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  • Writer's pictureDeJuan Wright

The Number One Law of Branding Your Startup Must Never Break

Updated: Jun 25

Competition often causes us to do things that—under ordinary circumstances, we would have absolutely no intent on doing otherwise. Thanks to human nature, competition brings out our innate survival instincts. And woefully, our primal will to survive often lead us to abandon sound plans; due to unexpected actions taken by our competitors.

As former boxing heavyweight champion Mike Tyson once so eloquently stated, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Eventually, every successful brand will receive a proverbial punch in the mouth from a fierce competitor. There’s simply no avoiding it. And when it happens, no matter how fierce your competitor may be, make sure that you never break this law of branding. 

Branding rules can be broken. But not branding laws 

Like most founders, you probably have a clear vision of how you want your brand to feel, communicate, and most importantly—be perceived by its target audience. But take a second and imagine having a brand strategy that is viewed as being so exceptional, Silicon Valley angels were lining up to become an investor in your startup. 

Until one day, a new competitor emerges in your industry with a brand that instantly becomes so hot—it causes you to totally reevaluate your entire branding strategy. 

In this situation, there are two things that you could do:

  1. Follow the moves of your competitors and change your brand.

  2. Stand pat and believe that the tide turns back in your direction.

If you chose option No. 1, you would be violating the most important law of branding. And that would be a tremendous mistake. 

The most important law of branding

Any true brand strategist who aims to perfect their craft will eventually become familiar with the book, The 22 Immutable Laws Of Branding. Written by Al and Laura Ries, brand marketers study The 22 Immutable Laws Of Branding the same way law attorneys study the constitution. 


Law 19 of The 22 Immutable Laws Of Branding (which in our opinion, is the most important of the 22 laws) is the law of consistency. The law of consistency states that, “Markets may change, but brands shouldn’t. Ever. They may be bent slightly or given a new slant, but their essential characteristics (once those characteristics are firmly planted in the mind) should never change. " Says the Levinson's.

In other words, if your brand isn’t broken, don’t make unnecessary changes to fix it! 

The consequences of breaking this law 

Brands aren’t like frozen pizzas. You can’t just pop them in a microwave, press a button, and instantly heat them up. It takes decades to determine the success of a brand; not months. Speaking of pizza, even one of the most popular brands in the world had to pay the price for breaking the law of consistency. 

Back in 1989, eager to break into the dinner market, and also being on the receiving end of a few public jabs from Pizza Hut; fast food chain McDonald’s, debuted a new menu item to address both issues—the McPizza.

The item was expected to be such a huge success that McDonald's would not only dominate the fast food hamburger market—but also the takeout pizza market as well.

The result? Let’s just say that the McPizza was such a catastrophe for McDonald’s—even to this day, marketing professors use the McPizza as an example in their lectures of what happens when brands that have already attained success—make the mistake of broadening their brand unnecessarily. 

A multi-billion dollar brand like McDonald’s could make the mistake of breaking the law of consistency and still survive it. However, if your startup doesn't have the same resources, breaking the law of consistency could very well be the thing that leads to the demise of your brand. 

Giving your brand the best chance to succeed

Building your brand on a foundation of consistency doesn’t mean that you should stick with a losing brand strategy just for the sake of keeping things consistent. The law of consistency is simply about believing in your brand and not abandoning what it stands for due to new fads or competitors.

As the Levinson’s emphasize in The 22 Immutable Laws Of Branding, “A brand cannot get into the mind unless it stands for something.” 

And to truly stand for something, your brand cannot change with the seasons. Instead, lean on your brand's distinctive components. And not only will your audience support your brand, eventually, they’ll become devoted customers. 

Need help creating an exceptional brand strategy for your startup? If so, contact us today to schedule a free consultation to find out just how we can help your brand increase awareness and customer commitment. 


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