Consistency and Inspiration and Engagement in Branding

Not sure if you saw this already, but Fast Company magazine and Mechanica released a joint survey titled the Branding Forward Project in which 623 marketers participated. Lots of interesting findings, many of which showed a divide between proponents of traditional marketing approaches and those favoring new marketing techniques.

One statistic that struck me: 73% of participants believe “the days of strategic consistency are over, it’s all about inspiration and engagement.”  I thought about the result for a long time and then thought:  Why not have it all?  Why not strategic consistency and inspiration and engagement?  Is this a symptom of our ADD world that consistency gets thrown under the bus in the name of inspiration and engagement?

Why Consistency Matters

Let’s face it, we all think our brand is great, and the world follows it and loves it.  Sorry to break it to you, but it probably isn’t true.  For most companies, your brand is not known or remembered or it is known and loved by a relatively small group of customers.  It’s a fact.  According to a survey I conducted with more than 150 marketing and sales executives, less than 1/3 of brands are named when a market category is given.

So what happens when you are not strategically consistent? Let’s say you’re the X company one day, the Y company the next and the Z company the day after. You are very inspirational and engaging on each of those days, but I am not sure what your brand is because I can’t form a consistent image of it.  With all the brands coming at me every day, I do not have the bandwidth to figure out what you are or where I should place you.   In short, you are making me work a little too hard.

Yeah, I know there have been some companies that have played against this rule.  Geico runs multiple campaigns with different themes and creative approaches concurrently.  But Geico spent more than $800 million on advertising last year.  To put this in perspective, only .34% (yes, 1/3 of 1 percent) of U.S. companies had annual sales over $100 million in the last census (2007).  Even with all this, I think if you ask people to describe Geico, most will say the gecko and 15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance.  For companies with mere-mortal marketing budgets, consistency is one way to get the most value out of your spend.

Consistency, Inspiration and Engagement

There have been companies that have had all three.  Nike is one that comes to mind.  Its “Just Do It” was used consistently, and it inspired and engaged customers to reach higher levels of performance, regardless of their field of play or skill level.  The tagline is still one of the most memorable more than 23 years after it was launched.

By pursuing all three goals (consistent, inspirational and engaging) you can build a brand that is truly differentiated in your marketplace.  Don’t cop out and say, “I need to be inspirational and engaging so I can’t be consistent.”  None of these attributes is mutually exclusive.  Consistency, coupled with inspiration and engagement, may be the attribute that makes your brand unique in its category.

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