Web Copy Blog

Web Copy Blog header image 2

The law of consistency

43 Comments · advertising laws

The law of Consistency has a natural-born enemy. The Crime of the New Broom. A change in the marketing department usually ushers in sweeping changes to agency, campaign and brand direction.

Problem is, the public often tires of a campaign at a much slower rate than marketing executives.

The history of advertising is littered with abandoned campaigns, like unfashionable spouses, that have been replaced with new models long before the original has worn out.
Or, sometimes, even worn in.

Consumers frequently remember a brand’s campaign long after everyone in the company’s organization has forgotten the name of the idiot client who canned it in the first place.

New agencies, and new creative directors, are just as guilty as client executives of this impatient sin.

Many are eager to make their own mark, often at the expense of the carefully constructed thinking and positioning of the originators.

Consistency is an uphill battle in the dynamic change worshipping culture of advertising.
After all, the setting up and solving of new issues is what fuels the momentum of the marketing process.

The task of remaining consistent is made harder these days withy the number of multimedia touch points a campaign must maintain with consumers, along with the increasing number of hands guiding it through these various permutations and extensions.

In 2003, Heinz in the UK announced, to the horror of nostalgic consumers, that it was taking a “long hard look” at its 36-year-old slogan, Beanz Meanz Heiz.

The widely-loved catchphrase that had already survived an attempt on its life a decade earlier, when agency BMP ran with Heinz Builds Britz.

However, the original recipe for success stood the test of time and was reinstated within three years.

Another example: Toyota in the US dropped their “Oh what a Feeling” campaign within a couple of years of it being devised in the late 1970s.

Yet the notion lived on other markets, like Australia, where it became the best-known slogan in any advertising category, as well as the most creatively awarded campaign, in the country.

Meanwhile, the US Toyota client was spending tens of millions of dollars trying to embed a different tagline, then another, and another, without capturing the burr-like quality of the original.

There are several global blue chip advertisers who could learn from Toyota’s percipience.
A number of techniques can make consistency easier to achieve, like the creative use of brand properties, mnemonic devices, and demonstrably campaign able ideas, for a start.

An advertising property is like a house; maintain it, freshen it up every couple of years, and it will last a lifetime.

In the East, the trader mentality still prevails: buy and sell, buy and sell. It is tough to accept a formula that suggests one should build anything like brand equity for the long term. When Asian brands look to global markets, a completely different mindset is needed.

One upside of thinking short is being able to move fast; and that is the bottom-line attraction for the Asian investor. Nevertheless, in the marketing arena, expediency often devalues brands in a flash.

Clearly, the advertising communications services industry in Asia has been delinquent. Our industry simply hasn’t yet got its act together in educating.

Asian brand owners on the great upsides of developing positive brand strategies and long-term brand building.

The ways of the West have reached into the heart and soul of Asia, and teenagers – the big Asian consumers of tomorrow – are relishing and embracing it all. And why not!
In the face of this, the main thing is to retain one’s core values.

Yet no marketing model should be so rigid that that you can’t finesse it. No corporate marketing mantra can be so rigid that any change, any flexibility, verboten.

Corporately, one can say: “Here’s the model we’ve always used; so let’s see if it works in a particular society.”

For instance, Marlboro has never significantly changed its platform since the 1970s, whether it’s talking to men who dig ditches or the men who dig ditches or the men who sit in boardrooms.

Global consistency in its advertising has been the cornerstone of Marlboro’s power. Because it is visually very strong and simple.

Everyone can understand it and the values it projects. Marlboro’s success among young and old in Asia is a fine example of how a well established Western brand identity has triumphantly crossed all Kinds of cultural and social barriers and has stayed true to itself in the process.

Marketing a global brand that seeks substantial growth across a large group of people should try to follow much the same model anywhere.

It’s just plain common sense. This fast-shrinking world of communications and the fast- growing movement of people across continents are two reasons for consistency.

