Experts still agree: a recession late in 2023 is inevitable. How big it will be is anyone’s guess, but that’s not stopping the universal knee-jerk reaction.
Cut the budget. Trim the fat. Streamline. Pull up the ol’ bootstraps.
Since marketing initiatives and the associated results appear intangible, the marketing budget is often the first victim of the microscope — even if it’s not cut significantly, you’re under close overview to prove ROI (and it’s true whether you’re a marketing manager or you are the business).
In the past, the process involved numerous gatekeepers to pass through before campaigns could be altered or taken down.
Nowadays it’s almost too easy to click “turn off” on digital marketing initiatives.
Of course the flexible and cost-effective nature of digital marketing campaigns are especially beneficial to small-medium sized businesses — it’s possible to go from $100,000 marketing spend to $0 in just a single click.
It might feel intoxicatingly powerful – no lengthy discussions, no gatekeepers to convince.
It might feel like what better time to wield this power than when headed into a recession?
First consider this: if you disappear from the digital landscape, you disappear from their minds.
People — meaning your audience — typically spend MORE time online during a recession.
Recessions don’t last forever. Plus we should consider that not everyone is forced to change spending habits during a recession.
If you turn off your campaign and your brand is absent when they’re ready to spend, you’ll miss out. Big time.
Let me show you how to get those dollars working harder and smarter by getting laser-focused on a solid brand strategy.
What is brand strategy?
Your brand strategy is like a lens. Scratch that… it IS a lens, one you use to see all of your marketing efforts and activities. And ultimately, it’s
… the who, what, when, where, why and how of your business.
… the creation and codification of your brand – the perfect blend of what matters to your ideal clients and what matters to you.
… where to plant your flag, and how to talk about your company across all platforms, channels and communications.
In a nutshell, it’s how you provide a consistent brand experience.
Externally — and especially internally.
Because if your team can’t agree on how to talk about your company, it’s guaranteed to confuse – and potentially frustrate and alienate – your prospects and customers.
A consistent brand experience makes everything in your business easier – from the outside in:
Starting with your marketing and promotions, and cycling right back through your recruiting, onboarding and day-to-day operations.
What is a consistent brand experience?
A consistent brand experience is the only way you control the narrative around exactly what you do and what you stand for.
It’s the cohesion around how you talk about
- your company
- your audience
- your products/services and the solutions they provide
When your audience experiences drastically different messages at different touch points of your business, they get confused. That’s what I’m referring to when I talk about inconsistent brand messaging. And, as a result, it leads to brand dilution and compromises your brand equity.
Here are some real-world examples.
Cadbury and Smash
In the 1960s, Cadbury acquired an instant mashed potatoes brand, Smash.
Smash Instant Mashed Potatoes were a hit. The business was successful and profitable.
The problem? It hurt other aspects of Cadbury’s business.
It diluted their position as a premium chocolate company.
In the 80s, even though Smash consistently performed well and earned a profit, it was costing Cadbury too much in brand equity, and so they sold that division.
Coca-Cola and ‘New Coke’
Also in the 80s, Coca-Cola felt the pressure when blind taste testing revealed a consumer preference for the taste of Pepsi. In response, Coca-Cola launched ‘New Coke’ to compete with Pepsi purely on taste.
Sure, the taste testing results were all true (it was a part of Pepsi’s marketing efforts dubbed ‘The Pepsi Challenge’).
But guess what?
Even Coke fans who were part of the taste tests were not jumping ship to Pepsi. Their loyalty to Coca-Cola was about more than just the taste – it was about being loyal to their preferred brand.
They were accustomed to a certain brand experience. A formula closer to Pepsi’s effectively told these loyal fans that they’d been wrong all along.
It was only a matter of weeks before the company was forced to return to their old formula and do some damage control.
In each case, inconsistent brand experiences cost them.
Cadbury was a premium chocolate and confectionary brand — people who wanted premium sweets couldn’t trust they came from the same place as instant mashed potatoes.
Coca-Cola’s attempt to peddle a new formula closer to Pepsi’s was certainly not winning over Pepsi fans – and it absolutely frustrated fans who didn’t like being forced to change.
And the lesson here is just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Now let’s consider what inconsistent experiences could be costing your brand.
Costs of Inconsistent Brand Messaging
According to Hubspot, consistent brand messaging can increase your revenue by up to 23%!
But can misaligned or inconsistent brand messaging cost you more than just missing out on those opportunities for increased revenue?
And as a Forbes article shows us, brand dilution costs companies $10M or more – every single year.
So what do those repercussions look like?
- Maybe your in-house teams waste their time and energy, in unnecessary meetings, producing work that won’t be used, and chasing down angles that don’t make sense
- Or then again, you could waste time and money hiring multiple creatives to write the same thing, because none of them seems to ‘get it right’
Hard truth time.
Brand Messaging Matters
If you’ve hired numerous creatives for the same project, and never get the results you expect, this one’s for you.
Because once makes sense, twice could happen, but if you’re on your third or beyond copywriter, it’s not them, it’s you.
And I’ll bet dollars to donuts that they tried to sell you on the foundational bits early on — messaging documents like brand voice guides — and you politely declined. You know, before you ended up dismissing them for ‘not getting it right.’ ?
Tough to hear maybe, but it comes from a place of love, I promise ?
Because the costs are higher than just dollars spent paying contractors for work you don’t use.
Your reputation suffers. Not just with your audience because customers are confused, but also in potential partnerships.
Contractors and service providers don’t want to work with a business that doesn’t know what they want. Or that hires someone to do the work, and then turns around and doesn’t use it.
