I have always believed that the recipe for marketing genius is made up of one part science mixed with one part artistry. One ingredient cannot live without the other. The science of analytics is not enough. Artistry is necessary to effectively create and tell your brand story.  And, storytelling is becoming ever more important. As Seth Godin says, “Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but the stories you tell.”

Effectively telling brand stories is made harder because there are so many contributing authors. In my experience managing communication for big CPG brands, shepherding the brand story was a complicated and complex process. The story was executed by a variety of agency partners: Advertising Agency, Packaging Design Firm, Promotion House, Digital & Social Agencies. The client decision makers were multiple people from marketing, sales, and corporate communications.

With so many cooks in the kitchen it is natural that there will be various interpretations on what the brand conversation should be and how it should look. And, unconsciously, as the message evolves, it drifts from the original intent to something else. It’s a little bit like playing “Broken Telephone”. By the time the message comes full circle, it is very different from the original.

This is where building a “Brand Wall” was helpful for our marketing team. We gathered all a brand’s marketing activity for the last year (packaging, advertising, digital, brochures, instore etc.) and posted it on a wall. A group of marketers and agencies would spend time together evaluating the strength of this work and comparing it to our brand promise statement. We used a disciplined discussion guide with a checklist of things to look for and issues to discuss. We asked a series of questions to uncover issues like:

·     Is the whole greater than the sum of the parts?

·     Are there elements that don’t fit?

·     Does everything effectively convey the brand promise and represent the brand values?

·     Does each element reflect the quality required by our brand?

·     Does each element support a step on the customer path to purchase?

·     Are there weaknesses and vulnerabilities?

It’s amazing that an exercise as simple and low cost as this turned out to be one of our most useful evaluative tools.

Here’s what I learned from building a Brand Wall:

1)   There are so few moments to feel like a consumer.

A creative director I worked with used to say that the first time you are presented a piece of communication, is the only time you come close to responding like a consumer. So, don’t waste the opportunity. I believe that looking at the full brand communication landscape is also one of these opportunities. It allows us to experience the whole brand story as consumers do, not just the chapters that we personally produced.

2)   The marketing challenges are staring you in the face.

If you are wondering why your data reveals less than clear consumer uptake on your messaging, what you see in front of you will reveal the answer. The incongruities of the brand personality, message or quality will be obvious. For us, inevitably, “some of these things were not like the others.” Some of our materials just didn’t belong.

3)   Making the logo bigger won’t solve the issues.

For most brand managers, increasing the logo size is considered the go-to solution to strengthen branding. But ask yourself: Do you know what role your logo plays? Is it a key component of the message you are trying to deliver; is it a symbol of assurance or a sign off to the message? Knowing how, when and where to use the logo, not just how big it is, has a major impact on the consistency of your message.

4)   Most Style Guides aren’t complete.

The style guides we used included approaches to logo, type and pantone colour to ensure consistency of wordmark presentation. However, there is so much more to the brand presentation than this. We needed consistency of brand language, conversational tone or point of view, the role of imagery along with characteristics and personalities for talent casting. All these cues were giving a very specific impression of our brand and were not consistent across all of our marketing.

5)   Brand communication can be an expensive and risky staff training tool.

Our smaller marketing programs and tactical revisions were often assigned to the most junior staff as on the job training for marketing communication. While very bright and talented, the most inexperienced marketers often lacked the perspective or business experience to best direct agencies and to reflect the brand values in communication. Staff need senior level coaching and guidance to maintain brand standards.

If you think it’s time to evaluate your marketing communication, try building your own brand wall. You’ll be amazed at what you discover.

Let me send you a free checklist to run your own Brand Wall Discussion. Go to kfitzwilliamconsulting.com and leave me your email.

Kathryn Fitzwilliam helps brands improve the impact of their marketing investment and deliver better business results. www.kfitzwilliamconsulting.com