Brand coherence in the digital age
In today’s context interactions and experiences are key factors in developing a brand. The brand needs to live, interact with its customers, respond to their needs. The brand is no longer just the advertised image of a company, product or service. The brand is the way it feels.
We might say that the brand is the sum of the actions and experiences it generates. It is determined by the way it looks, the way it communicates, the signals it sends to the world, the reason it exists, the value that it offers, the relationship it builds with customers.
And here comes the big question: how to align all the actions of a brand to the same principles and values in the age of digital, social media, instant interactions and transparency. Of course this can be manageable for small brands with compact teams, but it gets more complicated for big brands with hundreds of employees and thousands of daily interactions.
On this subject, Dan Bobby wrote an article in Transform magazine. He questions whether staying consistent is beneficial in such an evolving context.
The brand books that the brands are equipped with when they are sent into the world are currently focused on achieving the visual consistency of the brand. The brand books contain sets of rules, guidelines, to be applied to all brand materials and communications, such as colors, typeface, layouts, signage, etc. The objective of this tool is to align all visual representations of the brand to the same logic and to create consistency for the brand, to develop its visual signature and personality.
Rarely is consideration given to how it might evolve and what its changing nature might be. The colour palette may remain consistent over time, but brand values can change or take on new attributes.
Visual consistency remains surely desirable, but in order to stay true and relevant in a changing context of growth and evolving values a business must think about brand coherence. In order to ensure the brand’s coherence, all brand actions must be governed by the brand’s philosophy. The key is experiencing the brand’s philosophy at a micro level, at the level of each human to human interaction. Each person that represents the brand becomes part of the brand and his/ her actions need to harmonize with the brands philosophy.
Dan Bobby, CEO at Calling Brands
Coherence is about growing and shaping brand values based on a core idea or philosophy. If the brand team solely focuses on visual consistency, it risks undermining the vitality of the brand. […] When a brand is experienced intuitively and mirrors brand values, it has coherence. It feels familiar, true, compelling. Coherence is when the brand feels alive and lives up to its promise.
Businesses change and evolve, as does the environment and circumstances in which they operate. If a brand is to shine a light on the business, it follows that it should evolve too. More than that, the brand should embrace new opportunities, foreshadow commercial trends and respond to new ways that customers experience it and what it stands for. This can’t be achieved through a consistency approach. It’s time to start putting coherence before consistency.
How will branding professionals support brands to achieve organic evolution? How can brand books be adapted into tools for achieving brand coherence. Maybe the visual identity guidelines become more flexible. Or frameworks will be developed to support brand managers to inspire the brand’s philosophy within the whole team and further into the world.
Dan Bobby, CEO at Calling Brands
The image that illustrates the article is the Coyote team, Logistics and Transportation Company with over 2,000 employees. Despite Coyote’s massive employee growth in recent years, it has the close-knit feel of a smaller company – no doubt, the product of its strong on-boarding program that teaches new recruits, often just out of college, about its unique approach to transportation logistics and customer service. (Moving Brands)