We Are So Addicted To The Idea That Consistency Is Linear

I am weird, yes and I took this photo through the windowpane of someone's trunk, in a parking lot.

The reason I took the photo was that the chart caught my attention. It is not the first time I've seen people literally carrying around these kind of diagram charts in their trunks.

Possibly people in the Washington, D.C. metro area carry these things around because they are wonky policy types or academics very frequently. Maybe they have briefings on the Hill that just can't wait. Or they're consultants who want to show a process in play.

Whatever the scenario I look at these charts and I have to laugh. Because my life is not linear, my mind is not linear and neither is the life or mind of anyone I know.

It is true that I try to break things down into repeatable steps. In fact this is a lot of what I do at work. But I have found over time that steps and processes do not work they way they look on paper. In reality people work in a completely non-linear fashion, for at least five reasons:

  • The linear types and the non-linear types have to work together, so you can't have straight linear.
  • Creativity has a logic but it is not linear, and you need creativity to innovate.
  • The world of networking and relationships relies often on "workarounds" to make abstract procedures work in a practical way. 
  • As leadership changes, work culture changes.
  • External factors like technology, the strategic environment, even the workstyle of new recruits influence the way existing procedures are implemented.
All of this matters for branding - a lot - because we tend to think of consistency as McDonald's hamburger patties coming out similarly each and every time.

The truth is branding nowadays must have inner consistency as often as outer. That is, the brand should "feel like" you even if it does not literally look or sound the same way every time.

The best conveyor of a brand is always the human being. And human beings are always quirky, unpredictable and imperfect - that's the very best part of us, and it's the part that great brands capture consistently. 

The very best exemplar of this kind of branding today? The Kardashians - who, if you really watch carefully, have this narrative formula down pat.


Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal is an author, independent brand researcher, and adjunct marketing professor with 20 years of varied experience. An avid researcher and prolific, creative writer, Dr. Blumenthal's interests span communication, marketing, qualitative media content analysis, political rhetoric, propaganda, leadership, management, organizational development, and more. An engaged citizen, she has for several years worked to raise awareness around child sex trafficking and the dangers of corruption at @drdannielle on Twitter. You can find her articles at Medium, www.AllThingsBrand.com and www.DannielleBlumenthal.com, and she frequently answers questions on Quora. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own.