- Too many brands spend money driving customers into stores when they should address the fact that those messages often barely resemble the ones their marketing teams originally created.
- Maintain an open dialogue between marketing and sales to ensure your story stays consistent across the board.
- Reevaluate the way you engage with frontline employees – and the people who support them – to keep your story clear.
Dilution occurs when a brand story travels from the marketing department, where it was created, to other internal teams and loses its original meaning and impact.
When messages become a shadow of what they were before ever reaching customers, they damage a brand more than build it up in a big way.
InnerView recently partnered with FocusVision to conduct a study on brand dilution and its effects. That study found that 59% of respondents said that brand dilution was a problem in their organizations, and more than one-quarter estimated the financial costs to exceed $10 million every year.
Brand dilution: The invisible tax
Think of brand dilution as an invisible tax. Just like the taxes you pay, you don't feel the sting every day, but the total cost can be staggering over time. If even 1 of every 100 customers stops engaging with your brand, the impact that has on your bottom line can be shocking.
Too many businesses spend money driving customers into the stores – where it's anyone's guess which version of the brand story they'll hear – instead of addressing the reality that those messages barely resemble the ones their marketing teams created.
Unfortunately, this pain is one that many companies have decided to live with. They know it's bad, but it feels more chronic than treatable. And ignoring the problem creates the perfect conditions for that brand dilution tax to add up.
So how do you keep your story clear and messages undiluted? The answer is easy: Focus on frontline teams and the people who support them.
Avoiding brand dilution
So much of a company's success depends on the customer-facing teams telling its brand story. Because of this, it's critical that this aspect become a much bigger part of the go-to-market planning and investment than they currently are.
Brands looking to combat the cost of dilution by investing in their frontline teams as storytellers should follow these steps.
1. Admit it: You probably have this problem
Take a look at recent initiatives or products your company has launched. Are you getting the traction you projected? If not, dilution is likely part of the problem. The story isn't getting through. Put together some estimates on the financial impact that the inconsistent story could be having on the initiative.
Levi's, for example, is pretty well-known for being a maker of casual, rugged clothing. When the brand tried to launch a line of men's suits, the dilution came quickly, and the launch didn't turn out. As a result, the company had put a significant amount of money toward an initiative that didn't align with its brand story or identity and saw no success. More than that financial cost, the brand lost credibility for some time; people wondered why it had tried to reinvent what was already a strong identity and story just to break into a new market.
All of that is to say that you should think strategically through new initiatives and launches. Do they align with who you are and what you promise to do? If not, you'll see the effects of that disconnect in no time, and those effects can signal where change might be needed.
2. Open a dialogue between marketing and sales
If you find a good test case for your dilution investigation, the next step is to figure out where the disconnect is. Ask your frontline teams what they think about the product or initiative, and find out where they might see holes that need repairing. When you do this, you gain a better understanding of what they really think of the messages they're being asked to communicate.
At InnerView, we use a methodology called the Brand Transfer Score, which pinpoints where the message is misaligned and how bad the dilution really is. However, marketers can gather input through simple surveys or focus groups to identify where the story might be suffering and use that input to clear it up. Simply by starting to engage with your frontline teams, you are closer to clearing up the dilution.
3. Focus on the initial spark
Too often, companies tell their people the results they want them to achieve without telling them where to start. After collecting input from your teams, focus on one simple action or portion of the story and help them excel at it.
Inertia is the biggest obstacle to overcome, so focus on getting the boulder rolling slowly at first. Keep in mind that it doesn't always mean nonmovement. Active inertia, an organization's inclination to stick to tried-and-true approaches even in the face of change or the need for it, can be even worse.
Firestone Tires, one of the most successful tire brands in the U.S. at one time, exemplifies the downfalls of active inertia. When competitor Michelin introduced radial tires to the U.S. market, Firestone responded quickly and began producing radial tires, too. But it forgot one crucial thing: The producer didn't change its processes or operations to meet its new needs because it assumed that taking action was enough. Action has to be strategic and well planned. By the end of the next decade, the company had lost a significant number of shares in U.S. markets and got acquired by another competitor.
For most companies, focusing on a simple starting point can translate to higher mention rates for their key products and services, bolstering conversions and the bottom line.
4. Reinvent how you engage with the team.
If you want your frontline teams to tell your story differently, try engaging them in new and unique ways. Tuning in to what support they need can make all the difference in their actions. Remember, the "how" is just as important as the "what" when it comes to this communication.
Our data shows that training tactics like emails and webinars are common, but they fail to gain attention or drive engagement with employees. Similarly, having a one sheet for information and posting it to the company intranet doesn't compel employees to stay with you and learn more.
Tell the story you want them to tell in a way that captures their attention. Consider creating online "webisodes" that show your frontline teams talking about and using a product and utilizing them as part of your training. Personalizing those tactics to meet the needs of your frontline teams can be a powerful tool.
So forget the invisible tax that comes as a result of brand dilution. It's time to invest in building consistent messages and supporting the teams that share them.
While dilution is a costly problem, it's one that has a real solution. By focusing on making the right connections and supporting your teams, you not only equip them to share your story with customers in the best way possible, but you also make that story a powerful tool for your brand.