Inconsistent Branding and New Coke

Hummingbird CreativeBranding & Creative

New Coke is considered by many to be the greatest brand failure ever. This inconsistent branding rose from Coke’s desire to regain market share after customers seemed to prefer the sweeter taste of rival Pepsi-Cola, and in an effort to boost slumping sales in the early 1980s.

The public went nuts.

new coke inconsistent branding

People were absolutely devastated by the change and that the classic formula was no longer in production. It didn’t matter that New Coke was a better product and it was what the market was requesting; cola fans didn’t want the change.

Less than three months after the introduction of New Coke, in July 1985, Coca-Cola admitted defeat and brought back the original formula. Surprisingly, even through all the backlash, New Coke remained on the shelves– though in limited supply– until 2002 before being discontinued.

The subsequent reintroduction of the old formula, dubbed “Coca-Cola Classic”, resulted in a significant gain in sales but the hostile public reaction to New Coke serves as a reminder to not mess with a well-established and successful brand.

Brand inconsistencies can happen to anyone– no matter how big or small– and they can happen at the most innocent of places. But spotting brand inconsistencies and avoiding them can help your business; according to a recent study by McKinsey & Company, B2B companies with strong and consistent branding are 20 percent more successful than those that are weak and inconsistent. The way an audience perceives your brand plays a central role in their buyer’s journey.

When your brand is littered with inconsistent branding, your customer might begin to doubt your credibility and decide against purchasing from you.

Check your work, and cover all your bases, by finding some sneaky places inconsistent branding can hide.


As long as more than one person is contributing to your content marketing strategy there’s bound to be different writing styles. While it’s good to have a range of styles, voices and personalities, there’s a fine line between just enough and too much. When the writing styles are just too drastically different, you risk confusing your consumers about the message you’re attempting to send.

Fixing It

There’s a reason there’s an AP Style Guide for journalists — it helps maintain consistency across news platforms. Of course, major news outlets have their own variations of the style guide, but they clearly communicate their expectations and rules to writers. Your brand can do the same thing to remove brand inconsistencies. Your company’s content style guide should include guidelines for what tone, character and voice the branded content needs to convey so writers of all backgrounds have a basic standard to follow.

Social Media

There’s a ton of social media platforms out there, and more are emerging– or dying (Vine)– every day. It can be difficult to figure out which platforms to invest your time and energy into. Sometimes when we hear about “the next Facebook”, we feel the pressure to join and have a presence. All this ends up doing is spreading your resources thinner and having barely-touched accounts littering the Internet. You also run into the issue of having a platform that doesn’t reach your target audience.

Fixing It

This is one of the easier brand inconsistencies to fix; first, find the platforms your audiences tend to flock to. It’s also a good idea to Spring Clean your social media profiles and toss any old profiles you don’t use to minimize audience confusion if they happen to stumble upon it.


There are different philosophies about emails floating around. Some people are short and sweet with their internet correspondences, just sending a line or two as needed. Others need a full paragraph or two (or full pages) to get the point across. Just like there are different philosophies behind emails, people use different types of language in their emails. Some are overtly formal, others are casual. A customer may be working with sales and IT to solve a problem, but be getting different messages in terms of length, voice, etc. from different departments.

Fixing It

Just like creating a style guide for your content, creating a guide for email correspondence can help align your team and strengthen the message you’re trying to portray. You can include guidelines on how to respond to questions and what specific language to include or exclude. A great starting point is to make a list of the most common questions broken down by department and then create on-brand answers for each question.

It may also be a good idea to have a set font type and color in the email style guide, as well. While bright green Comic Sans is fun for personal use, it may cause your brand to lose credibility if it’s not used consistently and deliberately.

What Happens With Inconsistent Branding?

Consistent customer experiences and messaging strategies go a long way in building trust in your brand, but consistency can break down when your brand hyper focuses on developing tactics instead of aligning your brand with your core values.

Inconsistent branding can harm your business by reducing sales from current and future customers who are unhappy about their experience, which can result in slowed growth and goals not being met in a timely fashion.

where ideas take flight

At Hummingbird Creative Group, we build business value through better branding. Contact us to find out how we can build your business’s value:
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