Today’s brand marketing should be focused on securing mental availability. This refers to increasing the likelihood that a brand will come easily to mind in a relevant buying situation. Building mental availability is one of the tenets of how brands grow (the other being physical availability, or how easy it is for people to buy the brand in relevant buying situations).
The science of brand consistency is, in many ways, the science of how the mind works. It deals with memories, behavioral science, and empirical laws of consumer purchasing behavior. It’s rooted in System 1 thinking, the fast, instinctive, and emotional way people tend to make decisions. Brand consistency plays a major role in building and maintaining memory structures. Specifically, it helps to refresh memories, which – studies have repeatedly shown – decay over time, thereby helping to increase the feeling, fame, and fluency of brands.
How consumer memories shape brand growth:
The following principles come from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute of Marketing Science. They can be found in Building Distinctive Brand Assets by Professor Jenni Romaniuk.
What all of this means is, Professor Romaniuk writes, “the brand’s Distinctive Assets typically emerge from the effective decisions marketers make about where and how to place the brand name and the asset together.”
Time and reach play key roles in this process because it takes time for category buyers to link a brand with its potential DBAs. The more category buyers marketers can get to trigger their brands in any given market, the greater the number of potential buyers for their brands. This is why Fame is a key metric (more on that below).
For marketers familiar with The Long and the Short of It by Les Binet and Peter Field, mental availability is the long to persuasion’s short.
For those unfamiliar with The Long and the Short of It, the report advises marketers to balance long-term brand-building marketing strategies with short-term sales activation strategies. Balancing both will enable marketers to create more demand that can be captured with direct response campaigns (which in turn provide more cash for long-term brand-building campaigns). This is what it looks like:
Speaking about the importance of balancing long and short-term strategies, Mark Ritson writes in Marketing Week,
“Long-form, long-running and more traditional media – mass-targeted and more emotional – works to build the brand with little or no call to product action. Shorter, multiple campaigns target specific segments for immediate activation, often taking a more digital turn. The work is linked by distinctive brand assets, so that the codes and brand associations that are conjured up in the brand work are then immediately activated and utilised in all the short promotions.”
Brand consistency takes time to build. It is essential, as marketers build their marketing strategies, that they use Distinctive Brand Assets to link their different approaches and map each campaign to their brands. This helps create more efficient advertising, as well as more effective advertising. Put differently, sales can be improved through greater mental availability.
“Sales calls and advertising work better when there are existing memory structures in viewers’ heads – so long as the advertising works with these memory structures,” said Professor Byron Sharp. “Advertising falls on barren ground when it reaches buyers who aren’t near a firm’s sales points.”
The more (associated) memories of a brand they have, the more likely they are to choose that brand in buying situations. As Professor Romaniuk explains, many brands approach advertising the wrong way and skip steps by failing to account for these dynamics.
“A lot of advertising is geared to persuasion rather than building mental availability," said Professor Romaniuk. "Persuasion is about assuming you're in the room arguing your point, whereas mental availability is about getting into the room. And so that's the big challenge: most organisations are failing to get into the room, but they're spending all their money arguing as if they're already there.”
Before trying to persuade potential category buyers, a brand and its assets must first stand out and get noticed in the right way. Brand consistency is the long-term effectiveness play that unfolds thereafter, cementing distinction and growing familiarity in the minds of category buyers. Professor Romaniuk writes,
“The big, flashy, shiny things get all the attention, but much of an effective Distinctive Asset’s strategy is rooted in the quiet, behind-the-scenes discipline of persisting on a path of consistent, excellent execution.”
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 the Value of Distinctive Brand Assets. Read to learn more about the challenges marketers face when deploying Distinctive Brand Assets.