The Voice of the Underdog®
It’s been said the most important ingredients in building a lasting and successful brand are authenticity and continuity. You must tell the same story day in and day out, and it must be a story built on truth.
If that is the foundation of every message you convey, you will build a strong brand. And, if you convey your message in a way that evokes an emotional reaction, odds are your brand will find success selling products and services. Or changing behavior. Or raising awareness.
It all seems so simple. So why is it brands continually shoot themselves in the foot?
There are lots of reasons. But one huge one sticks out more than all others and it’s high time we talked about it.
Bottom line – too many marketing changes are made because somebody got bored. And for no other reason than that. Marketers get tired of telling the same story the same way. They grow weary of the same words, same colors, same pictures, same typography. They seek out a new brand strategy to “spruce up” their brand, or “try something different” in an effort to elicit renewed interest. But to what end?
Change for change sake actually reduces a brand’s value and can slowly destroy it. It’s like natural selection, the perennial scientific concept at the root of how and why plants and animals change their appearance over time. Only here, instead of a stronger claw, a quicker response to danger, or a more camouflaged coat, these changes make the organism NOT well suited to survive into the future.
On the plus side, most marketers live their brands. They soak in the elements of their brand’s personality day in and day out. But this can also lull them into a sense of familiarity that they project onto their audience. Clients, the marketing team, the agency – they all believe because the DNA of the brand is so clear and accessible to them, it must be clear and accessible to everyone. They make the mistake of thinking their audience is just as engaged as they are. And so they change things up. Fresh and new for them. But often abrupt and confusing to the consumer.
The average consumer is not only indifferent to the bidding of most marketing messages, they are actually opposed to them. They don’t really like advertising. They shred unopened junk mail. Block popups. Skip past commercials. Pay extra to subscribe to ad-free radio. They don’t obsess over the quirks of the latest spot around the water cooler like agency people do. They simply don’t possess the vested interest some marketers blindly ascribe to them.
It’s that passive opposition that makes brand continuity so important. In order to penetrate this dense filter consumers have constructed around themselves, brands must maintain a highly consistent message and tone. Each brand mutation, no matter how harmless and inconsequential it appears to be, chips away at the fidelity of the position and gives disengaged consumers an excuse to remain disengaged—whether consciously or not.
Like I said above, change for change sake is pointless. But repeating the same ineffective story is just as detrimental. Brand consistency doesn’t mean that as attitudes and sensibilities change, your brand story can’t adapt. In that case, it has to. But it needs to adapt for a reason other than “it’s time for a change.”
As long as your brand story is true, and as long as you continue to tell it authentically with continuity to a group of people who care about it, in time you will break through the filter and reach that place in the consumer’s heart where you will be trusted. If you’re really fortunate, you might even be championed.
MIKE SULLIVAN is the president at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency and a leading advertising agency in Dallas. For more insights, visit our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog and catch up on more than 300 posts about challenger branding, advertising and marketing, leadership, culture and other things that drive success.
We challenge underdog brands to think differently. We help them find their voice, and urge them to blaze new trails to make sure they stand out from the pack. Whether you need an agency of record or support on a project, we are here to help you win.