Mobius Knot

Brand Improvement: Continuous or Continual?

The words “continuous” and “continual” are so similar in appearance and sound that many people use them as if they were synonymous. But in truth, the subtle distinction between the two sheds important light on our understanding of brand.

When we describe something as “continuous,” we are saying that it goes on without interruption. So this word could properly be used to describe the mathematical concept of a line (which has no end) or the hum that emanates from old fluorescent lights, or the beltway that encircles a major city. “Continual,” on the other hand, describes something that recurs chronically, in repeating intervals, with interruptions.

So, understanding the distinction, we should ask, “Does brand evolution occur continuously or continually?”

Because brand exists only in the mind of the consumer, every touch-point between the organization and its markets affects brand. Affordability improves brand, momentarily. Carefully crafted communications campaigns can ratchet tighter customer relationships, over time. And chronic service problems have the power to erode brand, just as the ebb and flow of tides can erode a sandy beach. These are all examples of continual brand evolution. And they are easy to see, from outside the organization.

But that’s not how we tend to view brand, when it’s our own brand, because we view brand evolution as deliberate, as following a well-established plan. From inside, brand evolution seems continuous, always moving forward (though at varying speeds) along a charted course.

Which viewpoint is right? I guess that depends on whose opinion you value more. Personally, I tend to side with the customer.

The benefit of understanding that brand improvement is continual is this: An interruption in a continuous process is a failure, whereas, you can’t fail at a process that’s continual – if you drop the ball or encounter a setback, you just start again. And there’s tremendous comfort and motivation in that.

Here’s to the continual evolution of your brand.