The Adaptive Brand

“Consistency, consistency” used to be the mantra of brand identity gurus in the 20th century. In prior decades, brand managers aimed to establish their products and services primarily by way of consistency and repetition. And it was the goal of the designer was to define identity systems that would ensure compliance and coherence in all of the brand’s manifestations, as codified in brand identity style guides.

But we now live in a different context. The postmodern society is infinitely more fluid and diverse so, to trying to predict and codify all potential instances of a brand’s current identity can be counterproductive. Therefore, consistency — while still desirable — should not necessarily be the main driver of a brand identity system.

Brands should nowadays give themselves permission to be more surprising, to flirt with their customers, to listen to what they have to say and to cater to their desires. A modern brand should take leaps of faith, abandon self-obsessions and embrace risk. Conversely, by not doing this, the brand could become irrelevant in a hurry.

Because of the dominance of social media, brand identities can now be defined more by their customers than by the companies themselves. The ideal balance, however, stems from the ability to be flexible while keeping intact the core principles and attributes that formed the brand in the first place. Without such grounding, a brand becomes a changeling — morphing its shape to any external whim and impulse and rendering itself amorphous, or even anonymous.

This fresh approach to defining a brand can be liberating for designers, brand managers and the public. It tends to result in more immersive, delightful and rewarding customer experiences, and it is at the heart of a recent spate of “loose” brand identity executions whose core elements nevertheless remain. Designers have yet to exhaust the full potential of this new method, but many instances already point the way. One great example is the branding for the City of Melbourne.

Patrick Jackson Design
(Article extracts courtesy of Smashing Magazine)