3 Ways Advertising Can Damage Your Brand

Brands live and die by how well they deliver on their brand promise. That’s easier said than done. Brands are complex and dynamic. But they are also fragile. It takes a lot of effort to build and promote a brand. However, it takes very little to diminish it. Leadership and employees have to believe in and live out the brand faithfully. The company has to deliver, if not exceed, expectations. The experience has to reinforce brand attributes. Every touch-point has to be carefully managed. Any number of things can go wrong. Advertising is essential in building awareness. Done well it can be invaluable. But advertising can also be a detriment. Even if it is well-intended.

1. The Over-Promise and Under-Deliver Phononemon

Trust is one of the most important aspects of any brand. It’s hard-earned and easily lost. And it’s delivering on the promise that is most essential in building trust.

“For a business, especially, lasting trust is the strongest insurance against competitive disruption, the antidote to consumer indifference, and the best path to continued growth. Without trust, credibility is lost and reputation can be threatened, Edelman Trust Index”

Advertising is often seen as the “art of exaggeration”. That can be misleading at best or simply be downright dishonest. Either way, it can build an expectation that is impossible to fulfill. Unmet expectations lead to an erosion of trust. Failing to deliver on a promise is the best way to erode customer confidence and lose customer loyalty. Advertising messaging that conflicts with the actual experience can create a brand disconnect. It’s important that all touchpoints with the brand are working in unison. This will help ensure an authentic and long-lasting customer relationship that reflects what is most true about the brand. An over-promise and under-delivery will, without question, damage your brand.

2. Personality Disorder Divides Brand Perceptions

Customers value brands that they can relate to. And it is brand personalities that make them relatable. That’s why many insurance companies promote their brand through personalities that customers feel comfortable with. But they have to be authentic to the brand. Otherwise, you end up with a bipolar brand personality that is confusing to customers.

A personality in advertising terms is sometimes different than a brand personality. But the personality portrayed through advertising that aligns with the true brand personality is what reinforces its key differentiating attributes. Of course, advertising has a challenge. On one hand, it has to create interest, promote a product or service, be memorable, and make a meaningful connection. It has to compete in a space crowded with every other brand vying for attention. So it is understandable that some creative license is taken with the advertising personality versus the brand personality. But going to far can be detrimental to the brand.

Insurance is a good example of both personality alignment and disconnect. Liberty Mutual’s ad personality is humorous (to the point of being ridiculous) to make insurance seem more approachable. But this conflicts with their brand personality which has to convey trust and reliability.

The advertising spokesperson for Farmers Insurance (Jonathan Simmons) is approachable and knowledgable. This strikes the right balance with the brand personality that emphasizes approachability, experience, and expertise. Both personalities are in alignment. That’s consistent with achieving brand coherence.

3. Frequency Isn’t What It Used to Be

Why do you suppose there is so much emphasis on ad blocking?

“2021 data suggests that the main reason why most users utilize ad blockers is that they see too many ads as intrusive or annoying.”

Why do so many people watch television programs on their DVR rather than live?

“Nielsen Media Research reported that 60% of DVR users skipped commercials.”

That’s because’s because advertising is seen to be disruptive and bothersome to the viewing experience. The old adage that “frequency sells” can also be a turn-off. It’s true that frequency will build brand awareness. But too much frequency can add to negative perceptions. That’s being tone-deaf to what customers are looking for. They don’t have to be beaten over the head. Brand awareness is a good thing. But if that awareness reinforces negative brand perceptions then the effort is self-defeating.

What’s More Important Than a Promise? A Promise Kept.

Managing a brand is a challenge in the best of times. There are so many touchpoints. Great brands know how to hold it all together while providing creative latitude. That’s what faces advertising. But good brand management will ensure there is brand alignment between marketing and brand initiatives. For every promise made there is a promise kept. That’s how a great brand works.

The goal of How Brand Works is to share our experience, perspectives and philosophy on the different facets of branding intended to enable an effective brand management strategy.