual style that can be applied to the brand as appropriate in its presentation

3) Lots of companies seem to have a bunch of products competing with themselves (toothpaste or shampoo, for example). Is there any thinking in the brand management world about when having a glut of products under the same brand is a good or bad thing?

Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on how it is executed. Most importantly, the brand needs to be differentiated at the parent or umbrella level. If this is achieved, separate sub-brands can successfully appeal to different user segments that have different sets of needs. For instance, there are several Coca-Cola variations (Diet Coke, Coca-Cola zero, etc.) as there are for Pepsi-Cola, but to succeed in the marketplace, both brands need to be differentiated at the parent brand level. The same is true of a variety of brands from Crest versus Colgate to Visa versus MasterCard versus Discover versus American Express. While all credit card brands may now have gold or platinum cards, there still needs to be a perceived difference between American Express and Discover for instance.

4) How can a company create a brand identity that can be applied across a varied product line? 

In our internal brand management educational workshops, we conduct a case study/team exercise on this. Each team is charged with creating a series of books that are are branded to be a part of the same brand family. It might be a group of books from the same author, a group of nature guides, a series of cookbooks from the same publisher, a group of science fiction books from different authors, etc. Teams often use the following elements to tie the books together under one umbrella:

  • Distinctive color banding around the book (cover-spine-cover)
  • Unusually sized books all of the same size
  • Titles are all related in some way, perhaps all starting with the same words
  • Spines all look the same on bookshelves, with same color banding and same typefonts of the same size
  • Covers are laid out in a formulaic way, with similar visual elements and blocking
  • All of the books have a similar cover material, often of the same distinctive texture
  • All books in the series have rounded book corners, pages gilded in gold leaf, ribbon bookmarks of a specific color, etc.

This approach could be extrapolated to any brand that needs to have its identity applied across a variety of products and services.

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