Applying brand consistency is hard. From media fragmentation to content proliferation, marketers have more need for brand consistency than ever. Through the eyes of iconic brands, here is the impact other marketers could see from leveraging their Distinctive Brand Assets (DBAs) to achieve brand consistency.
Distinctive Brand Assets (DBAs) are sensory devices that come in various shapes, sizes, and sounds. Some of the world’s leading advertisers are tracking and measuring their brands’ Distinctive Brand Assets at scale and in real-time. These brand cues include, but are not limited to:
As mentioned in a previous post, DBAs are some of the most effective creative devices marketers have at their disposal. They can help capture attention, improve positive feelings, and drive action. Most importantly, they are essential for effective branding communication, thereby increasing the likelihood that consumers will choose a particular brand over another.
Considering the challenges most modern marketers face, however, it’s understandable why brand consistency often takes a back seat.
Achieving brand consistency in today's content environment is becoming increasingly challenging. Here's why:
The number of total ads has increased by a factor of six in the past 20 years, while the number of advertisers has nearly halved. Brands are producing a lot more creative content, resulting in a decrease in creative quality and brand consistency.
Content saturation, environmental media clutter, and competition make it harder to gain recognition and association – half of all consumers who see an ad fail to identify the brand. Rather than increase brand awareness for the brand paying for the ad exposures, poorly branded ads are far more likely to drive awareness lifts for the rest of the category, especially the most salient brand in the category.
In the past decade, there has been an explosion of new media channels, each with its own formats, environments, and audiences. Media complexity has given way to specialism and a myopic focus on tactics – at the expense of marketing fundamentals like maintaining and achieving brand consistency.
With technology-enabled access to a worldwide audience, marketers are expanding into more markets, cultures, and languages. Navigating content localization without a local market expert can lead to creative concepts being lost in translation.
These challenges are not insurmountable.
For example, a difference between local knowledge and global marketing objectives typically leads to tensions that, if properly navigated (i.e., maintaining distinction and driving fame and sales), can lead to new opportunities. For example, Kit-Kat maintained global consistency while adapting to the local Japanese audience, with help from a highly effective localized “Lucky Charm” campaign.
Consistent application, organization, and measurement of Distinctive Brand Assets have delivered powerful results for numerous large brands worldwide. Here are a few examples.
Breakfast cereal company Weetabix analyzed its brand identity elements and discovered that a long-unused advertising tagline – “Have you had your Weetabix?” – was most distinctly associated with the brand in people’s minds.
Weetabix began developing this tagline into a Distinctive Brand Asset by consistently reincorporating it into their creative strategy, even launching a new TV campaign with a narrative that reinforced the underlying sentiment. This approach helped the company reverse a declining growth trend, driving millions in extra revenue.
Tom Roach reported, “Weetabix delivered £4.5 million extra revenue in 2017, returning it to growth in a category that had been in slow decline, helping it achieve sales of over £150 million.”
Takeaway: Marketers’ brands may have Distinctive Brand Assets with massive untapped value sitting unused within their asset portfolio. Start by conducting an analysis to identify these potential DBAs.
During a decade (2010-19) of low economic growth, John Lewis has grown 4.4 times faster than competitors, with £1.2bn in incremental sales.
Back in 2009, a review of varied insights by retailer John Lewis revealed that their holiday shoppers wanted to be viewed as thoughtful gift-givers. The company developed a strategic messaging pillar based on these findings: “John Lewis is the home of thoughtful gift-giving.”
This served as a throughline in annual Christmas campaigns, which took various shapes and styles but always centered on that singular idea. This exemplifies how brand consistency isn’t about doing the same thing repeatedly but rather consistently featuring Distinctive Brand Assets in a resonant way while adhering to consistent objectives.
“The challenge with consistency is maintaining freshness,” marketers behind the strategy shared. “We do this by flexing the story, setting, character and song, but keeping the basic premise the same. It's a bit like the James Bond franchise.”
It’s working. “Branded recognition improves every year, and despite our many copycats, 80% recognise and correctly attribute a John Lewis ad.” A Warc paper shows that their decade of Christmas TV advertising, supported by other touchpoints, drove £1.2bn incremental sales and £411m net profit, with an 883% ROMI.
Takeaway: Balance fresh new storytelling and campaign ideas with brand consistency and consistent objectives for long-term growth.
After a failed Masterbrand launch left them in a declining position, frozen food brand Birds Eye decided to look backward to find something that might help them shift the tides. They learned that Captain Birds Eye, a character who’d been sidelined in Europe for about a decade out of belief he was outdated, still held high brand recognition and latent affection in the eyes of consumers.
An updated and modernized version of Captain Birds Eye was introduced and distinctively incorporated into various campaigns – including a teddy representing the character and a Snapchat filter that gave the user a captain-esque beard (while turning their friend into a frozen fish stick).
These efforts played into a strategy that saw Birds Eye reverse declining sales, improve brand metrics, and drive a media ROI increase of 24 percent.
Takeaway: Characters are powerful drivers of mental brand association but, as mentioned earlier, are vastly underused, featuring in only 14% of communications.
McDonald's golden arches are among the most distinctive of all brand assets in existence, recognized and associated with hamburgers by consumers worldwide.
McDonald's has been able to strike a balance as a global brand extending into many different localities by applying Distinctive Brand Assets in a consistent yet flexible manner. Mark Ritson attributes this to a commitment toward effectiveness over flashiness. This culture of brand consistency serves in stark contrast to the fast-food chain’s top competitor.
“Assiduous work on its brand codes, brand image, and menu has resulted in significant marketing effectiveness,” Riston wrote. “But improving menus does not get you a front-page story in AdAge. And increasing salience through code application is the most boring (but essential) activity in marketing.”
McDonald's continues to maintain a distance over Burger King in terms of sales, and a study by UBS concluded that “McDonald’s US brand strength remains robust, with McDonald's outperforming peers across a number of important customer perception metrics.”
Takeaway: If the goal is to create connection and impact with customers, the most proven way to do so is by identifying Assets with the greatest potential and developing them into consistently-applied Distinctive Brand Assets.
Overcoming these challenges and building brand consistency in today's world requires several steps: a way to maximize the consistent mention of Distinctive Brand Assets and a means for experimenting with DBAs to drive greater Mental Availability.
Many brands are increasingly adopting creative data (obtained through a Creative Data Platform) to achieve creative excellence at scale. This is a multi-step journey that begins with adopting creative-first principles (i.e., platform best practices that are measured through a Creative Quality Score). Typically brands that have scaled these best practices have achieved the buy-in and alignment needed to move on to developing their own creative best practices (i.e., brand consistency).
This is a multi-part, weekly series exploring — through data — how marketers can deliver brand consistency and some common pitfalls to watch out for.
Part one spotlights data on the value of brand consistency, part two explores the science of brand consistency, part three explores the value of Distinctive Brand Assets, part four unpacks how to develop brand consistency, part five highlights why brands are adopting Creative Quality, part six looks at brand alignment, part seven breaks down the importance of scale, part eight reveals how brands are managing scaling challenges, part nine looks at how brands are scaling their marketing efforts.
The next article in this brand consistency series explores How to Develop Brand Consistency. Read it here to explore a framework to overcome these challenges and grow brand consistency.