5 Of The Most Crucial Problems in Brand Messaging Inconsistency and What You Can Do About It
Ever wondered why some brands skyrocket to success while others barely make a ripple?
It’s not just luck. There’s a secret sauce to branding that separates the winners from everyone else.
In this series, we’re diving into the most common (and deadly) branding mistakes that could be holding your business back and, more importantly, how to fix them.
We’re not just talking theory here. We’re giving you actionable insights to transform your brand from being just another name in the market to one that stands out and commands attention.
Inconsistent Brand Messaging is Like Poison For Your Business
Inconsistent brand messaging is a lot like a chameleon constantly changing colors in different environments. It leaves people confused and uncertain about what its true ‘look’ is.
The same can be said about brand messaging. This lack of a coherent identity can be devastating to your business. Sometimes it happens all it once, but more often as a slow burn over time.
But it’s not just about using different colors or fonts; it’s a fundamental misalignment in the brand’s communication across various platforms.
For example, a brand that portrays itself as premium and exclusive in advertising but adopts a casual, budget-friendly tone on social media is out of sync. This inconsistency leaves customers puzzled about what the brand really stands for and why they should care.
Real-World Example and Consequences: Colgate (1982)
Let’s travel back in time to 1982.
Michael Jackson had just released the greatest-selling album of all time (Thriller). Sony had just launched the world’s first CD player, and the internet didn’t exist.
Back then, Colgate needed to diversify its oral hygiene product line to compete with its main competitor in personal care products, Proctor & Gamble.
A sensible move, given that, at the time, they needed to plan for the future and were simultaneously undergoing management restructuring. Efforts to expand the brand were put in motion, and the R&D folks got to work.
But if you’re picturing new flavors of dental floss or mouthwash, think again.
Introducing Colgate Frozen Entrees: Beef Lasagna
Why…. Beef Lasagna?
Swanson, a notable frozen food brand during that time, was well-known for its frozen TV dinners and was a popular choice for quick meals among millions of Americans. At that time, Swanson was owned and operated by P&G.
Colgate assumed that with the success of its oral hygiene line, it could leverage brand popularity in other areas and sell ready-made meals to the same consumers. After all, if people already knew and trusted the brand, why wouldn’t they buy products in other categories?
They failed to realize the power of branding, in this case, their own branding.
Colgate’s branding is so powerful and deeply ingrained in our minds that most people automatically associate freshness, mint, and toothpaste whenever they hear the name or see the logo.
Why Did P&G Succeed While Colgate Failed Spectacularly?
P&G was also selling products in both categories, but they made one crucial distinction that Colgate didn’t: implementing sub-brands.
Sub-brands are standalone brands that appeal to different markets, demographics, and product categories. Think Mini Cooper vs BMW (both owned by BMW).
P&G sold products under the brand name Crest in oral hygiene while using the Swanson brand in frozen food. This allowed them to become a go-to brand in frozen food while not jeopardizing their brand association with Crest.
Conversely, Colgate associated the product directly with their core brand name, leading to conflicting feelings and emotions among consumers of fresh toothpaste and beef lasagna.
What Happened Next?
You guessed it. Soon after release, Colgate realized what everyone else found astonishingly evident, and the product line was swiftly yanked from shelves, never to be seen again.
This is an extreme example, but Brand Messaging Inconsistency can manifest itself in several common business problems, often leading to a weakened brand image, customer confusion, and a decline in customer loyalty and revenue over time.
Here are 5 of the most common (and deadly) and how you can avoid them.
1. Mixed Brand Personality: Understanding the Complexity of MBD & Its Impact on Your Business
Professional branding agencies use personality, tone, appearance, language, messaging, characteristics & values as some of the key ingredients when developing a new brand identity or refreshing an existing one.
By assigning these human-like traits to brands, we can make them feel more unique and “alive”.
A mixed brand personality is what happens when a brand exhibits multiple, often conflicting, personalities across different platforms or marketing channels.
This inconsistency can be seen in tone, language, imagery, and overall communication style variations. For example, a brand that projects an image of sophistication and luxury in its advertising and messaging but adopts a quirky, informal tone on social media platforms ‘feels’ out of place.
Why is Consistency in Brand Personality So Important?
- Building Trust: Consistency in brand personality helps build trust with the audience. When customers encounter the same brand personality across all touchpoints, it reinforces their perception of the brand, making it more familiar and trustworthy.
