Brand Identity: 3 Tips for Preventing Audience Confusion

By November 13, 2012Customer Messaging

A friend of Tartan shared this romance novel cover with us, and it gave us a good laugh. Why didn’t it worry us that this smut is splattered with our namesake? Because we have a well-defined brand identity and aesthetic that protect Tartan the Minneapolis marketing agency from being confused with other tartan references. B2B marketers, however, do find their brands under fire due to outside forces from time to time. Having a strong brand identity, and protecting that identity is the most powerful brand positioning tool an organization can be equipped with. It ensures your audience understands who you are in the marketplace.

Consider the Duracell brand. Believe it or not, it was the first brand to market batteries with a pink, battery-powered bunny back in 1973. Duracell opted against renewing its U.S. trademark, and in 1989 its competitor Energizer emerged with a paradoxical mascot. Audiences were confused as to which battery brand had a pink bunny mascot, and Duracell ads at that time did more for the competition than the advertiser. Today, North American audiences see the Energizer bunny as iconic, whereas the rest of the world recognizes the Duracell bunny.

Brand confusion creates an unpleasant experience for customers and marketers alike. Check out these three easy tips for ensuring your brand identity doesn’t fall victim to confused messaging.

1. Say but little, and say it well.

Saying too much is an Achilles heel when it comes to defining your brand positioning. Overwhelming an audience with too much information confuses them as to what your specialties truly are, and runs the risk of threatening your credibility. Whether it’s at a networking event, in sales collateral or via social media, focus your message to the critical points that define who you are and what you do.Most audiences don’t want your back story, so condense the novel you could write on your brand to key bullet points. Then customize that message to what’s really important and unique to the segment of the audience you’re trying to influence.

2. Know who you are.

All too often, companies try to be everything to everyone, and lose sight of their brand identity in the process (if they even had one to begin with). This type of company has high-level goals that are overly-simplistic and aspirational, but have no actionable support. They may spend a lot of time looking at their competitive set, but relatively little time innovating and subsequently become ‘me too’ brands. Brands in this position need to discover themselves and understand their unique value proposition first. When you know who you are as an organization, you can confidently express your brand positioning to prospects.

3. Evolve (don’t reinvent)

Constantly reinventing the wheel is an unbelievably exhausting form of brand identity confusion. Brands do this when they aren’t committed to or sure of what they’ve been doing, so they just roll out new product launches without backing them strategically.These types of launches are rarely successful. To gain clarity, define and stick to the strategic back bone of your brand.Brand recognition is a result of repetition, and a certain degree of consistency in your message is crucial.We’re not suggesting brands should be stuck in their ways, either. But when the base of your brand is well-defined, you’re in a great position to evolve over time without losing your basic brand identity.

What examples of brand identity confusion have you encountered? Tell us about it with a comment!

About Emily Conley

Emily Conley is an Account Executive at Tartan Marketing, and brings her digital marketing experience to help some of our key clients incorporate online and interactive technologies into their overall marketing plans. She also leverages a background in content development and strategic planning to help B2B food ingredient, healthcare and technology companies plan, manage and execute marketing strategies that drive results.

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