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The Business Cost of Being Off-Brand

TL:DR It can be expensive!

In marketing a lot of jargon gets thrown around. There’s acronyms, technical terms, trend based terminology, and then there’s terms around marketing rules.

“On-brand” and “Off-brand” are some of those marketing rules.

Now, if you know me, I am not a massive fan of slinging terms around. I much prefer to speak clearly, straight to the point… *crisply* if you will.

I don’t often bring marketing jargon into my conversations except for the terms on-brand and off-brand. And, admittedly, I use these a LOT.

But for most people, if you hear those terms you may be thinking “what the @#$% is On-Brand and why should I care??”.

So, let’s lift the lid on these sayings and explain exactly what they mean. But first, let’s start with a little story of what can happen when you stray off-brand.

(Horror) Story Time

Back when I first started my business, I started working with a financial planning firm to write and manage their email marketing campaigns. The firm had already been sending out semi-regular emails, but wanted more structure and support with this process.

I wanted to get the lay of the land so I reviewed previous email performance. I was surprised to see a dramatic increase in the number of unsubscribes resulting from the previous 3 campaigns.

When I looked further into the statistics, I noted that the majority of these had listed the emails as Spam (not good!!).

Given this unusual result, I looked into the emails that had been sent out recently.

I discovered that about 3 campaigns earlier, their in-house marketing team member had left the business. Since then the emails fell to another staff member who went rogue with the brand. Uh oh!

As a result of this off-brand strategy, they saw an incredible spike in unsubscriptions from the emails and spam listings. But the repercussions didn’t stop there. 

The firm also saw an above-average increase in clients packing up and moving their patronage elsewhere. That means a big dollar loss for the company.

So how did a few rogue emails have this level of impact?

Well let’s go back to the start.

What is a Brand?

Before we just straight into decoding what went wrong, we first need to get clear on what Brand is.

A brand can relate to businesses, people, products and services.

It is a purposeful decision about what you stand for, the essence of your business, the differentiator between you and your competitors.

A good brand has thought, effort and strategy built into it. It considers how you want to present your business to the world. How you want it to look and feel, and how you want your clients or customers to think about your business.

It includes things like your vision and mission, along with more visual things like your logo, fonts and colours.

For more developed brands, this extends to purposeful word selection, defining the tone of messaging and also creating brand avatars.

All of these things help represent your business to the world.

What does “On Brand” mean?

So now we are clear on what brand is, what does it mean to be “on-brand”.

When something is on-brand, it means that it adheres to the selections you have made about your brand.

It means that your actions and your brand are perfectly aligned.

This is extremely important when it comes to marketing. Everything you do as part of your marketing efforts, whether it is creating a social graphic, a brochure, a video or an ad, needs to fall in line with your brand in terms of look, feel and vibe.

This consistency helps further your brand, builds trust and deepens recognition.

What happens if you are “Off-Brand”?

So now we know what being on-brand is… but what happens when you go off-brand?

Well, it brings a few issues with it.

My horror story above wasn’t a story about bad emails. It was a story about being off-brand.

Let’s review the story, but this time let’s put ourselves in the shoes of these email recipients.

Imagine this: You are a client of this financial advice firm. You entrust them with your hard earned money and your future wealth. Then out of the blue you receive an email from them in crazy fonts, psychedelic colours, from a staff member’s name you have never heard of. The content? Nothing to do with financial advice. It has memes, ranty stories and random recipes linked in the copy.

Here’s what you may be thinking:

Email one: “It’s from their email… but this looks a lot different from the previous emails. That’s strange”.

Email two: “Have they been hacked?”

Email three: “This is bizarre and erratic. Is my money safe with them?”

*Unsubscribe & spam list*

And that’s exactly what happened. That rogue escapade was such a departure from what the clients knew of and expected from the firm, that they were left confused, a little worried and ultimately lost trust in the brand.

Quite an expensive off-brand foray for the firm.

Can I still have fun with my brand?

Yes! My story above certainly isn’t saying you have to be cookie cutter and follow your brand to the nth degree.

It doesn’t have to be a straight jacket.

Instead, consider that defining what is on-brand and off-brand for your business gives you clarity and a guide to work within

You can still inject your personality into your marketing (which I think the staff member in my story was doing), but in order for it to remain effective and palatable, it needs to be true and authentic to your brand at the same time.

You can add in personal stories, memes and articles into your emails, but you need to consider: will this enhance or detract from my brand? Ie. Will this be on-brand or off-brand?

That should help you navigate the on-brand / off-brand pathway, and help avoid any mistakes that could be costly to your business and your brand.

If you would like to get on top of your marketing so you never make an ‘off-brand’ mistake like this, book a call with us today! 

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