Have you ever chatted with someone who presents a story to you that sounds familiar, except for some minor-to-major details, which have been shifted, embellished, and distorted?  It’s common in the world of gossip and akin to playing the game, whisper down the lane.

I used to teach in high school, where cliques wax poetic about gossip just as much (or more) as tweed-jacketed English teachers speak Shakespeare.  The interests and cliques of teens can be capricious and fickle; yet teachers, those in authority, need to relay consistency.  One of the best pieces of advice received from older peers regarded consistency, being ‘who you say you are’ and doing ‘what you said you would.’

The dynamic between a student and teacher is a bit different from that of a consumer and brand; however, the need for consistency remains integral to facilitate good relations.  Mixed signals and contradiction, purveyed by a brand, is recognized by consumers.  It frustrates and alienates the latter party.

Over the weekend, I read a post on forming a corporate identity manual.  A brand does not need to be huge to host a manual; a brand consisting of one employee may benefit from a manual.  Why?  It addresses a brand’s character; it provides the ‘blue prints’ for a brand’s personality.  Secondly, it serves as a graphic reminder (a ‘post-it’ note), mentally nudging all brand players about the importance of the brand’s identity and the consistency of expressing it.

Example 1
Those practicing online marketing often get perplexed by Google; it must be very intimidating for those outside of the industry.  A brief time ago, Google introduced privacy setting changes, creating a mass of confusion, with many expressing their frustration with the brand.  Google’s engine is the most popular method of search; a communicative blunder (even of large proportions) is not likely to sink the brand; but, Google champions itself on creating the best user experience; being tongue-tied about mass-rolled-out changes is not consistent with its intended identity.  This is not good for consumers and definitely not good for Google.

Example 2
I own a phone powered by a popular mobile brand.  I recently had a billing question, pointing out the disparity between written text on their Web site, what was explained to me while signing a contract, and what was relayed to me by a representative on the phone.  My real frustration with the brand culminated in the feeling of helplessness; I can’t find a theme of consistency with the brand’s processes.  I shouldn’t have to sleuth and elucidate contradictions.  Before the brand takes my money, accepting me as an ongoing consumer, it should definitively engineer its policies, ensuring a consistent identity.

In the first example, Google did a poor job of ‘being who it says’ – a provider of the best user experience.  In the second example, the brand did a poor job of ‘doing what it said it would’ in regard to the billing process.

Does This Hit Home?
The way I branded myself as a person of authority in the classroom was important.  I needed to ensure a level of consistency; because, if I didn’t, I would be ‘called’ on it.

“Hey, Mr. P, can I have an extension on that project due on Friday?”

“No, sorry, I can’t budge on that.”

“Why did you tell Tommy in 4th period he could have one!?”

See what would happen if I was inconsistent with my branding?  I would alienate some consumers.

“Hey class, I know I said I would give all of you some free time to do your homework at the end of class; but, I changed my mind.”

(Chaos and Mr. P voo-doo dolling ensues)

Do you have children?  Did they ever ask a question at different times or to different parents, attempting to elicit a different response?  High school teens do the same with teachers; they can be crafty.  I did it when I was in school.  Does your brand respond consistently to its consumers?

Solution
Branding myself and my methods was important before I started teaching.  In the above article, the branding strategist maintains a graphic organizer with a signed ‘contract’ by the owner, the ‘contract’ enforcing the corporate identity.

Before teaching, I presented a graphic contract, ‘Mr. P’s structural bookends,’ having each student and aligned parent sign it.  This way, all consumers and related associates had a clear understanding of my ‘brand,’ who I was, what I expected, and what they could expect regarding my instruction.

The author of the corporate identity article endorses the formation and regular revisiting of a company-wide identity manual.  Have you considered such a process? Do all team members act uniformly toward consumers?  Is each piece of content, produced by your brand, released with your brand’s intended, consistent message?  Ensure all involved with your brand are on the same branding page.