A recent blog written by Scott about corporate styling brought up an interesting conversation about brand consistency in the office this week. The Coca-Cola brand and the famous bottle shape that he mentions have remained largely unchanged since their inception over 100 years ago. Everyone wants the brand recognition of this soft drink giant but how many are prepared to keep their brand the same for anywhere near this long?

We often encounter clients that are bored with their brand and want a change. Unless there is a strong strategic reason to make a change it is the worst thing you can do. Brands need to be projected consistently to create recognition. Coca-Cola didn’t get where they are today by constantly changing their brand to keep up with trends or satisfy the personal whims of their director.

After a bit of research I discovered that the Coca-Cola logotype has been in use since 1886 – the same year the famous drink was first developed and the bottle has been used since 1916. Although minor tweaks (see the image above) have been made to the brand over the years the overall form is in line with the original design and it has been used consistently and regularly ever since. In the first year, sales of the beverage averaged just 9 drinks per day – by no means a large company – but its owner John Pemberton continued to advertise the brand, aware of its potential. Shortly before his death, Pemberton sold the business to Asa Candler and from there it flourished. Candler trademarked the existing brand (without changing it) and went about advertising and distributing promotional materials bearing the Coca-Cola brand with enthusiasm and strategic thought. From these humble beginnings the brand grew into the multi-national we know today.

So what can we learn from this story?

Remember that every company starts out small.
At just 9 drinks per week Coca-Cola definitely fit the profile of a small business. The difference is, they didn’t think like a small business. They continued to advertise and get their brand out into the public arena. These days with technologies such as Web, Facebook and Twitter, exposing your brand to a large audience is easy and affordable.

Get it right the first time
Get a professionally designed brand in the first instance and make sure it is something you can love for a long time. Don’t feel tempted to change your brand just because you are bored of it. You need to remember that your target audience don’t see your brand anywhere near as often as you do. Make sure you have a corporate style to support your brand and use it consistently. Every time someone sees your distinct colour or typeface it reminds them of your brand – changing any part of it just because you feel like giving it a facelift is detrimental.

Make sure your target audience are aware of your brand by advertising it. Advertising doesn’t need to limit itself to traditional media such as TV and print. Use something that will get to your audience whether that be promotional items, social media or direct marketing. Be innovative and think big.

Use it consistently
Never change your brand just for the sake of it. Its potency comes from its consistency.

Protect your brand from imitation. There is no point investing time and money into a brand if you don’t own the rights to it. By trademarking you will be able to stop others leveraging off your brand by using deceptively similar ones. Coca-Cola trademarked their brand way back in 1893 before it was widely known and I think we will all agree it was well worth the effort.

Remember that to create a strong brand you need to start with a good foundation and build up. Every time you change your brand you demolish some of the structure you put so much effort into building in the first place!