- Brand Recognition: A consistent personality makes a brand easily recognizable. This recognition is crucial in crowded markets, where distinct brand identities can significantly impact consumer choice.
- Emotional Connection: A well-defined brand personality can foster a deeper emotional connection with the audience. Inconsistencies in this personality can disrupt this connection, as customers might feel they are interacting with different entities.
- Customer Loyalty: Consistent brand personality contributes to stronger brand loyalty. Customers are more likely to stay loyal to a brand that consistently meets their expectations regarding communication and experience.
The Risks of Mixed Brand Personality
- Customer Confusion: A brand’s varying personalities can confuse customers. They might struggle to understand the brand’s core values and what it stands for, which can hinder the decision-making process.
- Diluted Brand Message: A mixed personality can dilute the brand’s overall message and unique selling proposition. Instead of delivering a clear, cohesive message, the brand sends mixed signals to the market.
- Reduced Effectiveness of Marketing Efforts: Inconsistent branding can lead to less effective marketing. Campaigns may not resonate as well with the target audience due to the lack of a clear, consistent personality to anchor them.
- Damage to Brand Reputation: Over time, inconsistency in brand personality can damage a brand’s reputation. It can lead to perceptions of the brand being unreliable, unprofessional, or unclear about its identity.
How to Avoid A Mixed Brand Personality in Your Business
- Develop a Comprehensive Brand Guide: Create a detailed brand guide that includes guidelines for tone, voice, visual elements, and overall brand personality. This guide should be the reference point for all marketing and communication efforts.
- Internal Alignment: Ensure that all departments and teams understand and are aligned with the brand personality. Regular training and internal communications can help maintain this alignment.
- Consistent Customer Experience: Strive to provide a consistent experience at every customer touchpoint, including sales, customer service, online interactions, and physical store experiences.
- Regular Audits and Feedback: Regular audits of your marketing materials and communications across all channels. Seek feedback from customers and employees to ensure that the brand personality is consistently perceived and experienced.
2. Conflicting Visual Identity: The Challenge of Maintaining a Unified Brand Image
Conflicting visual identity occurs when a brand presents different visual styles across various platforms or mediums. This inconsistency can include disparities in logo usage, color schemes, typography, imagery, and overall design aesthetics.
For instance, a brand might use a modern, minimalist logo on its website but a more traditional, ornate version in print materials. Such discrepancies create a disjointed visual experience for the audience.
The Importance of a Unified Visual Identity
- First Impressions Matter: Visual identity is often the first interaction someone has with a brand. Inconsistent visuals can lead to a poor first impression, undermining the brand’s perceived professionalism and credibility.
- Brand Recognition: Consistency in visual elements is crucial for brand recognition. Recognizable brands benefit from increased customer recall and can more easily stand out in a crowded marketplace.
- Creating a Cohesive Brand Story: A unified visual identity helps in narrating a cohesive brand story. Consistent visuals reinforce the brand’s message and values, making the story more compelling and memorable.
- Enhancing Customer Trust: Consistency in branding, including visual identity, builds trust. Customers are likelier to engage with and purchase from a brand they recognize and trust.
Risks of a Conflicting Visual Identity
- Brand Confusion: Different visual styles can confuse customers and dilute the brand’s identity. This confusion can lead to indecision and a lack of engagement with the brand.
- Diminished Brand Equity: Inconsistent branding can erode the value and equity of the brand over time. Strong brand equity is built on recognition and loyalty, which are undermined by a lack of visual consistency.
- Ineffective Marketing: Marketing efforts may be less impactful when visuals are not consistent. Campaigns can fail to resonate due to the lack of a strong, recognizable visual anchor.
- Perception of Disorganization: A brand with conflicting visuals can be perceived as disorganized or lacking attention to detail. This perception can extend to the brand’s products or services, affecting overall sales and growth.
Strategies to Ensure a Unified Visual Identity
- Develop and Adhere to Brand Guidelines: Establish comprehensive brand guidelines that detail the use of visual elements. These guidelines should be strictly followed in all brand materials.
- Internal Alignment and Training: Ensure all teams, from marketing to sales to customer service, understand and adhere to the visual branding guidelines. Regular training and updates can help maintain this alignment.
- Consistent Implementation Across All Channels: Apply the visual branding consistently across all channels, including digital, print, and physical spaces. This includes website design, social media, advertising, product packaging, and in-store displays.
