The Biggest Enemy of Brand Consistency

Brand consistency is mission-critical. Through strategic, repetitive actions and artifacts, your brand’s identity — visual, verbal, visceral — tells a story that makes it synonymous with a product, service, or experience. Customers prefer brands they know, and repetition over time makes a brand feel trustworthy and dependable. You know, just like any other relationship.

But there’s a dark side to that relentless consistency, too.

For those of us working closely with a brand on a regular basis, our interaction with the individual artifacts (logos, images, copy, etc.) is exponential compared with even the most ardent fan or user. The closer to the source you are, the more you know, see, and experience.

This is particularly true for people working in-house. I like and use Twitter on a daily basis, but if I worked at Twitter I’d be surrounded by it — like a foreign language student studying abroad, learning by immersion.

Who are we creating for?

Organizational familiarity presents some problems, the most dangerous of which is ceasing to understand our audience. If we’re not careful, we quit building for our audience and start building for ourselves. We act selfishly instead of selflessly, considering the needs of others. Granted, some of the best products, services and experiences are born from people building things for themselves — but rarely does anything large or long term exist solely to scratch its creator’s proverbial itch.

You Are Not Your Audience

I worked at a church with multiple campuses, each with multiple gatherings every week. On any given weekend I would interact with our brand, content, and events for hours. I helped create the visual and verbal identity, and worked within those constraints for years.

Practical example: I’d see a video for an event 10–20x before the event. I might have helped storyboard it, write the script, set type for it, or suggest feedback before the final edit. I’d see that video multiple times, on multiple days, spanning multiple weeks. Dozens and dozens of interactions and touch points with the same piece of content.

Total immersion.

When I’d feel tempted to think “I don’t like [thing we’re making], we should try [different thing]” or “[thing] feels stale, let’s change up the ritual surrounding it” I had to force myself to remember that the average guest— the person for whom we created all this stuff — might attend a gathering once a month. Or a handful of times a year. For the dozens of interactions I might have with a solution or aspect of the brand, the primary audience probably has one or two, at best. We are not our audience.

The Phonecall is Coming from Inside the House

The biggest enemy of brand consistency is the boredom of insiders. “I’m bored” is a terrible design strategy for implementing change. It proves you’ve lost focus. 

Domestic enemies will kill a brand long before foreign ones will — chasing personal preferences or giving way to apathy and indifference, destroyed from within, one off-mission decision at a time.

Catering to the bored whims of insiders in your organization confuses anyone less familiar with your brand. And when you start confusing outsiders, you stop reaching them.

No one cares about a brand that doesn’t care about them.