Lots of clever people will tell you that brands are stories. And in order to explain the importance of brand consistency, I need to tell you a little story of my own.
A long time ago, I worked with a man called Peter.
I’d speak to Peter almost every day on the phone. So much so that he stopped introducing himself when he called. He simply started talking.
That wasn’t a problem; I could recognise his voice instantly. He had an authoritative tone, but he was occasionally warm and funny.
Peter was a new Account Director in our London office. I was a lowly accounts junior in Ipswich. I imagined he was a real city slicker: tall, sharp-suited, well-groomed.
Except six months after he joined, I met him. I was being introduced to lots of our London colleagues by Martin, who also worked in Ipswich.
“This is Peter,” said Martin. “Peter, this is Chris.”
“Hi, Chris.” said Peter.
I remember my ears realising Peter was indeed Peter and trying to inform my brain. But my eyes were busy telling my brain that the Peter I was looking at was not the Peter I was expecting to see.
Peter, it turned out, wasn’t tall, sharp-suited and well-groomed. He was a little overweight, a little scruffy, with a big, fluffy head of hair.
I stood there a bit muddled.
You’ve probably known your own Peter.
And the Peters in our lives can teach us a valuable lesson about branding and brand consistency.
Wally Olins, one of the most respected names in branding (and founder of the insanely successful agency Wolff Olins), says this of a brand:
“Wherever a brand has a ‘touchpoint’ – that is, an interaction with an audience – it needs to look, feel or behave like itself.”
When it doesn’t, your perception of the brand changes:
- What if the hotel’s been recently refurbished according to their Twitter account, but their website hasn’t been updated for 14 months?
- What if your expensive wine was served in a plastic glass?
- What if the person in the call centre was helpful, knowledgeable and made some pragmatic decisions in order to retain you as a customer and make you happy?
- What if Peter doesn’t look like the Peter you imagined?
Strong brands are not built with logos or straplines. These are just the triggers that remind us of the consistent interactions (good or bad) we’ve had with a brand.
Want to build a strong brand? Of course you do.
Your task, therefore, is simple: make sure every interaction your customers have with you is a good one.