Five Symptoms Your Brand is Fragmenting Before Your Eyes

Five Symptoms Your Brand is Fragmenting Before Your Eyes

This article first appeared in BrandingMag on November 7th, 2016.

“Long-term consistency trumps short-term intensity,” said a pretty intense guy named Bruce Lee. In the past decade, I have seen fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands put vast resources into digital, but this intensity hasn’t consistently produced bottom-line results. In fact, I see disconnects emerging:

  • Disciplines within marketing aren’t well integrated.
  • Marketing may not be well connected with its cross-functional partners.
  • The disparate software platforms each of these groups utilize also are rarely connected.

The result is familiar and costly: the fragmentation of the brand’s message as the (relatively) new, resource-intensive digital division thinks and operates on its own. And this separation of information works both ways. Often, core brand equities – like voice, trademark visual assets and key selling points – aren’t translated out to the fast-moving digital realm consistently. And without consistency, brands risk falling into forgettable status.

(I am fascinated by this idea of “effective frequency,” which has stood a test of time, but seems to have been eschewed by marketers chasing the latest trends.)

Sadly, I see digital marketers’ intense engagement efforts are becoming disconnected from the products they’re trying to market and perhaps even from their consumers. If not brought into tight integration, I would venture to say that digital marketing may even do some harm to the brand.

Brand fragmentation shows up in five forms.

  • Separation. The rush to digital, like the rush to shopper marketing, the club channel (or discount retail, as we say in Europe), and other marketing movements, has created separate, channel-focused teams within marketing. But often the methods and technologies are so unique that there is no common language between disciplines, and this keeps learnings in separate silos. In a market that demands faster innovation turns, I believe this separation is unsustainable.
  • Haste. Because of the fast pace of change, investments in the new way of marketing may be activated as problem-solving measures (“We have to do something about digital,”) and may not actually engage shoppers thoughtfully with strategic integration. Plus, with all that brands can learn from social listening, the temptation to change messaging frequently wins out over the discipline to keep your message consistent and memorable. Let’s stay focused!
  • Duplication. Separation and haste make it harder to continually leverage brand assets. Separate teams may recreate assets or create new assets for the new channel, fragmenting the brand and eating up time and budget. This can create inconsistent messaging, color, and imagery as shoppers move from digital image on a mobile phone to physical store and back to digital marketplace. Why isn’t the romance copy from the package leveraged in digital campaigns? Why not use the clever digital campaign on pack? I believe the new world of branding demands this agility.
  • Conflicting Agendas. The incentive structures for leaders of different departments (even within marketing) often have been created at different times and/or are aren’t aligned toward the same outcomes. Organizations need to adapt their management practices.
  • Franken-brand. Further, marketing leaders often separately contract services from specialty marketing agencies, which can more fragmentation in the way the brand is presented across many channels, often to the very same target consumer. It may be great that the Digital/Social/Mobile Team’s messages garnered engagement, but the messages from Shopper Marketing agency are what’s represented on the end cap, and the shopper can get turned off by the discontinuous voice. And, why does the product look so different from advertising to online retail to what shows up on the shopper’s doorstep?

How bad is fragmentation for a brand? Very. A CMO Council report from earlier this year found that, aside from customer service response time, “consistency of experience across channels” was the top attribute of a good customer experience, according to top brand executives – and the only attribute under marketing’s purview.

It is clear to me that focusing on brand consistency is imperative now in the FMCG marketplace, but many aren’t seeing the problem, much less overcoming it. It’s worth stepping back to reflect on the state of brand consistency in your organization. By organizing and integrating marketing efforts, with solid leadership and direction, by drawing your teams closer and your processes tighter, your intensity can achieve the consistency required to lift the bottom line.

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