As a marketer in the better-for-you space, you may recognize that your brand is fractured in the real world – that it delivers different experiences to customers in different channels. It’s a common affliction for BFY brands, especially those that are in startup mode or emerging from that phase. These brands tend to have limited marketing budgets and small teams, and they are moving fast to execute rather than taking time to set a strategy.
Reasons & Symptoms of Inconsistent Brand Activation
To confirm your hunch that the brand shows up inconsistently to consumers, you can conduct a casual audit. Look at all seven platforms of the Brand Ecosystem:
Shop the aisles yourself, view your website on your mobile device, snoop on the brand on social, and ask a few friends to do the same. Look for signs like these:
- All the media coverage of the brand focuses on how you’re saving the cheetahs, but your packaging spotlights flavors and features
- Your web content is thoughtful and serious; your social media presence is casual and irreverent
- You’ve positioned the brand as premium, but you’re on convenience store shelves at a deep discount
There are two primary reasons why BFY brands wind up looking scattered and disconnected to their markets:
- They don’t have a strong foundation of brand strategy that’s driving the business. Without it, marketing efforts are all over the map, and they’ll never yield the results you need. Too, there will be internal disagreement on key business decisions, like whether you should sell into a certain channel or pursue an expensive marketing tactic.
- When your messaging doesn’t resonate the same way across communication platforms, you may be looking at each platform of the Brand Ecosystem as a distinct bucket, with different owners and different solutions — solutions driven by what’s new and trendy and cool, and not by the brand’s WHY. Cool is fleeting and unsustainable, but the brand’s mission and passion are timeless and transcendent. If you’re not taking a truly systemic approach to marketing, you’re probably in a cycle of running campaign after campaign, wondering why they’re not quite gaining traction. And the prospect of launching yet another one may fill you with dread instead of enthusiasm.
When There Isn’t a Brand Strategy
Let’s look at a couple of examples, two consumer brands that operate in very different ways.
Pepsi spends millions of dollars on print and television advertising. It spends millions more on tent-pole events like halftime shows and pop concerts. Its social media feeds are filled with celebrities, influencers, and “stunning Pepsi visuals” (whatever that is). Its website spotlights the product in the can or bottle.
But there’s no underlying strategy driving the human connection or guiding the brand to behave in a certain way. There’s no “Pepsi ethos” other than pop culture. In fact, you could remove the Pepsi mark and replace it with a Coke logo and be hard pressed to tell the difference.
Pepsi can outspend everyone else in the category and sponsor halftime shows — and it has to — because its strategy is: sell more soda, generate more revenue, make shareholders happy. Pepsi is a marketing-driven brand (more to the point: an advertising-driven brand) than an ideology-driven brand. By the time the consumer gets to the soda aisle, the pop culture stuff and the halftime show don’t come into the store with him, and he may choose Coke because both brands are just commodities.
By contrast, look at KIND Snacks. The brand’s WHY is crystal clear — to encourage people to be kind to themselves and to others. That human message is the throughline for every channel: packaging, which shows off the product’s natural ingredients; media coverage of the brand’s backstory; video advertising; and engagement with social causes.
KIND uses the customer education and PR platforms of the Brand Ecosystem to drive brand relevance. Its social and direct and web platforms are all about the WHY: the contributions they’re making to the world and inviting you to make a contribution in your busy life, too. KIND is what we call a “citizen brand.” When a consumer goes to the snack aisle and faces that wall of nutrition bars, she feels the brand’s presence. The cohesive marketing messages — based on that strategy of kindness — makes her feel like she’s a citizen of KIND. (Does anyone feel like a citizen of Pepsi?)
If your casual assessment of your brand’s activation reveals inconsistency, and if your ongoing marketing activities aren’t moving the needle, then it’s time for a deep-dive competitive audit that benchmarks your brands against others — not just other brands in your category, but every brand that competes for your customer’s dollar. It’ll reveal outages and opportunities for you to harmonize your brand’s messaging, everywhere.