"Yet it's very scary, because adopting a single position means forgoing all others. So most Brands water down their point of difference in an effort to avoid alienating anyone. The result, instead, is a Brand that doesn't deeply resonate with anyone."
I’m paraphrasing Seth Godin in saying that, “to target everyone is to target no one.” Such is one of the core messages from Ted Matthews simple yet poignant book Brand: It Ain’t the Logo (It’s What People Think of You). A Globe and Mail bestseller, Brand is a practical guide to branding and marketing in the 21st century.
Perhaps what I enjoyed most about this book is the parallel Matthews draws between brand and culture. Matthews believes (as I do) that in today’s world – where the average consumer is savvy, active and hyper-connected – your brand is the culmination of customer experience. Every interaction, therefore, will impact your brand – either to the positive or the negative. As the average consumer gets bombarded by more and more messages in a given day, that window in which to make an impression (hopefully positive!) grows smaller and smaller. We need to be clear, we need to stand for something and, most importantly, we need to be consistent.
The Big Idea
Limited Brain Space
"...while always, always keeping in mind the number one rule of Branding: be consistent."
Here’s a fundamental problem for most marketers and business leaders: We’re surrounded by our brand every day. We see the logo, brand colors and taglines every day, several hours a day. We are informed as to the “big picture” of how all the pieces fit together, and the messages we’re trying to share with the outside world. The outside world, by comparison, gets our message in pieces scattered throughout their day, and interspersed with a million other messages from a million other companies and brands. What’s the problem here?
The problem is that it’s easy for us to get tired/bored/sick of our branding long before our target customers are even aware of it.
It doesn’t matter what you think of your logo, colors, messaging, etc. It matters what the customer thinks. It matters that we “stay the course” long enough to sink into the conscious and subconscious brains of our clients. It matters that we repeat ourselves over, and over, and over again in a consistent fashion. This isn’t sexy. It isn’t splashy, and it’s not as exciting as doing something new. But it works.
"Fresh", not "New"
"These creatives may or may not realize that coming up with something fresh is actually a lot harder than dreaming up something new."
As Matthews points out in the book, the advertising and marketing worlds are particularly fond of award shows; of patting each other on the back and glamorizing innovative advertising campaigns. There’s an expectation and desire in advertising to “make your mark” by creating something new and noteworthy, both for public acclaim and as a resume builder. The challenge, as we discussed in the The Big Idea, is that New destroys traction and brand recognition. New confuses the audience, splintering the coherent understanding of what the brand’s about. In a world saturated with marketing messages, confusion or fuzziness as to what a brand stands for can mean capitulation or even death. Be fresh, by all means – l look for new ways to express the same values and/or iconic imagery (Energizer Bunny, anyone?) – but don’t go “new for new’s sake”. It’s not about you. It’s about the audience and their understanding of what you stand for.
Give them Clarity
"Give the proper tools to a group of people who like to make a difference, and they will."
To hammer this point about consistency home, let’s talk about brand advocates in general, and social media, specifically. Now, more than ever, people are aligning themselves with brands that share their values; values like quality, safety, philanthropy, innovation, family, etc. People are proud of the brands they buy from and want to share the message. What message are you giving them to share? Have you made it easy for people to talk about you? Have you made it easy for a number of different people to share a consistent message? Have the discipline to stick to a single message and then provide sound bites, links, contests, stories and examples that reinforce the point. Make it easy for people to promote you in a unified way. Waves crashing into one another may make a short term splash, but tidal waves build by water moving consistently in the same direction over long distances. Commit to the power of a tidal wave.
Brand: It Ain’t the Logo is an excellent reminder that marketing isn’t about your latest ad, but instead is your customers (ideally) deep rooted understanding of what your company stands for. Certainly if you work in marketing, but particularly if you own the company or work on the senior leadership team, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy and commit to the short read. You’ll be glad you did.