Another is the need for a consistent brand soul to present to all people.
The brand-bonding mission is a tough one.

Businessmen in Asia are not renowned risk-takers in an esoteric area like marketing. They are conspicuous for their conservative approach.

Nevertheless, underneath the surface lies an energy that loves to take financial risks at the race track and Gasinos, so we-the communications services industry-have to find more creative ways to get Asian brand owners to commit to more courageous brand-building programs.

My sense is that a brand’s soul could start to lose its way if the diverse creative expressions across the globe are allowed to move further away from the brand’s core values.

I’m definitely in favor of central control of global brands and I think most brand owners would support this view. However, you need regular checks and balances to make sure you’re scoring well.

The marketer of an everyday product – toothpaste, detergent, a product that is aiming for the masses, the people in public housing or out in the villages – must take into account the local culture, the local view point. Nonetheless, the central architecture on which the brand was built need not change.

The success of Marlboro – the Marlboro cowboy has become an international icon in countries where cowboys never existed – reinforces the power of consistently promoting one’s core branding properties.

Wherever legally possible, their brand advertising is universally the same all over the world, pitched to every socio-economic level.

What is Consistency?
Lifetime bonding is the ultimate dream of all ambitious brand owners.
People love to be loved and, predictably, they gravitate towards brands that know them, understand them and reach into their hearts.

For this, consistency – a single message – must be maintained across time, geography, media product and ad channels.

Brand Equity
Although only formalized as a concept about 20 years ago, brand equity is by far the most valuable asset of most companies.

It has been described as “the upstream reservoir of cash flow”, Consumer motivation to buy or to pay more has taken place, but it hasn’t yet been translated into actual sales turnover.

The very fact that brand equity is intangible makes the job of protecting and enhancing it that much harder.

Being true to the brand begins by ensuring that the brand owner’s staff, distributors, partners and agents understands the brand’s identity.

They should have a good grip on what the brand stands for: What is timeless about it and what is not.

Any genuine global brand-building effort should include programs that educate employees.

If the brand owner’s own staff don’t understand and embrace what he is trying to build, what chance has the public got?

Global brands are naturally obliged to transcend borders; sometimes those borders are jealously guarded with in the company itself. More seminars, workshops, field visits and work-exchange programs will knock down walls.

Cross-border bonding not only nurtures a freer flow of information and co-operation, it also lets a company develop its own marketing vocabulary and templates, Systems can also be put in place to track when brand-building efforts drift off strategy.

Getting employees to vote on the ad campaigns they think best exemplify the essence of the brand builds involvement; more importantly, it signals whether employees fully understand what the brand is all about.

Every brand owner has to find his own way of being true to his brand but whatever model is employed, enthusiastic support of the program at local market level is fundamental.

We sometimes forget that the lads and lasses in the territorial trenches are the brand’s first line of defense, and attack. Keeping true to yourself and your brand requires eternal vigilance.

The Danger of Change
While variety is the spice of life, change isn’t. Contrary to popular opinion, I figure that mature consumer generally resist change.

On the other hand, many marketers feel change is their salvation. So do advertising agencies. It is conventional to change; it is unconventional not to.

The world is changing so fast, or so we’re told. Information technology is upon us, changing us. Everything has to change to survive.

It’s as though we are all racing down a fast-flowing river, jostling each other to lead the race, with little concern or knowledge of where the river is taking us – and it could well be to Niagara Falls.

You don’t have to jump blindly into that fast-flowing river. You don’t have to be totally obsessed about change. Sit back and calmly get the perspectives in balance.

Brands are Made Up of Three Parts: The Body, the Soul and the Conscience
The body is the change engine; it represents the tangibles of your brand offering, the product developments and enhancements that are an ongoing process.

The brand’s soul represents the emotional side of your brand offering; it is usually deep-rooted, and mirrors the unique character, personality and culture of your brand.

