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Many professionals associate content with departments like communications and marketing, and perceive branding as logos, fonts and templates that should be used. By content, I’m referring to visuals like images, infographs, illustrations, videos or banners, as well as text and other written materials like blog posts, white papers, and presentations. But there is a deeper link between the messages that come out of your company and the brand that you (aspire to) have.
When it comes to how people perceive your company, there are two main things you need to get right: what you do and how you communicate it.
For example, if your company aspires to be known for being innovative, you need to have innovation in your DNA with everything you do. You need to take chances, offer different solutions, put effort in research, and more. But you also need to share content that resonates with innovation in order to break through to your audience. If there is a disconnect between what your brand talks about and what it does, you are likely to run into one of the three tricky situations:
Basically, you are trying to, accidentally or on purpose, sound better than you are in some way. The underlying problem in this situation is that your content and communications do not match what you are doing. As you can imagine, this type of disconnect can lead to a lot of problems for your brand reputation. Let’s look at an example.
The H&M Group has started an initiative that invites consumers to bring used or broken textile products to their shops. They will then recycle the materials for you in an effort to promote circular economy and to look like a company that takes the impact of fast fashion seriously. Unfortunately for them, a Danish television programme called Operation X found out that they are secretly burning thousands of tonnes of unsold garments, which is clearly the opposite of circular economy. Not a great look for H&M.
The second possible scenario that companies face when their content is not in line with their brand goals is also painful, though it’s the opposite of the previous example. If you are putting effort into living your values but not successfully sharing them, you are actively giving away a competitive advantage. If you are not tooting your own horn and sharing the values of your company with your audience, chances are they don’t know about them.
Studies show that a consistently communicated brand leads to a significantly higher revenue than a brand that doesn’t communicate consistently. If your brand is to survive and outgrow competition, it needs to have the right content strategy.
Your audience has expectations of your brand. People have certain ideas about what brands should look and sound like, based on the products or services they offer. We’re talking about expectations for things like what your brand design looks like, features your product will have, or the language your brand uses in their marketing.
For example, consumers would expect that a serious product, like diabetes medication, would use authoritative language and understated design. If it had a whimsical logo with bright colors and humor-focused marketing, this would create cognitive dissonance for the consumer, and they’d avoid that feeling by avoiding the brand.
If your colleagues are not being brand compliant and are sharing content with the wrong style, they might accidentally be putting off, or even offending, members of your audience. Let’s look at some of the aspects of your brand’s visual style that have the potential to create cognitive dissonance:
Think about what colors make the most sense for your brand. So if a sports team associated with the colors blue and orange unveils a new mascot in a green and purple outfit, it won’t be well-received because of the cognitive dissonance it creates.
Shapes can be soft or sharp, perfectly straight or hand-drawn, open or closed. Each choice conveys something about your brand, and using shapes that don’t match your brand identity will create cognitive dissonance.
Studies on visual design show that people become uncomfortable when they see a logo confined tightly within a restricting shape — so uncomfortable that they want to avoid that logo and brand. So when you’re creating a logo, consider this feature along with the shapes and colors of your design.
Font says a lot about the identity of a brand. Imagine a comedy network using a somber font like Times New Roman, or the website for a business consultancy being written in Comic Sans — these are both choices that fly in the face of what people expect, and thus create cognitive dissonance for people who encounter it.
Tone of voice
Think about what you want your brand to sound like in different situations and how your customers perceive your language. If you are a pharmaceutical company, it’s obvious that you shouldn’t throw in puns or emojis when talking about a new cancer medication. But there are more nuanced tones in language as well.
For example, innovative tech companies tend to use short, statement-like sentences to communicate their messages. Apple, for example, could say “Your next computer is not a computer. The world’s most advanced mobile display. So fast most PC laptops can’t catch up.” This type of language creates urgency and paints a picture of the vision Apple has for their new iPad.
Make sure that what your company does every day matches who your brand aspires to be. And once you have alignment between operations and values, share those things with your audience. People want to do business with companies that they can trust and relate to. Your content has a significant role to play in conveying your brand’s core to your stakeholders. If you can align what you do and what you say you do with your audience’s expectations and desires, you will have a chance of outshining your competition and building value.
Would you like to learn more about what content has to do with brand management and how you can get the most value out of your brand? Join us in our free courses, where we have put our 30 years of branding knowledge into bite-sized, self-paced lessons with practical learnings that will take your business to the next level.
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