The marketing guru mantra is that your brand must be consistent. “Consistency” is the buzzword you’ll find in every branding book. These manuals recommend repeating your brand message as much as possible to make people remember you.
Why aren’t you driving sales? Why are people confused on your website? Is your customer journey a roller coaster? To all these challenges, marketing books prescribe the same remedy: Your brand needs more consistency. But this isn’t always the case. In fact, changing your brand when it’s authentic to do so is the mantra we should be chanting.
Now don’t get me wrong. Today’s marketers have a good reason to be obsessed with consistency. Just 20 years ago, you had to try hard to be inconsistent. How could a brand lack consistency when most ad campaigns were limited to TV and magazines? But the digital boom multiplied channels, leading to an almost paranoid fixation with unifying communications.
With so many platforms in the mix, marketers can lose sight of the number of ads they’re running. Every now and then, the CEO finds a banner with that old logo and the marketing team can’t sleep until they update all creatives on Facebook, Google, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, etc. Are you feeling nostalgic for those good old-fashioned days?
With more places to talk about your brand, your marketing can end up playing telephone. Consistency is essential to avoid confusing people, but most brands get consistency wrong and think it means repetition. To bring in some marketing jargon, this kind of repetition delivers low conversion rates. When you keep saying the same thing, people just leave your website.
Let me give you an example from last year. Hotel booking site Trivago launched a campaign in London with a repetitive tagline: “Find your ideal hotel for the best price.” The ads all looked identical with the same headline, a woman smiling and a search bar. The result was an article from The Sun capturing the sentiment, saying, “Brits are very freaked out by the woman on the Trivago advert.” A Londoner grumbled on Twitter with: “This Trivago ad is driving me mad. Why is it everywhere? Why is she always going to Amsterdam?”
This type of repetitive marketing doesn’t connect with consumers and risks irritating them. When you repeat yourself, you sound like a parrot. And while parrots are lovely, people prefer talking to humans.
Brand consistency doesn’t mean repetition; it means authenticity. Marketing will always be the art of building customer relationships. As with any relationship, if you aren’t genuine, people won’t trust you.
For example, if you say you’re in favor of gender equality but don’t treat women fairly, you won’t go far. McDonald’s learned this lesson the hard way. For International Women’s Day, they flipped their iconic golden arches upside down into a W. This PR stunt generated a public backlash because women working at McDonald’s earn much less than men. If you want to build trust, you need to have clear values and deliver on them consistently. While some marketers squawk that our advertising must repeat the same message, most of the campaigns and initiatives that have built great brands are exactly the opposite.
A person that always says the same thing is boring; a brand that repeats messages over and over has the same effect. Brand consistency is essential, but not for the reasons most marketers believe. You can change your message as long as you stay true to your values. Authenticity builds trust. In other words, if you want your brand to stand out, take the advice of Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”