Increased costs of a confusing brand experience will show up at every stage in your customer’s life cycle — awareness, acquisition, activation, engagement and retention.
Misaligned messaging leads to a confusing (*ahem* broken) customer journey. Which means lower conversion rates, higher costs per lead, and customer dissatisfaction ranging from disinterest to total alienation.
Costs of Customer Awareness
The earliest stage of your customer’s journey is awareness – before you convert leads into customers.
During this time they know they need something, but they don’t know that you are the thing they need.
If your messaging doesn’t accurately tell them what to expect, they are likely to miss out on their chance to even begin their journey with your brand.
Costs of Customer Acquisition
There is no one-size fits all approach to customer acquisition – the process of getting these newly aware leads to buy.
When trying to determine which approach is right for you, beware of getting lost down the rabbit hole. You could invest in initiative after initiative and still not meet your goals.
How do you know which initiatives move the needle?
Instead of forcing a square peg into a round hole (what you think vs what your audience wants and needs), you can go back to your brand strategy to figure out exactly where the overlap is – that perfect blend of what matters to you, your business, and your audience. In fact, one way to think about it is as a Venn diagram.
This type of laser-focused brand messaging means your potential customers know instantly what it is you do and how it helps them.
And if you get the personality, voice & tone behind the message just right, they basically can’t wait for you to take their money.
Because they feel a connection. They feel like you just get them.
Costs of Customer Activation
Customer activation is the process of encouraging your newest – or sometimes your least engaged – customers to get the most out of their purchase from you.
When your messaging is clear and consistent, customers know exactly what they signed up for and why they signed up for it. They can’t wait to start!
Brands with consistent messaging don’t even have to think about customer activation, because it mostly happens on autopilot.
That said, of course there will always be some that need a little nudge or guidance.
If your messaging is consistent and clear, they’re jazzed to receive your automated sequence walking them through important first steps.
But if your messaging is inconsistent, they won’t even notice your activation materials, and you end up with high levels of churn.
Costs of Customer Engagement
Your business needs ride-or-die fans.
Ride or dies are your most highly engaged customers, and they are just like free advertising!
They talk about you to their friends and family and post about you on social media. They comment on and share your social media posts. Their reviews that make you look oh so good!
Die-hard brand loyal fans not only don’t cost you anything, they actively help you generate revenue through increased exposure and engagement.
Costs of Customer Retention
Retention makes more money than acquisition, every time. In fact, incumbent brands more than double their growth compared to industry peers by improving the experiences of their existing customers!
When we talk about the costs of customer retention, what we’re really having a conversation about is the high costs of churn.
Churn happens when customers are unable to find success with your products and services and essentially give up. They stop engaging with and interacting with your brand, they cancel subscriptions, and they don’t come back.
Consistent messaging and brand experiences are fundamental to every customer’s successful journey.
The Costs of Inaction
Profits are important, we both know this, we run businesses.
But so are people. And the planet. I could talk for hours about the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development goals, which blend human sustainability with environmental sustainability. (But I’ll leave it at that and save further discussion for another time)
We’ve discussed the impacts to your bottom line, but there are other hidden costs of inconsistent brand messaging.
My friend Jess over at Scribble & Brine calls these hidden costs the ‘Cost of Inaction.’
You have a product/service that actually helps people! If they don’t know that your solution is out there waiting for them, they face negative outcomes.
People you could be helping don’t know it – because they caught misaligned messaging on your least favorite (and therefore most poorly kept) social channel.
And if they see you on a different channel, they’re tuning you out and scrolling by because they’ve already evaluated you as a poor fit for them – based on having the wrong messaging.
The negative outcomes they face without being able to find your solution are just one of the many costs of inaction.
Achieve Consistency with a High-Velocity Content Strategy
Haphazard content creation results in the kind of inconsistent brand messaging that’s costing you big.
A natural part of doing business in the digital world, every business in 2023 needs to evaluate what content marketing can do for them.
Content marketing runs the risk of being wasteful and ineffective – when it falls outside of the right strategy.
The right strategy is methodically determining what to say and where to show up. Then showing up consistently.
Solve Inconsistent Brand Messaging to Build Magnetic Connections
The strongest brands show up consistently and their actions support the words they use.
They do this by implementing solid brand strategy by creating (and using!!) carefully designed brand messaging and putting it to use at every step of the funnel — from your website to your emails to your customer service and internal communication between team members.
Carefully constructed brand messaging that your customers instantly fall madly in love with begins with my flexible REACH Trajectory framework.
The Solution to Inconsistent Brand Messaging = Investment + Strategy
There’s no magic formula. No wand or shortcut.
To save on these and other costs related to an inconsistent brand experience requires an upfront investment.
If you DIY, you invest a lot of yourself.
You might be saving upfront on actual dollars spent, but you will be investing heavily with your time, energy, sanity – and joy!
Start here with a Website Copy Checkup – my 10 point checklist, including 30 quick win fixes you can implement #rightnow!
Another option is to kick off your DIY journey with a VIP Copy Dash – we work together for a 1-2 day long spring and then you take the momentum and run with it!
Or you could just get a pro (like me) to do it for you (DFY).
The magical part of DFY is that it comes with bonus rebates and credits!
You get back your time, have more energy, and can protect your sanity. More importantly, you have more opportunities to experience joy.
When your messaging provides a consistent brand experience, you can feel it – it’s electric!
You feel energized and propelled through whatever challenges your business is facing – including a recession.
Book a free consultation and we can figure out together which is right for you — DIY or DFY — and recession-proof your business today.