You’ve worked hard to create a brand that stands head and shoulders above the competition. You have an attention grabbing logo mark and a visual identity that captures the essence of your organisation. But, are you reaching the right people through a clearly defined marketing communications plan? And, if you are reaching them, are your communications enthusing and engaging? If your outbound marketing activities are everything but integrated, it’s time to reappraise your integrated marketing communications plan.
A lack of planning – and joined-up thinking – can have costly consequences when it comes to reputation and return on your hard-earned investment. Short, medium and long-term thinking is required to connect each strand of your integrated marketing communications plan. Unless there’s a very good reason not to this of course. Like testing a new market or product. This lucid line of thinking is likely to be as popular with your marketing team as it is with your finance director. Getting everyone signed up and pointing in the same direction has benefits morale and improves efficiency.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a multi-national household name or a niche brand that only those in the know have heard of: you need to consistency communicate your brand identity – from its initial proposition through to execution – in order to make it more powerful, recognisable and meaningful. And you need to consider every touchpoint, interdependency, where communication channels dovetail to create a seamless user experience. A good marketing communications plan will consider all of these elements, and more, making the distinction between strategy and tactics.
It’s consistency of purpose and communication that builds a strong brand identity. It makes it easy for your customers to understand who you are, what you do and how to buy from you through constant reinforcement. It helps differentiate your organisation from others. And it protects and reinforces your brand’s meaning, its aim and its self-image, creating associations that people remember. And just as you don’t get harmony if everyone is singing the same note, in branding it’s important to reinforce your message in different ways that add depth, texture and tone to your story.
Creating consistency across the marketing communications mix is about more than ensuring your logotype is used correctly, and that colours and fonts match. Messaging, tone of voice and calls to action also require careful consideration. Which is potentially more difficult to achieve, as content is a less technical activity activity. It’s here that you might rely more heaving on marketing communications agency, or team of external writers.
Whatever the case, integrated marketing communication plans must be considered from all angles, to achieve a consistent visual and verbal language throughout customer and staff touch-points, namely in the following four categories:
Sometimes the most significant factor influencing how an organisation communicates is through its products, which embody the brand’s values. A Burberry trench coat, Bang & Olufsen phone and Porsche all convey the values of the brand in terms of design, quality, distribution and pricing – and influence the way we perceive those brands. These organisations ensure that product design is central to the brand’s ethos and reflects its values, goals and vision. They’ve done this consistently, for many years, without veering from this core principal.
Environments are crucial in presenting the positioning of many brands, whether the customer experience online, office environment or the staff canteen. Our expectations of Abercrombie & Fitch, Harrods and the Hilton form our impression of the brands. Sadly, M&S hasn’t acknowledged that its multi-million pound ad campaigns doesn’t detract from the tired old-fashioned in-store experience. On the other hand, Apple’s stores convey the brand’s belief in simplicity and stunning design, from the vast open spaces, interactive product displays and down to the way they serve you with hand-held devices to save you queuing.
You don’t need to be a global giant to apply these principals to your marketing communications plan. Much can be achieved without the mega-profile and mega-budgets. A brand can convey its values consistently and filter these down to everything in the marketing communications mix, from its website to signage, point of sales and other marketing communications materials.
We often forget that the way a brand behaves can influence our impression of it – and some companies are beginning to address employee behaviour from grooming and dress to how they present themselves verbally to customers. Service organisations rely heavily on behaviour to communicate their values – from the NHS and the Mormons through to the police force and airlines. How does someone who works in the First Class lounge of British Airways behave? How about someone in B&Q?
Companies can also consider employee behaviour as an integral part of a brand’s messaging strategy.
Many brands – especially luxury lifestyle ones – consider advertising campaigns and other marketing communications as central to their image. Cars, fashion, jewellery and cosmetics brands carefully commission expensive executions to project the personality behind the brand, including advertising campaigns, marketing and PR events, stationery and other collateral, whether to customers or employees.
Some brands over promise: Benetton’s notorious campaigns shouted their belief in confronting taboos – but never successfully translated into their product or stores. Naturally, Apple’s communications rely on the same simplicity and pared-down design that their products and stores communicate for consistency at its most effective.
Make sure that your marketing communications are equally mindful of your brand’s tone of voice, design and message to carry the same values from your logo and website across all your advertising and marketing communications.
It’s through developing consistency of messaging, tone and ‘look & feel’ through these four areas that bestows a feeling of authenticity on a brand, as it is constantly being true to itself via all streams and channels. Challenge your creative agency to look holistically at your integrated marketing communications plan, and devise a strategy for demonstrating your central beliefs to the world – again and again.