This is a call out to teams to think carefully about the effect on the brand of every decision they make and of everything the brand does.
Questions to be answered include: Is it on brand? Will it help strengthen a desired brand association? Will it conflict with an association? Does it fit with the brand’s architecture?
Traditionally the focus of this was on reinforcing a brand’s desired positioning. Now with a far broader range of touchpoints to deal with, it’s often about ensuring there is a contribution to some layer of the overall brand story.
If, as has been suggested, brands are built like bird’s nests, one twig at a time, then will the ‘twig’ fit into the nest the team wants to build? To do this team members may reference back as much to a brand’s purpose, beliefs or values as they do to its positioning.
It also means applying the three ‘strategic cube’ filters to options about what to say or do, being:
- Will it be Relevant to the brand’s consumers?
- Can the brand credibly Deliver on what is being claimed?
- And – ideally, but not always necessary – is it in some way Unique compared to competitors?
This thinking should be applied to every brief, for every initiative, both big and small. From campaigns, new products and websites to pack claims, sales promotions and point-of-sale.
Legendary ad man Bill Bernbach said “It may well be that creativity is the last unfair advantage we’re legally allowed to take over our competitors.”
In line with this, teams should consider how they can execute differently at every touchpoint.
Even if the message or activity is the same as a competitor, how can creative flair or lateral thinking make it stand out from the pack? Where can things be made more interesting for customers?
This plays to the Ehrenberg-Bass school of thought that consumer perception of actual product difference is typically low. So instead brands need to make themselves more distinctive. The challenge for brand teams is then to create points of distinctiveness at every opportunity; again, both big and small.
Focus on Integration
Integrated marketing – the establishment of a seamless brand experience across all touchpoints – has long been a tenet of marketing management. So the inclusion of integration as a key team principle needs little further explanation.
This said, as already noted, the expanded number of touchpoints that now exist have made this far more complex. So in practice integration has become harder to manage.
As such, teams should be encouraged to pay closer attention to the following.
- Going beyond the traditional ‘matching luggage’ approach of a single campaign idea replicated everywhere and/or glueing communications together with branding, to drawing on a distinguishing brand character to underpin every communication and action.This requires identifying the essential human characteristics of the brand. People sound and behave differently at different times and in different situations. But those with distinct personalities project these constantly. Similarly brands with defined characters don’t need to rely on cookie cutter conformity.
- Linking as many components of owned and paid media to each other as possible.
- As has been outlined in the first two principles, achieving consistency in messages – and the overall brand story – while also adapting them for different channels and the contexts in which people will consume them.