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Communicate your brand consistently

February 4, 2019

ConsistencyLet me make a distinction between communicating sustainably and communicating consistently. I’ve written here before that, for most marketable assets, a good brand strategy should last for 15-20 years. (Less, if the asset is in a trendy business like fashion or entertainment.) That’s what’s meant here by sustainability. You should be able to make the same brand promise for all that time, without wavering. If written effectively and with a broad enough vision, the brand promise should allow for any occasional adjustments you may have to make to your lines of products and services. It should be able to respond to changing market currents over that time period. No matter what happens week to week, month to month, year to year, a well-considered, well-written brand promise should be sustainable, all that time, to function as a guiding light, a north star to lead your vision. Consistency, in your communication is a different matter. Consistency refers to all the people in your circle who will be making the brand promise. They need to be engaged and all singing the same tune and pedaling in the same direction.

It’s a mistake to think that all brand communication in an organization comes out of its marketing department. True, a lot of it does. All the marketing campaigns, all the advertising, eat up the bulk of the communications budget and the marketing department leads all those efforts. But there’s also recruitment advertising and employee communication. That is often the responsibility of human resources. The CFO deals on a fairly routine basis with banks and other sources of financing. The COO deals with vendors, partners and others who impact the daily functionality of the organization. In fact, every department within an organization does some sort of communication of its own, even if it’s only to internal audiences. The question is: How closely does their messaging match up with the official brand messaging that the marketing department worked so hard to develop?

This year marks STAPLES Center’s twentieth anniversary. 22 years ago, the arena was merely an ambition shared by a handful of developers and entrepreneurs. After lengthy discussions and debate, they arrived at a brand promise, “We’re bringing nightlife back to downtown Los Angeles.” With that, they hit upon an almost perfect brand promise for them because it leveraged all eight characteristics of a strong brand promise. And one of the most important characteristics was the consistency with which they could implement it across their whole organization.

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Think of the complexity of the endeavor. They had people negotiating with City Hall. They had other people dealing with architects, construction companies and labor unions. There were vendors and service providers to manage and licensing deals to close. They were doing community outreach and holding neighborhood listening sessions on an ongoing basis. Still others were in regular conversation with the press. And, no matter the audience, every STAPLES Center representative used the same brand promise, “We’re bringing nightlife back to downtown Los Angeles.” This brand promise was selected, in part, because it was seen as one that could inspire all these different groups. And it did. But a big part of building community support for a sustained effort of any kind is to be consistent in the messaging, across all the many conversations and many audiences.

STAPLES CenterSTAPLES Center hired specialists to deal with each of the audiences they had to approach. But all were instructed to employ the same brand promise. Collectively used, that official brand promise had much more power and effectiveness than if each of the specialists were left to devise their own taglines or “closing” sell point. The consistency of the messaging gave power to the argument. And it wasn’t long before the whole city was clamoring to get the thing built.

I’ve often noted that, if you walk into the C-suite of a typical business and ask five executives what line of work they’re in, you get at least six different answers. The kind of consistency that served STAPLES Center so well is completely lacking in most small and middle-market businesses. Ask around in your organization. Find out what key people would say is its brand promise. (You can define that as the one, unique quality or characteristic about your business that differentiates it from its competition.) What does your CFO tell your banker? What does your in-house counsel tell retained law firms? What does HR tell prospective employees? What does the COO tell your vendors? What is marketing department telling the market? If you find you get more than one answer, you’ll know you’re overdue in bringing some consistency to your brand communication.


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Love these brand-eat-brand stories.

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