Don’t be a Jekyll and Hyde brand

Posted 26 October 2017.

​By Jacquie Bennett, Group Head of Strategy, Dentsu Aegis Network

​Imagine if one of your mates started behaving differently towards you, in different situations. At work, he avoids you. At the bar, he loves you. At home, he ignores you. At dinner, he only talks to your wife. At the gym, he wants to be your best mate. You would think that he had serious problems.

Now, imagine that your friend is a brand and each of the situations above is a media channel. Work is LinkedIn, the bar is Snapchat, at home is television, at dinner is Facebook and the gym is Spotify. This brand has changed its personality, messaging, tone and behaviour to suit the media environment and suddenly you don’t know who he is or what he’s going to do next – and you sure as heck don’t trust him. Unfortunately, too many brands today end up acting like Jekyll and Hyde as they struggle with the demands of multiple channels.

This wouldn’t have been an issue ten years ago, when the humble media plan consisted of only three channels. But these days, most media plans have up to ten channels and a third of them are social media. The way a brand communicates in social media is a totally different ball game because, unlike traditional media, it’s a two-way street where consumers can talk back and expect an “on-brand” response. Social media, therefore, requires a carefully crafted bespoke strategy and often this strategy stands alone, separate from other communication.

This doesn’t sound so bad. But when you overlay the dynamics of a segmented marketing department, the numerous agencies that can be responsible for a brand, and the different performance metrics for each channel, it can present a real challenge. A challenge where multiple brand personalities start to arise, each with its own agenda.

The goal for brands must be to stay consistent in this increasingly challenging environment. For a real-life example of a brand that does this well, look at Air New Zealand’s social pages, website, communication touchpoints and in-flight experience. In fact, they just won a Best Award for their excellence in brand effectiveness.

Establishing clear brand guidelines is a crucial first step and should include a definition of what the brand stands for, its purpose, values, visual assets, brand personality and tone of voice. These guidelines shouldn’t sit in a bottom drawer, they should sit on everyone’s desk, from staff internally to partners externally.

Writing a brand manifesto is an excellent way of articulating what a brand stands for, its tone, and how it behaves. The best manifestos have the power to rally an entire business, and are often consumer-facing; clearly defining to consumers what the brand stands for. Some of the best advertising campaigns are born from manifestos including the classic Apple ‘Crazy Ones’ campaign from 1984. (check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFEarBzelBs)

Define the brand’s distinctive assets. According to Professor Byron Sharp, author of the now legendary marketing tome How Brands Grow, brands should seek to develop distinctiveness rather than differentiation. Being distinctive is about being easily identifiable, an important quality in today’s complex communication landscape. What qualities of the brand help consumers notice, recognise and recall it? Once these elements are identified, they can be built on and reinforced to make the brand more impactful to consumers, regardless of its environment.

Develop a channel roadmap for the brand that includes all bought, owned and earned touchpoints. Articulate the role of each channel, how they work together, and how the channels are building the entire brand narrative.

Responsibility for brand consistency should be assigned to an individual or team. It could be someone in the marketing department or someone from an agency. This individual or team becomes the guardian of the brand narrative, co-ordinating every channel to ensure they are working together and in isolation.

These are the steps to curing brand schizophrenia. But the most crucial is to clearly define the core elements that make up your brand. If you’re not clear on this, how can the consumer be?