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Building Brand Trust in Consistency

March 4, 2011

Determining and creating your company brand is the single, greatest business decision that you will ever make. The brand can make or break your business, and a consistent brand can build unconditional trust between an audience and a product or service. But if done poorly, or changed along the way, the inconsistency can backfire and your company could ultimately pay the price.


In June of last year, General Motors sent probably one of the most important employee memos out to every member of its Detroit headquarters. This memo was no ordinary business statement; it was monumental in the eyes of all who follow brand marketing.

“When you look at the most recognized brands throughout the world, such as Coke or Apple for instance, one of the things they all focus on is the consistency of their branding,” the memo said. “Why is this consistency so important? The more consistent a brand becomes, the more prominent and recognizable it is with the consumer.”

The memo went on to say that the company was no longer going to use the term “Chevy” to describe their brand. Even though “Chevy” is “one of the world’s best-known, longest-lived product nicknames,” Sales and Marketing decided things needed to change.

That decision might not have made a big splash with consumers, who in most cases probably didn’t even notice a change that really never happened anyways, but in the world of marketing everyone started to question their own brand quality.

One expert on branding said G.M.’s effort ran counter to a trend in which corporate names had become more casual, according to the New York Times. The consultant, Paul Worthington, head of strategy for Wolff Olins, a brand consulting company, noted that FedEx had replaced Federal Express, KFC had supplanted Kentucky Fried Chicken and “even RadioShack has evolved into the Shack.”

Of course, as with many other marketing ideas from big businesses, this brand name change did not pan out, as seen in “Chevy’s” new “Chevy Runs Deep” campaign that was recently launched over Super Bowl weekend. But Chevy’s debacle with their own brand is a reminder that brand quality and consistency can make or break a company.

Many times in branding your business, the people do the work for you, which is ultimately what happened with the Chevrolet brand. According to Hall of Famer Dick Guldstrand, who raced Chevy’s, “Once (Chevrolet) became an American icon, America took it away from G.M. They made it a Chevy. You’re doing a disservice to all the people by telling them not to call it a Chevy.”

Point well taken, Mr. Guldstrand. If the people create your company brand for themselves, and it’s one that sticks and works for the people, why change something that is not broken.

Mr. Worthington, a branding expert, said Chevrolet seemed unclear what the brand stood for. "So what it would appear they are trying to do, by centralizing to a single formal name, is to try to get some focus as to what that brand stands for, and get that out into the marketplace, which makes a lot of sense."

Ultimately, he said, consumers "will call you whatever they want to call you."