We don’t find a lot of branding humor in the average Hollywood blockbuster, but there’s a wonderful scene in the classic 1988 comedy “Coming to America” that should bring a smile to the face of any marketing manager.
In the film, Cleo McDowell owns a fast-food restaurant whose branding bears a striking resemblance to that of a certain national burger chain. After chasing off a photographer who apparently works for “the McDonald’s people,” Cleo explains the “misunderstanding” to a couple of new employees.
“See, they’re McDonald’s. I’m McDowell’s,” he says with a grin. “They’ve got the Golden Arches. I’ve got the Golden Arcs.”
You don’t have to be a marketing major or a professional creative designer to get the bit. As consumers, we all inherently understand that the McDonald’s name, those Golden Arches, mean something. Nike’s swoosh. Apple’s sleek, sparse design. State Farm’s “Like a Good Neighbor” tagline and jingle. They all have an essential purpose: Colors, imagery, words and music define brands and help create consistent associations that resonate with customers. And achieving brand consistency has never been more important than it is today – specifically on social media.
Because we live in a digital world and more people are spending increasing amounts of time on social media channels, strong branding can make or break your ability to catch the attention of a prospect scrolling through countless posts. Color, in particular, has been found to increase brand recognition by up to 80 percent. Whether that touchpoint comes in the form of a sponsored ad or directly from the company account, instant recognition is the goal.
The prize, of course, is a follow or subscription to one or more social channels – the establishment of a direct communications pipeline to users who have chosen to actively engage with your brand. No press releases, no third-party communication. Brands now control their own narrative – but with it comes the responsibility of telling that story in a cogent, cohesive fashion. A brand’s social presence becomes a sort of personality, and that distinctive character creates a set of expectations that social followers expect to be met.
Humor, expertise, principles. There are any number of ways to appeal to an audience, but it’s important to decide what yours will be in advance and, with rare exceptions, stick to the script. Steak-umm, for instance, has revitalized its brand from virtual irrelevance almost entirely through an earnest, engaging Twitter presence. National Geographic and GoPro draw eyeballs on Instagram with a nonstop firehose of gorgeous imagery.
Brands can even use social platforms to quickly turn negatives into positives, as KFC U.K. did last year in bringing skeptical customers around to the idea of their new french fry formula. A fun, snarky voice that had been established on its social platforms allowed the company to creatively address the issue – but it couldn’t have taken such a bold, non-corporate approach without its audience’s initial understanding and acceptance of its brand personality. Consistency, as always, is key. In fact, brand consistency increases revenues by 33 percent, on average.
Branding, by its very nature, is consistency. It’s the creation of a set of guardrails that your customers use to help recognize and then navigate your brand. Once you’ve decided on a branding strategy, setting up those guardrails on social media is relatively easy. Just don’t forget that maintaining them – building a consistency that very-online customers can count on – must be respected as a critical and constant process.