There is a lot of talk and noise in the marketing interwebs regarding brand. At the base end of the spectrum, there are articles on what brand is, how to build a personal brand, and what brand is not. At the upper end, there are published studies on brand engagement and measurement thereof, brand strength and awareness linkages to sales, and other more esoteric subjects. What’s missing is one of the central themes on brand, that it is imperative that brand presentation and implementation must be consistent from instance to instance.
Consistency is the key to delivering on that brand promise, no matter where it is encountered, and particular care must be taken when the brand is licensed to third-party outlets or producers to maintain the quality and consistency of the brand, to maintain its integrity. The level of importance of consistency cannot be underestimated, to the point where any brand-related engagement of our firm starts with an implementation consistency test, starting with date of first use, and carrying out to current executions. We collect all available examples in every media we can find, lay them all out and physically compare them, to point out lapses in consistency, poor quality control, bad executions on the part of licensees, or off-brand knock-offs.
For retailers and product purveyors, this type of exercise can be especially helpful in spotting counterfeit goods. Often, the goods are closer to the real thing in quality and accuracy than the brand usage, which is often either misplaced, mounted upside down, the wrong color, reversed when none is allowed, or even misspelled, sometimes on purpose in an attempt to escape prosecution. Vigilance is key to keeping knock-offs out of the market place and diluting the power of the brand, so performing this exercise semi-annually can help keep the counterfeiters at bay.
Some brands are fanatics about consistent presentation, and some of that fanaticism is justified, especially for those firms operating globally, with a wide range of distant or disparate locations and decentralized operations. Coke-a-Cola is one who vigilantly protects its brand executions. They have a brand usage manual that runs over 200 pages, and covers every instance of usage you can imagine, from signage, to cups, to promotions on billboards, to television ads and internet posts on social media. This manual is translated into over 35 languages around the world, so there are no excuses by bottlers or licensees from Buford, AL to Bangladesh for misusing the Coke emblem. Coke has it’s own trademarked PMS color, described in the manual using three color selection systems used worldwide, and translated into other color systems like automobile paint and video reference color codes. Talk about thorough!
That kind of control definitely has advantages, especially when trying to spot fakes in the market place. Even if your usage is not that extensive or far flung, you should still exercise strong controls when the work goes out of house for other purposes, like sponsorship programs, charity visibility, translation into other languages, or implementations in unusual media, like apparel or textiles, or low-res print representations. Coarse screen values, RGB conversion, poor registration or low quality paper all conspire to make a mess of logos and brands in less than professional settings, and some care must be taken to guard against these aberrations. One may not do much damage at all, but over time, they can collectively do damage to the credibility of the brand, and the mistakes tend to end up in some unusual places, and as such, come back to haunt you at inopportune times.
You’ve worked hard to build a highly believable, credible, expressive and purposeful brand – don’t let poor execution consistency undo all your hard work!