Are You Faithful?

Article contributed by Matt Carcieri
Strategic Marketer and Branding Expert, Leonora Polonsky & Associates LLC

Brand-building is an exercise in self-discipline.

What consumers value in a brand is its familiarity and clarity of meaning.  As brand-builders, the way we create business value is by deepening that familiarity and intensifying that meaning over time.  That requires a steadfast commitment to a time-honored course.

Take Coke® for example. Who wouldn’t want its brand-building and business-building results?  Coke has achieved them by remaining committed (for the most part) to a firm set of identity guidelines: happiness, refreshment, the color red, its iconic bottle shape, its signature white script.  Even in its current holiday execution, a Coke can looks a lot like its 1970s predecessor.  Over that same time period, Pepsi® has wandered the branding wilderness.

Staying faithful isn’t easy for marketers.  The temptations are everywhere.  You want to be sexy for a younger audience.  An enticing, new segment beckons.  A hot, new initiative seeks to be noticed on shelf.

In the end, however, the best way to find and keep love is to remain true to yourself.  It starts with a set of identity guidelines that capture your brand standards as simply and clearly as possible.  There can be no ambiguity, and the best way to do that is with the fewest possible words and visuals.  Volvo® is boxy and “safe.”  Coors Light® is silver, mountains and “cold.”

If this was “smashed,” even a dog could still tell it was Target

Then you need to execute your marketing with “creative rigidity.”  That is, use your fixed assets in delightfully imaginative ways.

How do you know if you’re faithfully executing your brand identity?  Use Martin Lindstrom’s “smashability” test.  If you tore up your print ad or shattered your new package, would consumers still recognize your brand in the pieces?  If not, you’re not being faithful.

The Bible says that faithfulness yields fruitfulness.  So what do you hold sacred in your brand?  Do you have firm identity guidelines?  And are they sufficient to yield smashably excellent work?