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How Consistent is Your Brand?

By: William Arruda

For nearly 20 years, William Arruda has been working with some of the world's most valuable Brands, including KPMG, Lotus, IBM, and Primark Corporation. Combining his brand experience with his passion for people, William founded Reach (www.reachcc.com), the world's first brand management company for organizations and individuals.

A member of the International Coach Federation (ICF), William holds a Master's Degree in Education, and has lent his expertise to audiences around the world. He has published articles in publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal to brandchannel.com and is the author of two upcoming books: You: Brand New - Three Steps to Successful Personal Branding; and Health without the Health Club. You can reach him at williamarruda@reachcc.com.

Three things that all strong brands have in common are clarity, consistency and constancy. These are the all-important 'Three C's' of branding that I addressed in a previous articles. And of all my branding articles, it is the one that received the most feedback. So I thought I would elaborate on one of the Cs to provide greater depth into why it is critical to successful branding.


C Stands for Consistency

Although many brands are clear about what differentiates them from other brands, they are not always consistent in communicating that differentiation. Consistency is essential because consumers like to know what they can expect from a brand. Incongruent experiences leave them confused about the brand and far from loyal. Some companies just understand the role of consistency in brand building better than others. So to develop a greater understanding of the role of consistency in branding, let's look at a couple of examples of brands that really deliver consistent experiences to their customers.

British Airways
BA is clear about the fact that they are one of the truly global major airlines. And their desire to communicate the fact that they are global is based in authenticity. Once known as British Airways, now more often called BA, they have played down their national heritage and emphasized their truly international scale. BA flies to 183 cities worldwide and has its major hub at Heathrow, the world's largest connections airport. Their tag line, 'The World's Favourite Airline,' is backed up by the way they build and communicate their brand.'

From the painted tail fins reflecting the countries in which they operate to the black and white photographs of different cities around the world that hang inside their planes, BA has developed a plan to reinforce their message of 'global.' And they have executed it flawlessly. If you sit in business or first class, even your china has similar black and white images of world cities. BA was also one of the first airlines to make their business class seats fully reclining. This is a great feature for business travelers on overnight flights. And again, further consistency to the message of international travel because there are no overnight flights within the UK!

Even BA's philanthropy program is global. They could have chosen a UK based charity, but instead opted for the Change for Good program. This global program which is part of UNICEF allows passengers to donate their foreign coins, which will become unusable when they arrive at their destination. This further highlights the fact that passengers are flying between nations, not within the United Kingdom; and it reinforces BA's brand attribute of 'global.'

Beyond their consistency around the message of global, BA is consistent in other areas as well. Their advertisements feature an aria from the Opera Lakme. And when you call to make a flight reservation, their hold music is the same. And it is again the same when you are on the plane waiting on the tarmac for a take off slot at Heathrow (which is often for a long time). They have been so consistent with this music, that this aria from a famous opera is now known as 'the BA song' to a lot of people. Just ask any sales associate at Virgin on Oxford Street for the 'BA song;' he/she will take you immediately to the classical section marked 'D' for Delibes.

W Hotels
W Hotels is another example of a brand that has got a handle on consistency. W stands for chic, hip, trend setting. The W brand promises the perfect combination of a trendy boutique hotel with all the services you expect from a large hotel chain. So you can be in-vogue and still use all the services of a large hotel and receive points for your stay.

W has been incredibly successful in consistently communicating the fact that they sit at this unique intersection of style and service. From their web site, to their reception area, to the initial impression of your room, they evoke the same feelings, images and emotions. And they create a consistent experience for you. This includes Aveda products in the bathroom, comforters on the beds, trendy bars and lounges with DJs, high-speed internet connections and the latest equipment in their fitness centers. Everything screams high style and great service.

Even the hotel locations are consistent with their unique promise of value. There is no W hotel in Bismarck, North Dakota. But you will find W hotels in the most fashionable neighborhoods of the trendiest cities. In San Francisco, for example, the W Hotel is in the hip South of Market (SOMA) neighborhood. In fact, it seems that a cities' hipness factor may be linked to W hotels. An ultra-hip friend of mine who moved from Paris to Seattle said to me shortly after arriving "You must come visit, Seattle is a really hip city. We even have a W Hotel."

Every decision they make is consistent with their brand promise. And this translates into customer loyalty. Pam, a marketing consultant based in Boston says, "If I am traveling to a city with a W Hotel, you will know where to find me - unless of course it is New York, because there are five Ws there."

Consistency reinforces your message with your target audience and allows you to build strong relationships with your customers. To understand how consistent you are being with your brand, look at every customer connection point and ask yourself two questions:
  1. Is the customer clearly experiencing our unique promise of value?
  2. Is the experience the same among all connection points?
If your answer to both questions in yes, congratulations! You are building loyal brand evangelists of your customers who will be able to clearly communicate your message on your behalf.

© William Arruda, 2004

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