Branding, and All That Jazz
I still run into businesses that insist that branding doesn’t work for them. They say that their sales depend on mounting on-going tactical initiatives to attract high levels of foot traffic or visitors to their website. Branding they say, is too rigid for the dynamics of their business.
Because they think of branding in the narrowest of terms – a long-term investment in a single simple message — their business is suffering. They fail to execute on the most basic principle of brand building: to establish a familiar, likeable personality and use it to clearly differentiate themselves from their competition. As a result potential customers stay away, hesitant, uncertain or confused by mixed messages and a schizophrenic brand character.
After years of working with retailers and with other transaction based businesses I find it helpful to liken sound retail brand campaigns to good jazz. Like the standards of the genre, retail campaigns are open to interpretation and new riffs that keep them fresh but, new executions are never dissonant with the original message, and the new advertisement always resolves in recognizable foundational chords.
There are many wonderful examples of retailers and service organization that have done this successfully. Canadians need to look no further than Tim Horton’s, Ikea, Canadian Tire, Loblaw and TD Bank. These campaigns sustain interest over extended periods (years,) and adapt to evolving promotional needs and changing tactics because they are based on solid foundational characteristics. Marketers with complex messaging requirements but less robust budgets than the companies mentioned should take note and follow their example. By sticking to a few rules they can ensure their advertising plays a consistent brand tune.
• First, find out what makes your company likeable, trustworthy and different (brand personality). Then create a “voice and look” that captures its essence.
• Define and document this foundational personality, identifying its key characteristics e.g. visuals, tag line, voice. Ensure senior management buys in.
• Establish a steward of the brand personality to be responsible for maintaining consistency in all communications
• If the task seems daunting find a consultant or agency to assist you.