- Regular Brand Audits: Conduct periodic audits to ensure that all visual elements across various platforms are in line with the brand guidelines. Make adjustments as necessary to maintain consistency.
3. Misalignment with Target Audience: The Consequences of Mismatched Brand Messaging
Misalignment with the target audience occurs when a brand’s messaging and communication fail to resonate with its intended or existing customer base.
This misalignment can stem from a lack of understanding of the audience’s values, interests, and preferences. It’s particularly evident when there’s a mismatch between the audience a brand targets in different channels – for instance, appealing to a younger demographic on social media while focusing on an older demographic in traditional advertising.
This inconsistency not only confuses the audience but can also lead to a loss of trust and brand loyalty.
Why Audience Alignment is Critical
- Relevance and Resonance: Messaging that aligns with the audience’s values and needs is more likely to resonate and engage. It makes the audience feel understood and valued, which can increase brand loyalty.
- Effective Communication: Understanding your audience ensures that your brand’s communication is effective and meaningful. It avoids the risk of messages being ignored or misunderstood.
- Brand Loyalty and Advocacy: When customers feel that a brand truly understands and caters to them, they are more likely to become loyal advocates. This loyalty can lead to increased word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business.
Risks of Misalignment
- Alienating Potential Customers: When a brand’s messaging is not aligned with its target audience, it risks alienating not just potential customers but also existing ones. This can lead to a decline in customer base and market share.
- Diluted Brand Identity: Misalignment can lead to a diluted brand identity. If different messages are being communicated to different audiences, it becomes challenging to maintain a clear and consistent brand identity.
- Wasted Marketing Efforts: Misaligned messaging can result in wasted marketing resources. Campaigns that do not resonate with the intended audience fail to deliver a return on investment.
- Customer Confusion: Inconsistent messaging across different demographics can create confusion about what the brand stands for, weakening the overall brand perception.
Strategies for Aligning with Your Audience
- Thorough Audience Research: Conduct in-depth research to understand your audience’s demographics, psychographics, preferences, and behaviors. Utilize surveys, focus groups, and market analysis to gather insights.
- Persona Development: Create detailed buyer personas that represent your target audience. These personas should guide all marketing and branding efforts to ensure alignment with audience needs and preferences.
- Consistent Messaging Across Channels: Ensure that your brand’s messaging is consistent across all channels. While the tone may vary slightly depending on the platform (e.g., more formal on LinkedIn and more casual on Instagram), the core message should remain the same.
- Regular Feedback and Adaptation: Regularly seek feedback from your audience and be prepared to adapt your strategy. Monitor social media, customer reviews, and other feedback channels to gauge audience response and adjust your messaging accordingly.
4. Changing Messaging and Promises: The Impact on Brand Trust and Loyalty
Frequent shifts in a brand’s core messages, values, or promises can significantly undermine customer trust.
Consistency in these areas forms the foundation of a brand’s relationship with its customers.
When a brand continually changes its stance on important issues or alters its core value proposition, it can create a perception of unreliability and insincerity.
This inconsistency can be particularly damaging in today’s market, where customers often align themselves with brands that reflect their own values and beliefs.
Why Consistent Messaging Matters
- Trust Building: Consistent messaging over time builds trust with customers. They come to understand what your brand stands for and what they can expect from your products or services.
- Brand Identity: A stable core message helps to solidify your brand identity. It makes your brand more recognizable and helps to differentiate it from competitors.
- Customer Loyalty: Customers are more likely to stay loyal to a brand that consistently delivers on its promises and maintains its core values.
Risks of Frequently Changing Messaging
- Customer Distrust: Customers may begin to question the brand’s integrity and reliability. This distrust can lead to a decrease in customer loyalty and even advocacy against the brand.
- Brand Confusion: Frequent changes can lead to confusion about what the brand actually stands for, weakening the overall brand perception and identity.
- Lost Customer Base: As trust diminishes, so does the customer base. Over time, this can lead to a significant loss in market share and a decrease in sales.
- Negative Word of Mouth: Disappointed or frustrated customers are likely to share their negative experiences with others, potentially damaging the brand’s reputation further.
Strategies to Maintain Consistent Brand Messaging Across Different Channels and Mediums
- Clear Brand Guidelines: Develop clear and comprehensive brand guidelines that outline the brand’s core messages, values, and promises. These should be referred to and adhered to in all brand communications.
