I have a theory about marketing strategy; I reckon one of the biggest reasons a strategy fails is that brands don’t wait it out. They give it a year (if that) and decide it hasn’t worked and go back to procurement requesting an agency re-pitch for a brand relaunch. But really it takes time and repetition to change human behaviour, not seeing a solitary TV advert 2.6 times in a year.

We’re so used to being told that the world is quicker and faster; that we should be shouting 6 second ads at consumers (or is 3 second now?) that sometimes we forget to take a moment to remember that repetition and consistency are our friends.

“Familiarity breeds contentment” – Byron Sharp

Therein lies the problem with marketing – especially agency – people. We THRIVE on change. We LIVE for change. We constantly tell people that we love the variation that marketing offers (sounds like another word for change to me) and we couldn’t cope in a job where two days were the same. But we need to take a step back and remember that to create mental availability we need to offer a consistent and memorable experience.

What makes a brand?

Harvard have figured out that 95% of our purchasing decisions are made by the unconscious mind so it’s more important than ever to imprint a memory into your consumer’s brain. Repeating colours, sonic cues, logos, typography, tone all contribute to consumers remembering your brand (let’s not make it hard by going leftfield with any of that) but there’s more. How does the brand make people feel? What do they associate with it? What is it rooted in? Which emotion does your brand invoke? Tweak and refine as you go through your annual marketing plans but don’t forget what is core to your brand and use it otherwise you’ll end up building from the ground up every year.

Does the future look bright?

How many presentations have you seen that have floated the idea of a virtual reality brand experience? Or how blockchain is going to change media buying forever? Maybe that you won’t even need a creative team in the future – all your ads are going to be created by AI. Really none of that’s going to happen in the next few years. If you do decide to trail blaze then it’s important to know what you can expect. Maybe you can generate a bit of PR hype but no normal person is going to regularly use your virtual reality brand experience. We often reference Gartner’s Hype Cycle to plan any innovation recommendations – know the difference between a PR stunt and mass market appeal. Yes the solid, reliable channels may not make for the most exciting marketing plan but think about how you can use them in more interesting ways – targeting, formats, storytelling, breaking the 4th wall.

Gartner’s Hype Cycle

Consistency doesn’t have to be boring

Having said all that we can’t ignore that we live in an ever changing landscape and if we want to keep up with its pace then a certain amount of flexing is needed. Remember when Netflix used to deliver DVDs through the post? And now it’s one of the world’s biggest entertainment platforms. Their CEO Reed Hastings said this in 2011 about the Netflix mission “Becoming the best global entertainment distribution service” and it rings true whether you apply it to renting DVDs or creating horror originals watched by 45 million accounts (Birdbox FYI). They flexed with the times but retained that consistent brand that meant something to consumers. And everyone’s favourite consistent brand? Coca Cola has been about happiness for longer than we can remember – everything from that festive feeling when you see the truck to your name on a can sparks happiness which you directly attribute back to Coca Cola.

The long and short of it

How can you get to that place? Well, we should always combine long range planning with separate annual and campaign planning. Repeat after me they are not interchangeable. Roadmap your brand and marketing strategy for the next 5-10 years then use annual & campaign planning to tweak, refine and agree tactics. And most importantly? Don’t forget you’ve done long range planning. Use it to underpin all your plans and it’ll ensure consistency & repetition – then use your annual and campaign planning to add the shiny, fun sparkles that us marketers love so much.

I’ll leave you on this – Too often we’re keen to look at what should change but not what should stay the same.