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Confusion of message erodes brand value

May 31, 2012
John Carpenter's the Fog

Dangerous fog – is your message getting in the way of company and product performance?

Know who you are and be consistent in what you do. This simple message defines the most successful companies in every sector. Yet many companies, especially as they grow larger and reach a plateau, begin to lose track of self and become lost in interminable navel gazing. This is highly damaging.

Plateau is dangerous…

Plateau promotes a level of corporate aimlessness which permeates a business in a most corrosive manner. Products or services begin to weaken in relevance. Entrepreneurialism becomes lost in corporate complacency. Sales and marketing message becomes confused. Pressure is placed on price to deliver results. Decline becomes inevitable.

In some cases, as companies grow larger, internal accounting methodologies come into play which have the effect of destroying entrepreneurialism by applying insurmountable “central costs”. This has the effect of rendering many products – on the accounts sheet at least – as unprofitable.

Similarly, once a product (or company) moves beyond its exciting first phase, where consumer need drives commercial existence, marketing executives lose a sense of position and turn to ever more unlikely marketing tactics to deliver response.

In large corporations, vanity drives them to seek the skills of brand agencies promoting strange “concepts” even before the corporation itself has taken a good look at its own strategic vision. In this case they commit a cardinal sin – the devolution of all brand responsibility to  a very expensive firm of corporate painter and decorators. Some even turn to the weakest of all brand strategies – celebrity endorsement – in the hope that illusory values can disguise corporate ennui.

Elsewhere, as in the case of the current UK government, some companies turn to marketing to promote message above substance. Consumers respond most violently to where there is profound brand disconnect between what is said and what is delivered. Message and delivery u-turns, combined with money-driven, rather than value-driven, decision-making cheapens a brand and destroys credibility.

Alternatively, brand strategies become cuckoo-like: “remember us? This is what we look like now”. Out of a nest a stranger is born and somehow the public needs to take it on board…

Or they just become tired and hackneyed. For example, many companies at the moment are using a diamond image to tie in with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. One such was emailed to me today: “you don’t have to wait 60 years to experience our diamond service levels“. And the message is? Where’s the proof of promise?

The importance of brand rediscovery

A sad truth is this: companies and products are easy to market when there is an inherent demand for them. In many cases, companies fail to realise that they are becoming moribund. Instead of re-connecting with the market and understanding their role, they aim to push the same old message and often the same old product ranges.

They become lost in a maze of exquisite intricacy: an almost un-navigable matrix of vested interest, indolence and under-performance.

Effective brand rediscovery is crucial to businesses in plateau. Know who you were. Understand whether this is still the case. Take action to re-invest in your existing customer base. Take action to attract new customers.

However, a word of caution. Although it is possible to do this within the existing departmental structures, the likelihood of a positive outcome is limited. This is because groupthink and fear drive decisions in larger corporations, unless the management teams are blessed with positive thinking and a willingness to change. Often companies are their own worst enemy when it comes to understanding who they are.

Let us be clear. A brand is about a promise delivered. Consumers engage with brands which deliver what is important to them. Companies in plateau need to understand what they are delivering and why it is important for, if they fail, they will lose their core revenue source: their existing customers.

Linked with promise is personality and vision. Why do customers stay with you? Why should they stay with you in the future? It is easy to see why these questions are more fundamental than a logo redesign or a relaunch of the website. Brand perception defines current survival and future growth.

So I return to today’s headline: confusion of message erodes brand value. Know not who you are and the world will know you neither.

If you do not feel able to review the way your company manages its perception, let Red Page Consulting help…

Red Page Consulting is run by this blog’s author Michael Smith, a professional message specialist with over two decades of business experience. He helps mainstream small businesses understand their brand and how it is perceived to help deliver increased customer retention and to attract new customers.

Visit the Red Page Website

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