The Dark Side of Brand Consistency

If you’ve ever launched a new brand, refined a legacy brand or managed the day-to-day of an existing brand, chances are you’ve grappled with consistency. For many marketers, it’s the foundation of a brand’s strength. While there is some truth to this mantra, the reality is that – for most brands – consistency has become more about repetition, and monotonous repetition drives down customer engagement, which leads to attrition and, ultimately, loss in market share. Instead, let’s reframe the brand experience to focus more on coherence.

Brand coherence focuses attention on meeting audience expectations by providing a familiar experience and, more importantly, a look. Instead of templatized communication or formulaic messaging, brand coherence allows a degree of flexibility in style and mood in order to shift with your audience’s needs. It’s best to think of this approach as assembling Lego® bricks into a different configuration as needed while always having a recognizable look and feel.

Here’s some great ways to start building brand coherence and remaining recognizable without compromising or overhauling your brand identity.

  • Expand your color palette. Include more than 2-3 base-color elements to allow colors to be used some-of-the-time versus all-of-the-time. Think about how holidays, special promotions or even seasonal color might work within your brand color palette. For example, Valentine’s pink might work better as a dusty rose instead of powder pink if your brand uses deeper or muted colors.
  • Use your logo colors sparingly. Maintain the power of your anchor colors by only using secondary colors for emphasis.
  • Develop a design asset library. Think of illustrative elements, icons, patterns, textures, photo styles and data visualization as elements of your brand. But, just like accent colors, use them some of the time, not all of the time.
  • Embrace type as a visual element. Think beyond one or two typefaces. Play with styles for call-outs, captions, testimonials, footnotes and 3-to-4 layers of heading styles. How you present type is equally as important as how you combine the words, and can help keep your brand fresh. You can also play with the typographic hierarchy to help guide audiences through your messaging and drive their responses.
  • Build responsive design – period. Take some brand inspiration from the websites that adapt for various screen sizes. Grids are great for information design, but building grids that can flex and adapt across your brand, or even within a single marketing communication, is ideal.

Don’t let consistency run your brand into the ground. When you create a familiar, not repetitive, experience, you’ll continue to amaze your audience and build long-lasting loyalty, which is more important than constantly checking the consistency box.