Recently Vesta’s VP of Insights, Christoph Knudsen, joined a webinar panel hosted by HCD Research: “Brand Harmony: A Frank Discussion on Cross-Functional Teams to Cross-Functional Research”.
Through an engaging discussion, the expert panelists from a variety of backgrounds explored the dynamic challenges and opportunities faced by brands chasing brand harmony.
What is Brand Harmony?
Brand Harmony encompasses the ultimate goal that most businesses strive for – to have your brand, products, messaging, and consumer perception in alignment with each other. As HCD Research says, it’s about “ensuring that your product meets its promise”. It comes down to making sure that the product that is placed in the hands of consumers is meeting the expectations set in marketing.
How Do You Achieve Brand Harmony?
As you might expect, there are a lot of moving pieces when it comes to working towards brand alignment. It’s an all-team effort that requires having a strong vision and a determination to bring your brand to life. And while this might sound like a heavy lift, it certainly does not have to be.
HCD’s panel revealed three tasks that brands should include on their path to achieving brand harmony. Let’s explore them.
1. Integrate Marketing and R&D
We’ve all been there. You’re working on a project with your head down just to find out that your progress and goals are not in alignment with another department’s goals. Not only are these team silos a big headache for you, they’re also a major roadblock in creating brand harmony. When Marketing and R&D are not on the same page, the product delivered to consumers is doomed to fall below expectations.
Linda Flammer, PhD, a speaker on the panel and Senior Research Associate at Monell Chemical Senses Center, shared an anecdote of product launch failure from her past that she attributed to ineffective communication across departments. “The product failed miserably because there was no communication at all. It was a complete mismatch of the sensory and the messaging, so the product did not live up to the promise” she stated.
Often brands rely too heavily on one area of expertise over another, leading to dissatisfaction in the consumer experience. Vesta’s Christoph Knudsen stated, “…a big mistake a lot of companies make is they decide for themselves what they feel like their brand means to their consumers and they don’t feel like they need to do the research.” This approach blindly leads brands down the road to fragmented messaging and consumers who can’t grasp what your brand is about- a far cry from brand harmony.
When teams work alongside each other – when the intelligence and innovation of R&D meets the creativity and strategic mindset of marketing – that is where the magic of brand alignment happens.
The bottom line: internal communication is key. Without it, your brand is risking its chance to deliver an optimal product to consumers. As Flammer said, “If companies don’t align those silos, they’ll be weeded out and will ultimately fail in the future”
2. Let Consumers Craft Your Identity
Consumers are keen on calling the shots these days. And since consumers are often the ones telling your story and advocating for you, it’s important to be in tune with their brand perception.
Panelist William Childs, Creative Director at Kitchen Magic, stated, “The old paradigm of marketing or branding used to be that advertisers would tell consumers what they are. Now, that’s totally reversed – the customers tell the brands what they are. And if that’s out of alignment, you’re going to have problems.” He added, “I don’t think a lot of companies even know what they’re selling.”
Childs honed in on this idea, stating that brands need to position themselves in a way that highlights the promise of their product in conjunction with its actual features. It’s about projecting that Harley Davidson does not just sell motorcycles, they sell freedom. Mattress Firm does not just sell mattresses, they sell a good night’s sleep. Hello Fresh does not just sell a meal-delivery kit, they sell practicality.
It’s about knowing the lifestyles your consumers live, understanding their pain points and expectations, and letting that guide brand decision-making.
Vesta’s Christoph Knudsen stated, “It’s going to be all the more important to drill down on what experience you’re providing to consumers that they’re not going to get somewhere else. Get that to a succinct core message and make sure that it’s in every chance you get to grab attention and continually reinforce it with every decision that you make.”
The main takeaway is that when brands zoom out and consider what their product really means to consumers, it becomes easier to land the right messaging to develop a brand identity that rings harmoniously.
3. Take a Chance
ABBA may have sung it first, but brands should make taking chances the mantra of their brand plans. When it comes to creating brand harmony, the panelists agreed across the board that it’s important to be bold and take a chance sometimes.
Many of the thriving brands that we know today exist as the result of a leap of faith launched by brands that were teetering on the edge of brand alignment.
Childs recalled how all research pointed to the highly successful sitcom Seinfeld being a massive failure. Panelist Stacie Miller, PhD, Sr. Manager of Strategic Communications at Motif Food Works, touched on how the Aeron chair was rejected countless times before becoming the unofficial desk chair of the corporate world.
These unexpected successes are a stark reminder that even when all signs point one way, sometimes the world turns in another. Refined data points and snazzy marketing copy are only half the battle – the rest plays out in the willingness to believe that your brand can deliver what you’re claiming it can. After all, if you don’t believe in your product, consumers never will.
The point is, that while the quest for brand harmony might take your brand out of its comfort zone, it may also be the very thing that defines your competitive advantage and sets your brand on the fast track toward growth. As panelist Yulia Strizhakova said, “You just need to make sure you have consistency and alignment” adding, “It will make it or break it for startups or smaller companies”.
Setting the Stage for Brand Alignment
Orchestrating brand harmony is like one big performance. You’ll have moments where you feel like your brand is the star of the show, and times when you wish you had rehearsed your strategy more. But when it all comes together, you’ll have a compelling and integrated brand story to enhance brand equity and win consumers over.
To watch HCD Research’s Brand Harmony webinar on-demand, click here.
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