- Internal Alignment: Ensure that all departments and team members are aligned with the brand’s core messages and values. Regular training and communication can help maintain this alignment.
- Thoughtful Messaging Changes: If changes are necessary, they should be carefully considered and strategically implemented. Any changes to the brand’s core messages or values should be clearly communicated to customers, explaining the reasons behind these changes.
- Monitor and Respond to Feedback: Regularly monitor customer feedback and market trends. If customers are responding negatively to changes, be prepared to reassess and adapt your strategy accordingly.
- Long-Term Vision: Focus on a long-term vision for the brand rather than short-term gains. Consistency in messaging should be a key component of this long-term strategy.
5. Out-of-Sync Marketing Campaigns: Navigating the Pitfalls of Incoherence
Disjointed marketing campaigns arise when different initiatives or promotions are developed in isolation, lacking a unified brand message or theme.
This disjointedness is often the result of various teams or departments working independently without a central, cohesive strategy. The result can be a series of campaigns that, while individually effective, collectively send mixed or contradictory messages about the brand.
This lack of coherence can dilute the brand’s overall narrative and confuse the audience about what the brand truly represents.
Why Coherent Branding, Marketing, and Advertising Campaigns are Essential For Customer Brand Loyalty
- Unified Brand Story: Coherent marketing campaigns contribute to a unified brand story, reinforcing the brand’s core message and values across all platforms and initiatives.
- Enhanced Brand Recognition: Consistency in messaging across campaigns aids in building brand recognition. When customers can easily identify and relate to a brand’s message, it strengthens their connection to the brand.
- Efficiency in Messaging: A cohesive strategy ensures that all marketing efforts are pulling in the same direction, maximizing the impact and efficiency of each campaign.
Consequences of Disjointed Campaigns
- Customer Confusion: Contradictory or mixed messages can leave customers confused about what a brand stands for, weakening their ability to form a clear and positive perception of the brand.
- Diluted Brand Impact: When campaigns don’t align, the impact of each is diminished. Instead of building upon each other to strengthen the brand’s message, they may end up competing for attention or contradicting one another.
- Loss of Credibility: Inconsistent messaging can lead to a loss of credibility. Customers might start to view the brand as unreliable or unsure of its own identity.
- Wasted Resources: Disjointed campaigns often mean a duplication of effort and a waste of marketing resources, as each campaign might be starting from scratch rather than building on previous efforts.
Strategies for Creating Cohesive Marketing Campaigns
- Integrated Marketing Strategy: Develop an integrated marketing strategy that outlines the brand’s overarching messaging goals. This strategy should guide all marketing initiatives to ensure consistency.
- Cross-Departmental Collaboration: Encourage collaboration between different teams and departments. Regular meetings and shared planning sessions can help align various campaigns with the overall brand strategy.
- Consistent Brand Guidelines: Utilize comprehensive brand guidelines that include visual elements, messaging tone, key themes, and communication style. These guidelines should be a reference point for all marketing campaigns.
- Regular Review and Alignment Checks: Implement a process for regularly reviewing ongoing and upcoming campaigns against the brand’s overall messaging strategy. This helps ensure that each campaign contributes positively to the brand narrative.
- Customer-Centric Approach: Keep the target audience at the center of all campaign development. Understanding the customer’s perspective can ensure that all marketing efforts resonate and align with their expectations and perceptions of the brand.
Key Takeaway: Upgrade Your Brand Messaging Consistency To Stand Out From Everyone Else
In the complex practice of brand management, consistency, adaptability, and coherence intertwine to create a solid and lasting brand image.
Navigating the challenges of inconsistent messaging, evolving market dynamics, and disparate marketing efforts is crucial for any brand aspiring to leave a lasting imprint in the minds of its audience.
It’s not just about flashy campaigns or trendy visuals; it’s about creating a brand experience that resonates consistently across all touchpoints and aligning your brand’s voice, visuals, and values from the boardroom to social media feeds, ensuring that every interaction tells the same story.
By understanding and implementing these principles, you can transform your brand from being just another name in the market to a symbol of trust and reliability, a beacon that guides your customers in an ever-changing world of choices. Remember, in the grand narrative of your brand, every chapter, every page, and every word counts.
About The Author:
Highly Persuasive is a branding, marketing, and advertising agency in Bangkok & Koh Samui, Thailand, helping businesses in B2B, hospitality, F&B, and other competitive industries stand out and get noticed. If you need help with your branding, get in touch for a free brand consultation.