The brand’s consistency.
A short story. During the five years of partnership with Interbrand, the global branding and design company, I found out and I learned a lot of things. Their know-how is enormous and it encompasses several decades of experience in almost all fields and markets, from the United States to Asia or Russia. One of the favourite stories of the director, that is in charge of the European branch, was about Mr Zintzmeyer, the founder of Zintzmeyer & Lux, which was later acquired by Interbrand and developed in Europe. For decades, Mr Zintzmeyer’s personal client was BMW, even after the sale of the agency to Interbrand, the famous designer retained his position as a member of the Interbrand Zurich board that managed the BMW account. In fact, it was Mr Zintzmeyer who laid the modern foundations of BMW’s corporate and brand identity, brand strategy and brand management systems and then continued them under the Interbrand umbrella. Until his death, Mr Zintzmeyer was BMW’s personal management adviser.
Mr Zintzmeyer’s story goes something like this: On the occasion of the launch of a new BMW model, Interbrand designed the launch event at a German airport, among supersonic aircraft, thus trying through side-by-side comparison (co-branding if you want to call it) to demonstrate and support BMW’s positioning, “Sheer driving experience”. The project was personally handled by Mr Zintzmeyer, from the concept to the smallest details related to the inscription of the BMW logo on the precious gift items that were to be offered to the guests. Mr Zintzmeyer was a fan of the coherence, consistency, and perfection of every detail in design and presentation, and he admitted no mistakes or omissions. At the entrance on the airport runway, several hostesses received guests and guided them to the event area and offered them a glass of champagne – made out of plastic. Mr Zintzmeyer, being a guest, was, of course, served with a plastic glass – a simple one, from the catering – full of champagne. By the way, BMW took care of the catering. From this point begins a whole mess that may seem hilarious or pointless to some, but the moral of the story is simple and in the end, it is extremely logical. Mr Zintzmeyer refused the plastic cup, he angrily called BMW’s president of emergency and he bluntly explained that when launching a new BMW model, the plastic cups have nothing to do there because they come in contrast with the elegance of the BMWs, with the important event and with the champagne (which is a noble drink). He also added that the minimum acceptable would have been the classic champagne glasses with high legs and narrow mouths. He then turned his back on the BMW president, saying that “it is a degrading thing what is happening”. He left and he refused to participate in “such a blasphemy”.
Which is the moral of the story? Brand consistency. You can’t earn your recognition by not paying attention to every detail. You can’t maintain your hard-earned reputation unless you’re constant in what you are doing – you are coherent and consistent in all the forms of brand manifestation that come in contact with the public, those famous “touchpoints” that everyone speaks about and which not that many people really pay close attention to.
What does consistency in branding and design mean? When you manage to impose a certain recognizable line on all forms of brand manifestation, on those “touchpoints”. This consistency, coherence and constancy is in fact the public reflection of the essence, strategy and positioning of the brand.