Can you believe he wrote that? Don’t make a brand consistent? Huh?

Ok, here’s why I wrote that: Consistency is not enough.

In fact, consistency is often boring.

Don’t think consistent. Think complementary.

Take one of the world’s strongest brands – Apple. I don’t expect the different components of the Apple brand I come in contact with (computer, iPod, iPhone,, iTunes, iTunes store, Genius Bar, retail shopping experience, computer repair, etc.) to all say the same thing, with consistency. That would be weird. No, I expect them to be in complement, creating experiences that blend in harmony.

The oft-mentioned “McDonald’s is a great brand because I can get the same hamburger anywhere is the world” is not really what makes a great brand. It may make a predictable product, but it doesn’t make for an interesting brand. Experiences worth noticing and thinking about use contrast and tension to create interest. One of my favorite avocations is playing jazz. Beautiful jazz harmonies are filled with tension and dissonance; the contrast is what makes them beautiful. The same thing can happen with experiences your customers have with you.

Consistency is not enough. You can aim higher. Think “complement.”


  • Michael Martine, Blog Consultant
    Feb 29, 2008 - 05:41 am

    Man, I thought all you had to do was stick your logo on everything! 🙂

    • Steve Yastrow
      Feb 29, 2008 - 13:12 pm

      A logo is one thing that should definitely be consistent!

  • Derrick Kwa
    Feb 29, 2008 - 11:39 am

    I think that while the experiences may be different, the consistency comes in that they all have a similar aim.

    With Apple, for example, all the products are about simplicity and innovation in design, sleekness, etc. The various experiences all evoke similar emotions.

    McDonald’s isn’t great because you can get the same hamburger in the world, but it’s great because all around the world, the McDonalds offer the same thing. Fast service, a fun place to eat/interact, etc.

    Basically, while the offerings of the brand complement each other, the brand itself (the emotions evoked by the products), should be consistent, I think.

    • Steve Yastrow
      Feb 29, 2008 - 13:14 pm

      Derek –

      Yes, I agree, the underlying essence of the brand needs to have internal integrity … call that consistency if you want. The expressions of that brand can be complementary, and have contrast.

      Your Apple comment sums this up. The underlying principles are solid, which makes it possible for the varied expressions of the brand to blend together in Brand Harmony.

  • Ed Erickson
    Feb 29, 2008 - 12:23 pm

    From what I’ve been learning, consistency is important when it comes to your delivery process, communication thru that process and quality of delivery and quality of product. Consistency = reliability = trust = longterm relationship.

    Within that continuum, interesting to think about shifting to approaching the products as being complementary. I definitely see these two approaches with Apple.

    Complementary thru a continuum of consistency. Writing that down in my moleskin collection of thoughts…

    • Steve Yastrow
      Mar 01, 2008 - 01:06 am

      Ed – original notes for the post written down in my moleskin …glad to see thoughts are going into yours!

      Don’t know if you have my book Brand Harmony, but if you do, check out pages 38 – 40, which talk about using contrast, beyond consistency, to create character in a brand.

      Also … I’m not sure if trust is enough to create a long-term relationship. Lots of places are trustworthy … I trust The Gap, but I don’t have a relationship with them. It takes more to create “We.” I’ll post a lot more on relationships in the upcoming weeks and months.

  • Jayakumar Hariharan
    Mar 01, 2008 - 09:01 am

    How about Surprises?

    The iPod was a surprise that set expectations. The Intel Mac was another surprise. The iPhone surprised us yet again. Yesterday I walked into my boss’s room and the Mac Air surprised me yet again.

    Jay, from Bangalore

  • Steve Yastrow
    Mar 01, 2008 - 19:18 pm

    Jay –

    Thanks for checking in from India. Good to hear from you.

    Surprise is a wonderful example of contrast. The surprise complements the rest of your experience, creating interesting brand harmony. If it was consistent, it wouldn’t be a surprise, would it?

Leave A Reply