Memories fade away if you don’t refresh them regularly. The same applies to brands. A popular brand doesn’t stay top of mind automatically. Before you know it, out of sight becomes out of mind and out of consideration.
Brands are like muscles: if you train them they’ll get stronger. If you neglect them their power will slowly vanish.
Consistency creates superpower Brands reduce uncertainty by promising as well as delivering a consistent, predictable experience. Proven predictability inspires loyalty, which is a sustainable source of business (and makes the difference between a valuable and a worthless company).
The opposite is also true. If different brand expressions contradict each other, it’s confusing for customers. Compare it with the people we meet in daily life. How trustworthy do you consider somebody who is dressed in a posh way, but talks with a rough rural accent? How stable do you consider somebody who is sweet looking and behaving the one day, and aggressive and hostile on the other? Whimsical behaviour makes us guarded and suspicious, anything but trusting. For the same reason a brand can’t have a trendy tone of voice at the same time as a dated, old fashioned visual style or be formal today and loose and witty tomorrow. That may be detrimental to its credibility. Confusing is losing.
As a brand you have to be consistent as well as coherent. Only then will you be able to win consumer trust, preference and loyalty. Anything people hear, read, see, feel about a brand must be recognizable and leave the same impression with customers.
Renewal and recognisability: a fine balance Between the need to continue to attract attention and to be consistent, there is a healthy tension. A brand must be consistent on the one hand, and continue to surprise update itself on the other. If you don’t move on with trends, you risk becoming irrelevant and out of touch with consumers. Successful brands know exactly how to find a balance between familiarity and innovation. This is important for brand innovation as well as communication.
Stay visible Brands are just like languages. You don’t become a native speaker from one day to another. Only the languages you regularly are exposed to, rehearse and/or use stay in your memory. Otherwise the words and meanings slowly sink away from your consciousness. For brands the same applies. You’ll have to remind your target-audience regularly about your brand’s existence, even if they aren’t in the process of buying at the moment. The more often people are reminded of your brand, the faster they will think about it once the need comes up for a product or service your brand can satisfy. Visibility is therefore a top priority for every brand – whether it’s in the store, online, on the streets or in the media.
Keep rubbing your brand essence in Brand (name) awareness is not the only thing that matters. The more competitors you have in your market, the more important it is that your (potential) customers know what makes you special. Once a need arises that your brand can fulfil best, your want them to remember why they should choose for you. Every contact with a customer is an opportunity to remind him of your existence and the difference you make. This is another reason to have a good slogan (see: memorable messaging), which expresses tour promise in a nutshell. Use it in all brand expressions: from advertising to letterheads to your invoices. The more often you repeat what you stand for, the deeper your name and essence will be engraved in the minds of your target audience.
Take Nike for example. Most people will know Nike’s slogan “Just do it”, right? But who knows Reebok’s slogan? The difference: Nike has been using hers for fifteen years. Reebok changed its slogan fifteen times since 1987, simply too fast to become indelibly etched onto people’s minds. It’s like starting to learn a new language every time again, instead of consolidating the previous one. The longer brands exist and the more consistent they are, the more indelible they’ll become in consumers memories. The less marketing budget you have, the more important this consistency becomes!
Managing brand consistency is often confused with the company logo-policing. But that’s just one thing. Brand management requires overview and long term focus. Building a brand a matter of months and years, not days or weeks. In many organizations, the danger of short-term thinking constantly is lurking.
Summary & checklist
A strong brand is a strong recollection. And recollections need training:
- by being visible and consistent (in distribution and media)
- by reminding (potential) customers about what makes you different
- by delivering your brand promise in every contact
Dilution and dispersion are always lurking. Focus, coherence and consistency are key to any brand’s success:
- the more cohesion, the more strongly your brand essence will become engraved in consumer’s minds and linked to feelings of trust.
- If customer experiences aren’t coherent (or even contradict each other), this may be at the expense of clarity for customers. And negatively affect their trust, preference and loyalty. Weak consistency creates weak brand
Managing brands requires a lot of time, attention and perseverance:
- Cover the brand responsibility in the top of your organization
- Building brands is a matter of years, not weeks or months. Stay sharp, carry on and be persistent!