If brands can weather corporate scandals, product recalls, and poor business decisions, what can bring a brand to its knees? Nothing destroys brands more quickly than inconsistency. A brand cannot get strong while being inconsistent, and a strong brand that turns inconsistent will falter.
A quick scan of the best brands in the world as valued in Interbrand's annual survey
demonstrates the power of consistency. Top brands include Coca-Cola, Microsoft, and IBM--all brands that have had a consistent brand promise and personality for many years. And the brand with the greatest increase in value was Google, which has been a case study of consistency; Interbrand assessed Google's brand value 44% higher in 2007 than in 2006.
The word "consistency" is woven throughout Interbrand's 2007 report
: "Google has managed to maintain a sincere and consistent
feel to everything that it does," "Starbucks has mastered the challenges of ensuring a consistent
sense of 'Starbucks' permeates consumers' worlds," "This sense of focus is also demonstrated in (McDonald's) through its consistent
use of the global advertising theme, 'I'm loving it'," and "By applying a consistent
design philosophy based around quality, sophistication and performance, Audi has developed a unique, distinctive personality in the marketplace."
Taylor says that "high-performing companies understand that it's not enough to be 'pretty good' at everything anymore." Not only do high-performing brands know what they are "the best" at, they stick with it. He notes, "high-performance companies understand that in an era of great turmoil, the best strategy is to stick with what you believe in." He criticizes companies that "lurch from one consulting firm to the next, from one management fad to another, from one target customer base to a different set of customers."
To see the value of patience and consistency, look at Ford's and Honda's divergent performance.
Ford (which dropped from 30th to the 41st most valuable brand between 2006 and 2007
) has been on a seemingly endless search to find a model that will catch on with consumers
: In 2005 the Ford Five Hundred, Mercury Montego, and Ford Freestyle were introduced and the Mercury Sable and Ford Taurus were pulled; in 2006 Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, and Lincoln Zephyr were introduced while the Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey were discontinued; in 2007 the Ford Edge, Lincoln Navigator, and Lincoln MKX were introduced and the The Ford Five Hundred, Ford Freestyle and Mercury Montego nameplates were replaced with the previously retired Ford Taurus, Ford Taurus X, and Mercury Sable nameplates. Is it any wonder that most consumers can't recall the names of new Ford models with this level of constant change?
Over at Honda (the 19th most valuable brand in the world
) , the company's best-selling vehicle of 2007 was the Accord
, first introduced in 1976. The Civic, the sixth best-selling nameplate in the U.S. in 2007, was unveiled in 1973. The CR-V, which rounded out the list of top 10 selling vehicles in the U.S. last year, was the "youngster," having only been around since 1995. To recap: Honda had three of the top 10 models in the U.S. in 2007, and the average age of those brands was over 25 years
Taylor shares a comment from legendary management guru Jim Collins, and the comment is as relevant to the disciplines of branding and marketing as to management theory: "The signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change. The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency."