A brand-new world

With new technologies and new media, marketing has become more complex in the last few years. Traditional advertising channels are increasingly ignored. A constant stream of info is part of everyone’s daily landscape.

Add tighter budgets, shaky economic outlooks and a feeling of less and less control, and many organizations are overwhelmed at the prospect of marketing. Businesses are thinking about what tools to use, where to place their marketing dollars and the most catchy way to phrase their taglines.

Unfortunately, these often aren’t the best places to start. Worrying about new media channels before your marketing foundations are in place just doesn’t make sense. And to start with the foundations, there’s a longstanding branding approach that still makes sense: Consistency is (still) king.

Consistency can help businesses reach their customers, close sales and recruit new advocates. It can bolster an image, create opportunities and inspire hearts and minds into action. But before you ensure that your organization’s ad campaigns, Facebook page and website all look similar and have the same messaging, there’s a quick caveat: The meaning of consistency is changing as well.

In branding’s early years, consistency was understood as controlling and sharing the same message, delivered through traditional channels, like TV and magazines. As a result, marketing was more about talking and less about communicating.

But thanks to today’s landscape, in which consumers now simply ignore advertising, consistency looks and sounds a lot different. And it begins with a clearly defined and communicated purpose that businesses not only illustrate through marketing but, more importantly, embody internally across every touch point with their customers.

Consumers are tired of “marketing speak.” They want proof and results. More than anything, they expect to have the experience your brand has promised with every interaction — even on your employees’ worst days. More than ever, customer service is part of your brand. And every single employee must buy into your promise.

Want proof that a brand promise must have internal buy-in? Just visit an airline’s Facebook page or Twitter account the next time you’re delayed on a flight.

Even seemingly private interactions with companies are no longer so. Worst-case scenario, hundreds of angry customers flood the Internet with complaints and discontent. Perhaps just as bad, a single influential customer complains to his well-connected group of friends. Suddenly, internal buy-in and consistent delivery of your brand promise becomes one of the most important tenets of successful branding.

Messaging is no longer coming from within businesses. Candid and outspoken customers are often handling that part on their own. At some point, someone somewhere is going to have something negative to share about your organization. And now your consistent response becomes integral to a successful marketing plan.

By consistently addressing the situations in which a business fails to deliver its promise, the organization often can repair damages and maintain its image. Sometimes, as uncomfortable as it may feel, it means leaving negative criticism online, picking up the phone to make amends and, perhaps most importantly, using this feedback to shape future promises to your customers.

There’s one more place consistency reigns. In an increasingly connected and transparent culture, customers look for authentic and relevant warmth and “heart” from the businesses they love. Successful marketing today is consistently human. Intuition and emotion increasingly guide consumer choices.

This translates to loosening your necktie and speaking with your customers just as you speak with friends. It allows for your own marketing messages to change based on the medium in which you’re sharing them. It means asking for honest feedback from your most loyal fans and acting accordingly. It’s an opportunity to inspire and engage in conversation in honest and open ways.

Consistently human businesses and organizations don’t always get everything right, but they’re likable. And as a result, these groups stand out when it’s time for their followers to spend their money.

When truly committed to consistency, businesses can use any marketing tool, from Facebook to a billboard, to deliver value, increase consideration and ultimately close sales. The lines between design, marketing, PR, advertising and social media have never been more blurred. But perhaps this brandnew world isn’t so complicated after all.

Consistency still remains king. Only its definition has changed.

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