The Alarming Effects of Consistency

Colored and stacked blocks showing the importance of consistency
I’ve mentioned the importance of being consistent a few times before, but the subject really deserves an entire article.

Being consistent can drive your brand into the memory of your customers. Being inconsistent can defeat your marketing campaign and leave people wondering about your professionalism.

How does your small business stack up with regard to consistency? Do all of your materials sing in harmony with one unified message, or are they more like a drunk hoard of Christmas carolers?

A consistent message helps people remember

As most kindergarten teachers will tell you, repetition is the key to memorization. What they might not tell you is that repetition is also the key to making people remember your business (even if they aren’t trying to remember it).

But you can’t just repeat anything, you have to repeat the same thing.

Can you imagine what would happen if I used a different word each time I wanted my dog to sit? Here boy…recline… We humans may be a good deal more complicated than dogs, but the idea is still the same. If you want people to remember and understand your message, the best way is to repeat the same consistent message over and over again.

Inconsistency confuses people

I ran into a great example of this last week: I was driving down a nearby commercial road and saw a business that had one logo on it’s billboard, and an entirely different logo at the entrance. When I was about a block past the entrance, I saw not one but two cars turning around. I took a quick look in my rear-view, and sure enough, they were trying to get back to that business.

Let that be a lesson to all of us—it’s best not to confuse customers.

Here’s another example from SitePoint Articles on why consistency is critical.

“Is a ‘twin overhead cam’ the same as a ‘double overhead camshaft’? My motor mechanic knows, but I don’t. The use of multiple terms for the same thing is a significant cause of confusion.” - Gerry Gaffney

Consistency looks professional, inconsistency doesn’t

As a small business owner, you’re probably fighting for all the credibility you can get. Having a consistent logo and design can help provide that. If you don’t have an established logo or a consistent design, you’ll always look less professional than the company that does.

I know designers can be expensive; but even if you can’t afford proper corporate identity design, you should at least keep your look and feel as close to consistent as possible. Once you master consistency, the next step is to make your corporate identity seductive.

Lastly, there are some times when being consistent just doesn’t fit. The company 37 Signals uses the term “intelligent inconsistency,” and I think that is a great way of putting it. Drew McLellen from Drew’s Marketing Minute also discusses this in his article about consistency.

In the end, much of your success will depend on how well you can relate to your market consistently.

If you liked this article, try reading this one next

Reader Comments

Aug. 23. 2007 4:06 AM
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Inconsistency has been a stumbling block of my small business. Working a full-time job, raising a toddler and helping my wife get through school has made consistency almost impossible. Fortunately, I have a loyal customer base and have not lost any existing business, but I’m certain that I’ve missed opportunities.
Today, I announced my resignation at my full-time job and plan to make my part-time business a full-time one, thus enabling consistency. Thanks for the great advice in this post. It will help me focus my plans.


Aug. 23. 2007 12:06 PM
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Great Post, this is something that I am currently dealing with….a new puppy!  He’s been pretty good, but sometimes when I say something new, he just looks at me, completely confused!  It’s hilarious!


Aug. 23. 2007 1:54 PM
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Danny - Congratulations on going full time! If your customers have stuck with you through inconsistency, you’re probably giving them something pretty darn good. Good luck!

Graham - All it takes is some repetition and consistency : ) I do love new puppies, there is a surprising amount you can learn from them. (I see a post coming on this one…)

Thanks for your comments, it really makes our fledgling site a lot more warm and friendly.

- Mason


Aug. 27. 2007 5:42 PM
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Great article. Consistency can be really useful for getting a message across. I’ve been trying to get any guest posts I writeto have a similar/the same by-line even, just to enforce that. :)


Aug. 27. 2007 6:26 PM
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Michael - consistency in your by-line is definitely a good thought. After that, the trick is to craft a by-line that is intriguing enough so that people will follow it back to your blog. Best of luck!


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Apr. 18. 2014 2:23 AM
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