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Don't Be Changing When You Should Be Saming

By: William Arruda

For nearly 20 years, William Arruda has been working with some of the world's most valuable Brands, including KPMG, Lotus, IBM, and Primark Corporation. Combining his brand experience with his passion for people, William founded Reach (www.reachcc.com), the world's first brand management company for organizations and individuals.

A member of the International Coach Federation (ICF), William holds a Master's Degree in Education, and has lent his expertise to audiences around the world. He has published articles in publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal to brandchannel.com and is the author of two upcoming books: You: Brand New - Three Steps to Successful Personal Branding; and Health without the Health Club. You can reach him at williamarruda@reachcc.com.

With the exception of Madonna, all of us in the world need to be 'saming.' We will talk more about Madonna in a minute, but for now, let's talk about you. For you to build and maintain a strong brand, you must be consistent. Strong brands don't change their promise of value. They communicate their unique promise of value through all that they do. This is an important thread that links all of the world's most successful brands.

When you have incongruous experiences with a brand, your desire to remain loyal to that brand wanes. For example, one of McDonalds promises is speed. They are the world's 8th strongest brand and the de facto leader in FAST food. If you go to a McDonalds and wait in line for half an hour, you become frustrated because you have bought into their promise of fast food. If you continued to have this kind of experience, you would consider changing brands to Burger King, Wendy's or another fast food restaurant.

The strongest brands in the world recognize the role of consistency in their success. Cartier never deviates from its classic, sophisticated style even when adding new products to their line. Apple Computers remains creative, from the unique design of their hardware to their commitment to the creative publishing and media industries. And BMW consistently builds sporty, high-performance, German-engineered 'driving machines.' Strong people brands are equally consistent.

Richard Branson is a risk-taker in all that he undertakes - from signing the Sex Pistols onto his record label to launching Virgin Cola to compete against Coca Cola, the world's strongest brand. Oprah is the human brand of entertainment and you can see that in the films she chooses to be in, the books she selects for her book club and the messages that she communicates through her talk show. And David Beckham is the poster boy for metrosexuals, combining his sports star image with hair gel, trendy clothes and a chic, urban lifestyle.

Consistency is just as important for you. What separates you from others with similar skills and abilities is your unique promise of value. Communicating that unique promise through all that you do enables you to stand out and greatly expand your success. But if you send messages that are incompatible, those around you will not know what you stand for or what to expect from you. So remember, being 'the same' is essential to successful branding.

Saming doesn't mean that you will be forever stuck where you are. In fact, saming enables you to get where you are going. Once you have built a reputation through consistent expression of your unique promise of value, you have the permission to evolve, as long as that evolution is consistent with your band promise. For example, Starbucks now offers teas and sells coffee machines and you find Starbucks ice cream on your grocer's shelf; amazon.com sells CDs and videos; and Mercedes has added style to its still solid and sophisticated cars.

When you are known for something, you can expand your target market or extend your offerings with ease. If Volvo wanted to increase their range of products, they could do so easily - as long as it is consistent with their current brand promise of safety. For example, they could take a leadership position in the home security business because we all associate the Volvo name with safety and security. That's Volvo's promise of value.

Now back to Madonna.
Madonna's promise of value is change. That is what we expect from her. If she were to release another CD just like her last, we would be disappointed. The one-of -a- kind chameleon of entertainment is dynamic; she is continuously re-inventing herself. That is what is consistent about her. So, Madonna, if you are reading this (and I sure hope you are ), please ignore the advice. For the rest of you, don't be changing when you should be saming.

© William Arruda, 2004

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