The brand’s conscience represents the company’s corporate “pay-back” responsibility to specific target customers or to the public at large.

If large consumers marketers are serious about global growth for their brand, the three dynamics must come into play.

The mission of the brand body is pretty clear – it is your engine of regular upgrades and innovations.

Where things frequently go off the rails for marketers and ad agencies alike is the handling of the brand’s soul.

They apple consistent change to the look, the feel, the personality and the underlying compelling core appeal of the brand.

This is like getting Frank Sinatra to sing like Elvis Presley, and then like Pavarotti, just to be trendy.

Getting the brand’s soul right is not an easy task, but once you’ve nailed it, it need not essentially change for decades.

The brand’s soul is the mother of the brand, and like a country’s national flag and anthem, is should have a positive, long-term place in consumers’ hearts.

After consumers get the teenage adrenaline out of their system, they are not keen on constant cosmetic change.

The brand’s conscience has been an integral part of the game among big global brand owners for generation.

As it is more “corporate citizen” and institutional in character, it should tend to reflect the values of the brand’s soul and not be the target of constant change.

As the 21st century takes off, this part of the brand’s composition will expand in size and commercial value.

Asian brand owners (most of whom are not yet embracing this development) should take note to address this responsibility more seriously from now on if they have global ambitions.

A colleague contends that while a great brand is “the property of the world,” it is “subtly different to every individual.

There is, however, an essential core in a brand that strikes a universal resonance and that becomes the lowest common denominator – or the highest common factor – across the brand.”

While I think my colleague struck the right nerve on certain points, his view complicates the issues of brand building and “change” If the people who talk the change game are a bit difficult to understand, what chance have others, especially brand owners, in coming to grips with the issue?

Vigilance is the key watchword. Remember what the Singapore Girl is. She is the Warm, gentle, caring personality in her sarong kebaya forever and ever.

What, however, does change is that she consistently offers you better on-line booking systems, winder seats, wider, aisles, more cocktails, better food, more sophisticated in-flight entertainment, and so on.

It is equally essential to ensure that the Singapore Girl retains youthfulness and freshness as the years turn into decades.

We therefore endeavor to consistently contemporize the advertising through the story compositions and the production values – the structure of the content, the styling of the production values – the structure of the content, the styling of the film, the soundtrack, the still photography. Execution can play a big role in shaping a brand’s distinctive identity.

It’s a recipe that aims to always keep the Singapore Girl relevant and uniquely appealing to consumers.

Brand building is like building a relationship with a friend. If you connect fairly regularly, you stand a good chance of nurturing the friendship.

If for some reason he or she declines to a chat once every six months, then once a year, or may be you may see each other every two years, you’ll gradually forget each other.
It’s the same thing in advertising.

If you’re serious, you’ve got to keep up a regular dialogue; you’ve got to keep nurturing the relationship.

You’ve got to get your customers interested in you, bonded to you. Even when times are tough, and business is slow, somehow you’ve got to sustain a level of contact that signals your genuine desire to retain a relationship with your customers.

If you cut off the connection over an extended period, the downside could be extremely dark and life- threatening for your brand.

A global brand I admire is Rolex. Over the years, it has gradually moved from being a well-known, admired brand into what all brands aspire to the ad that launched the icon.

The phrase Singapore Girl came later, making its appearance in the lyrics of the song. The brand proposition has been delivered consistently for 30 years. Rolex has invested 30 to 40 years of consistent brand-building in order to institutionalize its brand.

It hasn’t changed its core brand platform in all that time. Even when the economy is tough, its advertising program is relentless.

It communicates six-star quality and has always had a strong endorsement program; great intellectual achievers, great explorers, great singers, and always the more lofty names.

Some people say the ads are unexciting and unchanging, but I think their strength has been their unchanging, focused view of the way life should be.

Just keeping up basic connection is an art in itself. Whenever you put your company name of trademark in a communication you are conveying a brand message; you are doing brand advertising.

