We all remember that confusing feeling from when we were kids: walking into a restaurant and realizing that the smiling person seated in the first booth was your second grade teacher. She was dressed differently, laughing, seemingly relaxed and 100 percent out of character.
Brands can create a similar cognitive dissonance for customers when they stray from their developed personas or strategies. Brands have a tone, voice and texture that are all part of the customer’s experience. Over time, they create the same behavioral expectations we have of our friends and can give us that same off-putting feeling when they don’t act the way we feel they should. It may not be conscious, but there’s a gut reaction that something is not right.
There is real pressure to be everything to everybody so as not to miss a single sale. However, the greatest value of your brand lives in focusing on that sweet spot—the one thing you do better than everyone else. Such consistency isn’t driven solely by the words in a brochure; it comes from staying true to the business direction your brand embodies. Launching a seemingly random service, or a product that doesn’t tie to your brand’s persona, negatively affects perception.
Often, we see companies acting in ways that are dissonant with their brand during times of economic distress. This can create an uncomfortable cycle where a brand ramps up certain atypical projects, only to minimize them when the economy picks up. Such an arc can be destructive for long-term business success and for a brand’s reputation.
Many companies say they would never go against their brand, but end up chasing opportunities (or perceived opportunities) rather than sticking to their core business and values. Before too long, the brand is a “me too” organization with too many marketing messages to be effective.
Here are a few steps you can take to ensure you’re in control of your company’s brand:
- Have a detailed business plan that lists what you will and won’t do. Often, many companies skip the latter and miss out on a chance to set reasonable boundaries for their brands.
- Spend time understanding your brand’s perception in the market: While companies often make assumptions about how they are viewed by outsiders, few take the time to ask.
- Have an internal brand champion. Every organization needs an enforcer—someone who truly internalizes the brand voice and is responsible for ensuring that all aspects of a company’s business plan and customer experience are tailored to fit.
Branding is often thought to be a creative, unwieldy process with room for opinion and interpretation, but I challenge you to think of it as much more black and white. Before jumping in to the next big project, ask yourself this yes or no question: Would my brand do that?
You may have noticed that this post coincides with Identity’s new website and a refreshed brand voice for our agency. We put ourselves through the same rigorous process we use with our clients and believe the site reflects this commitment. We’ve also implemented the same techniques listed above to focus our business plan and ensure an outside perspective on our brand. As our internal brand champion, I know each member of our team is working to internalize these changes and integrate them into everything that we do. It’s not an easy journey, but it’s the right one.
Hope you like our updated look and brand voice!