Brands must balance disruption with consistency

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Kantar Millward Brown have said for many years that consistency is valuable and important, leading to clarity of what the brand stands for and how it is recognized. But the evidence from BrandZ finds that only 6 percent of brands grow across a three year time frame and those that do achieve that growth by going something disruptive. These apparent contradictions are easily reconciled if we think about brand building as a process that takes place over time.

We are not suggesting that brands should aimlessly try new things just for the sake of being different. It is possible your brand’s point of difference already exists; you just need to make that difference meaningful and salient to more people in order to grow. In which case consistency is important, the brand needs to stay the course and find ways to reach out to new customers.

However, many established brands find themselves well-known but lacking differentiation. In which case, they would benefit from doing something disruptive. But disruption needs to be substantive, something with the potential to be meaningful to many people, and that does not happen very often. Disruption can apply to any aspect of the brand: from go to market strategies, product and experience innovation, pricing strategies and big, new creative ideas. However, it is unlikely your brand will have major new innovations every year.

When you do have something potentially disruptive, you need a ruthless focus on promoting that advantage before competitors can respond. You have to make people are aware of what you have to offer and that it is salient to as many people as possible. If successful your brand will see a step change in market share. But after that, you need to leverage the advantage of consistency to help solidify your position and, if possible, continue to make your marketing even more effective. Growth is still possible but it is more likely to be incremental, if only because competitors will do their best to claw back lost market share.

Our report focuses on disruption because in a world where salience is often perceived to be the only marketing lever available, we wanted to draw attention to the importance of difference as a precursor to growth; but this is not to say that an established brand needs to change everything in order to seize a new opportunity. In order to leverage the benefits of disruption to the full established brands should make their new offer as meaningful and salient as possible and that will mean building on existing brand associations and cues, not starting from scratch.

But what do you think? Is there an inherent contradiction between disruption and consistency?

by Nigel Hollis

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