So all ads are brand ads, which means a commitment to upholding the brand’s values across everything.

Propositions can vary. The media can vary. But the brand’s voice should be “family.” As far as the consumer is concerned, every piece of communication they see is a brand ad.

There is no such thing as having A-grade ads, B-grade ads and C-grade ads.
The same people, charged with building the brand, should approve every ad.

Once you adopt this thinking, you’ll find that your marketplace presence will become distinctly sharper.

A Unique lcon or Property
Its unlikely that the Marlboro Man will be bettered as a visual icon, although some of the world’s most successful campaigns shave not had a graphic icon in their communications.

I just happen to believe that a compelling, exclusive graphic entity is a huge asset in this game and that this ingredient should be firmly on the agenda in developing new brand-communications programs.

Apart from graphic characters, there are numerous other properties that can be employed exclusively to the brand’s advantage.

A unique wordsmith style is one; the quintessential slogan is another. Then there are catchphrases that potentially become part of everyday language.

Creating and massaging exclusive brand icons or properties is an essential prerequisite in a brand-building exercise.

Brand builders must be firm and focused. There are no half measures building a brand. If an ad isn’t right, if the language is wrong, if it is not the brand talking, say so. Every ad should be making a small investment in the brand’s eternal worth.

Success has its challenges. Once you become a global brand leader in both profits and reputation, there is a tendency to move to a defensive strategy, to protect your treasure, to look for safeguards rather than retain the adventurous sprit that won you fame and fortune in the first place.

I have no problem with the argument that different target audiences and different consumer feelings require different advertising solutions.

What I do have a problem with is when the only thing that links all the different ads together is the company logon.

Remember, please, that every worthy brand has a soul, a special personality. It is a fundamental responsibility for brand owners to leverage their personality in one form or another in all their advertising. It’s all part of the brand-building exercise.

It’s part of consistently connecting in a certain way with your customer. It’s the art of putting yourself head and shoulders above the din of characterless advertising.

Life for the global brands will get better and better and the global brand with triumph so long as the connection with the consumer is seen by the consumer as relevant, genuine and friendly.

Every brand owner with regional or global aspirations can learn from Mercedes-Benz. Here is the living proof that great global brands should never be changed to suit one or two markets.

The brand, its values and its voice must never be compromised. Mercedes-Benz is the same car, representing the same excellence, wherever it goes in the world. It is what it is.

Look at the brands that have had consistently good advertising over several years. Now look at the clients behind that advertising.

In every case, it will be a strong, prosperous organization. A focused, dynamic, confident brand owner and his agency generally have a close working relationship in which the agency is encouraged to explore and expand creative boundaries so long as the brand’s core values are nourished rather than reinvented.

Strong clients know their own brand disciplines. So do their agencies. They work as one in building the brand’s relationship with consumers.

Nowadays, unfortunately, this is actually the exception rather than the rule. It is very tough to keep focused.

More brand owners are starting to jump around in all directions, championing the need for change.

And the process of change to some brand owners means different brand values, different New Age advertising and so on.

In some cases, they may well be correct, but on most, they are not. They are merely confusing themselves.

This is a fine line. The brand’s core values need not change, whereas the creative delivery of those values should constantly be at the cutting edge.

Somehow brand owners get that confused; then they confuse their advertising agencies, and their final advertising reflects the lost path and confuses the consumer as well.

If you wish to create a reputation for yourself, whatever you do, branding is the name, branding is the game.

Branding has always been the major bugle player I the marketing battle. With the invasion of the Internet, the smart card and other technology, branding is now the Napoleon in the battle.

The brand is no longer just a marketing concept. The brand is now a financial concept it is a company’s most important financial asset.

Keywords: Consistency, Marketing, brand, advertising, brand equity, ad, visual icon,


43 Comments so far ↓

Leave a Comment