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I am indebted to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought Of That blog for posting a leaving speech from a guy I’d never heard of.

Chris Pullman was “design visionary” at Boston based public broadcast service WGBH in Boston.

This, Point 7, from his What I’ve Learned speech really resonated with me.

Variety is the spice of life.

When I came here in the early 70’ s the trend was toward monolithic design programs governed by a thick and sacred style manual. As I got to understand the business, this strategy seemed to me to make no sense for WGBH. With programming as diverse as The French Chef, NOVA and ZOOM, no one mode of visual expression could logically suite this range of content. It occurred to me that in fact variety itself can be a kind of consistency. But when the visual expressions of a company are always and rightfully different, you have to have some other constant that binds the work together, something that lets individual expressions be different, but makes them recognizable as a family of related materials. The goal in this game is to strive for the smallest number of constants and the largest number of variables. And you have to turn to non-visual sources of consistency.

“Variety itself can be a kind of consistency”.

“Strive for the smallest number of constants and the largest number of variables.”

I love these ideas, and I tend to admire the brands that successfully espouse this philosophy.

In fact I often quoted the (ok, obvious) example of Nike when trying to explain this approach to clients when I worked in advertising. There is very little in terms of executional detail that unites a reel of 10 Nike commercials. But they and it absolutely hang together as campaign and brand respectively.

I am equally indebted to Gareth Kay for posting this now widely distributed  presentation about the creative brief in the post-digital age.

It includes this (slide 86) point about brand coherency being more important than brand consistency.

The example on Gareth’s slide is Starbucks, but it could equally well be Nike, or indeed Google which he references in the slide that follows about Distributed Identity.

The traditional, consistency, approach to brand management either doesn’t work any more or it seriously holds brands back in an environment in which brands should be “exploding” onto multiple stages.

Exploding coherently that is.

So there is danger in unexploded brands.

What they gain in consistency they lose ten times over in missed opportunities to express themselves and engage.

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