5 ways to achieve brand consistency

In the beginning the company (brand) is launched with the best of intentions.

There is a leader, with a vision of what the company can achieve, and he or she implements that vision within the small group of people who helped to found the organization.

Then, more people join the organization. Suddenly the original vision, mission, values and culture are threatened. What if we go this way and not that way? somebody, or many someodies, asks. What if we seize this opportunity, and that one, and another?

Controversies arise about what to do. Corporate communication, both internal and external, suffers as the brand gets pulled in different directions. Suddenly it takes three or four people in as many different departments to clear statements before they are made. And everybody edits every document to death, until things end up saying nothing at all.

It's like what happens when you mix too many colors of paint together - you end up with a sad brown mess.

Sound like a bad brand dream? It can happen. To prevent this:

  • The company founder must make it priority #1 to not only articulate but enforce the organization's vision, mission, values and culture across the board. If the founder is not there then the staff must ask themselves, what would our founder have done? (They do this at Wal-Mart, a fact which not everybody likes) Or they must find a true brand genius with outstanding management skills to keep the brand consistently on track. (Watch The Gap struggling to do this - see - it is not at all clear that the leader they just hired is the brand guru they need.) The brand must be stated, communicated, and articulated every which way possible to keep the organization going in the right direction.
  • The company can hire for brand. At top brand Google, potential employees are vetted extensively to make sure that they will fit into the culture -- as well as highly intelligent. Same at Southwest Airlines. It is much harder to instill the brand once people have already been hired. They have to pre-fit the mold, if you will. (There is evidence that a strong company culture is positively correlated with stock price.)
  • The company can instill corrective mechanisms to keep the brand central to decision-making. One of these is an executive brand council, that stewards the organization through key decisions that will affect the brand. Another is to instill in a chief brand officer (could be the CEO) responsibility for keeping the brand's integrity. Another corrective mechanism is to open up internal communication through blogging, discussion boards, etc. and allow employees to state freely when they feel that the brand's boundaries have been overstepped.
  • The company can instill positive rewards (ranging from noncash time-off awards to cash bonuses) for employees who make suggestions that keep the brand healthy.
  • The company can make a public pledge to stay true to the brand and invite the public to write in at its website with feedback as to whether it is doing well or badly in that respect.

The brand can stay consistent. The key is to recognize the centrality of the brand to the health of the organization as a whole, and not to lose sight of it when new opportunities walk in the door.