Nerve Collective
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Thoughts & Musings

When to Break the Iron Rules of Branding

If you were forced — say by some half-crazed, on-the-edge marketing executive — to boil down the rules of branding into a single word, that word would be “consistency”. Define the way you look, define the way you talk, define the way you act, and work it, work it, work it until the world understands who you are and what it can expect from you. Call these the Iron Rules of Branding. Break them and risk confusing the consumer, wasting resources, and frittering away hard-won brand equity.

There’s important wisdom there. But the time comes when strict adherence to The Brand Commandments brings risks of its own. Chief among them: allowing your clean, starched and ironed, tightly laced brand to become a straight jacket. For there comes a time when every organization needs to do something….wait for it…new. And it isn’t always easy to communicate “new” with an old brand, no matter how successful it is.

“New” is energetic. It’s inspiring. It’s attention-grabbing. Consumers love new. The trouble is, depending on just how new and different your company’s “new thing” is, your old brand banner might not be up to the task of conveying the proper excitement. The job may require a sub-brand, possibly even a separate brand.

New brand? Oh thank you, no, I really shouldn’t. Maybe in the fall, once we’ve had a chance for Research to look the whole thing over. And the executive team. And the CFO. Oh dear, is that the time? I really must be going. I’m late for a meeting. So good to see you, we must do this again sometime. Next year perhaps. Keep in touch!

The little brand manager inside us always starts to sweat at the thought of venturing outside the confines of a well-maintained parent brand. But try an experiment. Take your company’s new thing and imagine it next to your current logo. In an ad. On a press release. Is the excitement adequately conveyed? If it is you’re good to go (though it might be worth asking yourself at that point if this new thing doesn’t need a little more pizzazz). If not, it might be time to start planning a bust-out. God’s speed!