7B the migo IQ blog

June 20, 2016

Retail Challenges: inconsistent branding leads to customer confusion

By Meghan Mabey

When starting a new retail business, one of the most important steps in developing your brand and encouraging customer loyalty is creating a logo and tagline that accurately reflects your brand and the mission of your company.

The same goes for introducing new digital technology and interactive tools for customers to use in your store. You want to increase revenue and improve customer satisfaction by producing a personalized, responsive shopping experience. You don't want to create confusion in regards to your brand and the services you provide, a professional epidemic sometimes called “brand schizophrenia.”

As author and marketing guru, Jack Trout, so succinctly puts it in an article published on Forbes.com, “Powerful brands have distinct personalities: Duracell batteries last a long time. Volvos are safe in a crash. But even dominant brands can fade if they fall prey to multiple personality disorder, in other words brand schizophrenia.”

Walmart, for example, has announced that it will begin offering a product delivery service, one more step in an effort to gain higher revenue customers. At the same time, however, the brand is bringing back the iconic yellow smiley face, which is indicative of rock-bottom pricing. If that’s not brand schizophrenia, we don’t know what is.

General Motors ended up narrowing its selection of cars in 2009, in an attempt to recover from brand identity confusion: its attempt to make vehicles that are everything for everyone resulted in a brand that stands for nothing, really. Think about it; if BMW is the “ultimate driving machine,” what is Chevrolet? According to marketing research firm, Goldsmith Strategic Services, “If [customers] don’t have a simple way to think about a company, they often stop thinking about it, a clear recipe for diminished customer loyalty and sales.”

According to Trout, “Once a company abandons its brands’ distinctive personalities or positions, it’s just a matter of time before confused customers start to drift away.”

And when that happens, it’s not so easy to get them back.

“Managed carefully [though], a good position is timeless,” says Trout. “The ‘ultimate driving machine’ is now 33 years old, ‘Marlboro Country’ is 51 and ‘a diamond is forever’ is 57.” When you think of these companies, you have a clear idea of their brand and the message they are trying to get across to their customers, which means they have a “district, overarching identity.”

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy for marketing types to resist the urge to tinker with the brand, attempting to make their mark, and in the meantime, creating brand schizophrenia.

When introducing new digital technology and apps or tools for customers, in an effort to increase revenue and improve the overall experience of shopping in your store, it’s important that your brand’s overarching identity isn’t sacrificed in the process.

It’s like the old adage: consistency is key. Take, for example, an alarm app concept from Starbucks that awards early risers with discounts on coffee. That makes perfect sense as far as the Starbucks brand is concerned. Or a smart offer app that provides customers with coupons and discounts on products sold in the store they are currently shopping in, or a search function that allows them to search for store items on sale or at a specific price point.

Trout leaves us with the idea that “Positioning is how you differentiate yourself,” and “Staying focused on that position is how you survive in a brutally competitive world.”

Brands can't be static, of course. Failure to grow and adapt as a brand is a sure way to lose customers. But as you adapt new technology and find the right tools to give your customers the personalized, automated and responsive in-store shopping experience they now expect, stay focused on brand basics, too.

What's your mission? What do customers love about your brand? What do they expect from your brand, and how can you deliver that in a digital format? As long as this digital advancement translates seamlessly into your brand’s overall message and position, you'll see customers who are secure in their relationship with your brand, and happy to spend their time - and money - on your products.