Brand building is like body building: Repetitions matter

Brands can own any ‘assets’ only when they are identified with them. This happens only via continuous, repetitive, frequent messaging over a long period of time, instead of chasing mindless 'newness'

Updated: Jul 24, 2020 12:17:01 PM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

The entire ‘content, design and brand advisory’ ecosystem is enchanted with newness. Those who rule here have hyped ‘new is gold’ as a mantra to further increase their own importance. In advertising communication in particular, this is an endemic issue. In the name of creating original, unique and impactful content, a recipe for disaster has been sacralised. This may have existential consequences for brands. It will diminish value for business.


Because owning a bit of the consumer’s memory is at the core of brand strength. A brand is a summative whole comprised, amongst other things, of logos, taglines, colour scheme, fonts and of course, advertising content. To be known and remembered is a prerequisite to being preferred. A brand that cements memory structures in the consumer’s mind is building a highway for its growth journey.

So, instead of finding ingenious ways to reiterate and buttress brand memory, this craze for faddish advertising devours the very same brand assets that it is supposed to strengthen.

Brands are plagued with significant problems related to advertising effectiveness, under-investment in brand building and myopic decision making. Yet, if we ‘follow the money’, we see that all parts of the brand communications industry—advertising, PR, media, consulting, AdTech stand to gain if the ‘more and new’ mindset rules.

Ad Blocking, subscription-based content models and data-linked personalisation are amongst the many real threats to mass advertising. Therefore, decision makers have opted for supplementary, new-fangled, targeted advertising purportedly endowed with emotive entertainment value. It is the wrong medicine for this malady. What is needed is tighter, snappier content, faster delivery, and a strengthening of a brand’s associative turf through recurrence.

Since audio-visual content gets the largest investment, the need for novelty, whether in ideas, modalities, positioning or partners, has become a big priority. Talented people are convinced that their creative careers will grow only if they have patent title on something new. Awards build careers and reputations. Effectiveness is, at best, a secondary criterion.

Those deluded go along seeking results beyond the expected. The hope is that something new may actually work and become revolutionary and shape shifting. The urge for fresh, original work is about making brands more noticeable, relevant and impactful. On the other hand, it is believed that doing more of the same is bound to be predictable in terms of both input and output.

What is not recognised is the damage caused by scrambling memory structures. If on one day, you are associated with one thing, and on another day, you are about another thing, then on the third day, you are associated with nothing.

Brands can own any ‘assets’ only when they are identified with them. This happens only via continuous, repetitive, frequent messaging over a long period of time.

My counsel is not that things should stay unchanged, hackneyed, commoditised and uninspiring. Of course, we must change when change is needed. But a wide departure straight away is not sensible brand building. Change must be viscous. Imagine a kaleidoscope. The same assets can give us innumerable permutations.  A brand must not change to a point where it loses the power of reinforcement. Unnecessary exits from course lead only to the graveyard.

Those responsible are not only on one side of the table. It isn’t only via creative pitches, lobbying for fads or an award-hungry pursuit of projects that things have come to the present state. The weakness is as much with clients who are unclear and unsure about their brands and, in desperation, allow newness to be the mantra for a redemption that never arrives.

In advertising ‘old is gold’.

The writer is Global Head, Marketing at Royal Enfield. He writes regularly on brand building, social trends, history, technology and politics. Views expressed are personal

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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