The opening chapter of Brand Like A Rock Star (coming October 2011 on Greenleaf Book Group Press) is focused on the inspiring brand consistency of legendary hard rock band AC/DC. For nearly forty years they have had amazing focus, never singing about the social injustice in the third world or the pain of love lost. For four decades, they’ve been singularly singing about drinkin’, partyin’, womanizin’, drivin’, and of course, rockin’. In fact, through their sixteen studio albums they have managed to work the word “rock” into the title of twenty different songs. Talk about stating your brand promise in an obvious way!
If brands should aspire to be consistent, how do you explain The Beatles? In six years they went from mop-tops, matching suits and songs like “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” to out of control long hair, hippie clothes, and scathing songs like “Revolution”. They experimented with some very bizarre sounds along the way, and took some very unusual detours.
The Beatles built evolution into their brand’s DNA. With every new album, they broke new ground with sounds and recording techniques. Their fans awaited each new release in part because of the unexpected new sounds they would create. For The Beatles, always evolving was itself a consistent part of their brand. In that respect, they were every bit as consistent as AC/DC.
Apple has built that same expectation into their brand. New product releases, like the one for the iPad2 upon which I write this, are highly anticipated events because customers expect constant evolution. It is consistent for Apple to always be evolving.
Corn Flakes are a different story. Lovers of Corn Flakes are not opening each box hoping to be dazzled by the next leap forward in breakfast cereal. They are looking forward to the same taste as yesterday… the same taste from childhood.
Coke is in that same boat, having learned the hard way what their fans expect with the infamous New Coke launch. “Change” wasn’t part of the brand promise. “Tried and true” definitely is.
In branding, consistency is paramount. But being consistent doesn’t mean standing still. Consistency means being true to the expectations of your customers at all times, without fail, no matter what that expectation might be.
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