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Brand Cohesion Takes Leadership and Guts

by Tammy Campbell-Ebaugh

Business team

More than ever, it’s tempting for marketers to go off strategy with an outrageous idea that might create buzz. But, if it doesn’t align with your brand strategy or tell an authentic brand story, is it really good for the brand?

Brand cohesion takes leadership and guts to stay the course, especially in an era where communication is 24/7, both online and offline.  Is your brand platform—including differentiated positioning, messaging, voice, tone, personality, and visual identity—up-to-date and well-communicated throughout your organization, and with agency partners, so cohesion is maintained? Does your organization have a coordinated strategy for all social media channels, especially a unified voice and content pillars that align with the brand?  If not, how are you vetting ideas and tactics to be sure they are the right fit?

I recently attended the 4A’s Transformation Conference in Austin, Texas, where I heard Chipotle’s CMO Mark Crumpacker speak about working closely with company leadership to define Chipotle’s unique positioning, a framework for its authentic storytelling.  He said, “We do the right thing when it comes to food, so the more you know about what goes on in our boardroom and kitchens, the more you’ll want to work and eat here.”

Watch “Back to the Start” and “Scarecrow” videos to see how Chipotle is telling its authentic brand story. These beautifully animated videos present a compelling case for how Chipotle sources its food, along with creating an understanding for its sustainability practices that matter.  Mark concluded his remarks by saying, “We’re not making ads; we’re trying to change the way people think about food.”

Having a clear brand purpose like Chipotle can be a powerful driver of brand cohesion.

It starts with an organizing idea, not a campaign per se, at the center of your marketing—an active statement that helps your marketing team to tell your unique story.  For example, for our client DAV (Disabled American Veterans), we turned a research insight into a central, organizing idea.  We found that Americans are very passionate about keeping the promise to our veterans, the promise that they should receive the benefits and services they earned and deserve as a result of their service.  “Keeping the Promise to America’s Veterans” is the central, organizing idea throughout the integrated campaigns we create for DAV.  See how we’re bringing
“Keeping the Promise” to life through innovative storytelling.

Creating brand parameters is a must and will allow you to move faster, experiment within set guardrails, and avoid unwanted friction over misdirection resulting in wild or one-off ideas. This is where the guts come in—the guts to resist the temptation of going off strategy, off plan, and off brand. Maintaining the brand course won’t happen by itself. And it rarely happens quietly. It takes leadership.

Cohesion is guaranteed when the brand foundation is set, the unique positioning is understood, and big, strategic, organizing ideas are at the center of your marketing.  Marketers, lead the way!

Tammy Campbell-Ebaugh

EVP, Chief Strategy Officer

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