Brand consistency is one of those terms which is often thrown around in the media, and is usually related to how a brand composes itself across international borders. Aspects of the brand may change, but the overall theme of the brand remains the same; fast food, bright colours, child friendly etc. Maintaining a consistent brand is one of the most important things a company can do, as their reputation depends on this.
Using McDonalds as an example here, it's clear to see that they take great care in their image. Their logo is large, colourful and easily recognisable from a distance, adhering to their brand of 'convenience food'. But this is not to say that features of the company do not change from country to country, quite the opposite. Brand consistency is not about placing identical businesses across the world; that is simply poor judgement, and does not maximise profit. Each business is tailored to its specific clientele, largely depending on which country they are in, or what their audience is. For instance, in Spain McDonalds sells beer from tap. Now this does not happen in the UK due to licensing laws, but does that make Spanish McDonalds a bar? No, it is a fast food restaurant which also sells beer. This is brand consistency, where slight differences do not impact the overall image of the brand.
Almost all of the world famous TNCs have consistent brand images, but the important thing to note is that they can retain the same themes as their other branches, but individual outlets can alter dramatically. Even within a single country, brands remain consistent while also targeting their different audiences. Starbucks is known across the world for decent coffee, and incredible convenience, but each store is slightly different even within a city. A Starbucks in a 'mall' or shopping centre will usually be tiny (for takeaway coffees) or massive with plenty of seating, while a Starbucks in a city centre near a train station may seek to find a compromise. The important thing is brand consistency; wood, tiles, comfy chairs, internet access, and of course the logo everywhere. With a constant image in all of the stores, it is much easier for a consumer to trust a new place and give them their patronage.
Of course there are outliers to this rule, sometimes having brand consistency can be detrimental. Keeping Starbucks as the example here, France has one of the lowest number of franchises in the world. The stores in France are never as popular as smaller-chain coffee shops, and the ones that do exist are mostly in areas of heavy tourist traffic, such as Paris and Disneyland. This is simply due to the mentality of most French citizens, preferring individual stores with more character than the large chains.
Brand consistency is however, usually a good thing for a business to strive for, but is not all to do with image. The way a company composes itself when dealing with the public is also a massive factor, and ties in heavily to public relations. The consistent training of staff to the same level is one aspect of this, and gives many companies a great image to the public, increasing their net worth directly. Apple is a great example of this, with their 'Geniuses' being industry recognised experts in proprietary Apple technology like Macs and iPhones. Knowing that where-ever you are in the world that you can still get your phone repaired through a visit to the store is an incredible boon to public image, and can be used to create a perfect brand image.
Keeping a brand image updated is key, as oftentimes logos and practices change throughout the years. Drastic changes can be hard for the public to accept, but consistent minor changing can be used to great effect by having consumers wanting the 'latest-and-greatest' with the new branding. Market analysis is always needed, but keeping a consistent image is almost always a good thing, and for the effort required it truly makes a huge difference to the success of any business.