Brands, you need to stop covering broccoli in chocolate

Back in the days, communication and marketing people were specialists. They knew everything about how to get the company’s message across. Some where skilled copy writers, others experts in the inner workings of the media. And some could even make earned, owned and paid media come together and they dubbed it integrated communication.

But here’s a truth: That kind of communication just won’t cut it anymore.

Maybe it never really worked. But if it did, it was because there was something close to a monopoly on creating conversations. A monopoly controlled by a commercial alliance of publishers and the advertising industry. But as we all know, there is no monopoly on communication anymore. Actually, just gaining a voice in the conversation is proving a daunting task for most brands.

Broccoli blockers

That’s probably why some brands act much like how a desperate parent acts with a 5 year old, who won’t finish his vegetables: They pour chocolate sauce all over their broccolis.

Customers are treated as rowdy kids. Why can’t they just focus on these really important brand messages? Advertising plays the role of the chocolate sauce, desperately trying to make a brand more attractive.

But kids are smart. They’ll discover the broccoli eventually. So they’ll skip on the chocolate and invent ad blockers. No one listens to a desperate parent.

So maybe it’s not about covering up the broccoli, but about serving a broccoli, that you can be proud of and your kids want to eat. That’s a value proposition that is more tempting, in the short and long run.

It’s as hard as it is simple

And how do you do that? Well, here’s another well established truth. *Everything* you do as a brand is communication.

To establish a coherent and attractive brand offering, you need to go above and beyond Marketing Communication and embrace product offerings, services, physical surroundings such as stores and offices, and last but not least the actual behaviour of your company. Like the culture and management decisions affecting your surroundings much more than that award winning ad.

That means two things.

First, you need to find that genuine brand core promise. One that is not just a tool for traditional marketing communication, but one that is at the core of your actual behaviour, culture and products. Something you can tell not just clients, but also employees and investors. Something’s that’s also true on a rainy day.

Second, you need to make sure that the brand is actually influencing the products, services, surroundings and behaviour of the company. That’s hard. Because brand aligning behaviour can’t be done by pouring chocolate sauce.

Genuine success

To achieve that, you need to find people who can integrate three different rationalities: The user needs & wants. The media logic. And the brand promise.

If you don’t get all three, you’re either being inefficient or creating an incoherent experience for customers and other stakeholders.

Think of it like this: Picture yourself building the flagship store of your brand.

It needs to live up to user needs & wants: E.g. be a pleasant room to spend time in, and let the client try out the products and engage with skilled representatives.

It also needs to live up to the media logic of a store: You need to have the right layout of the store, allowing for sales and promotions. Or maybe you want to push specific products? Other “media” hold other logics, obviously. It’s hard to design a check out flow, if you never ran an A/B test. Or to do PR, if you’ve never engaged with reporters.

The brand promise is what ties it all together. The brand promise is what unites the experience of your new flagship store, with the messages of your advertising and the utility of your product.

If you manage to succeed in this, that’s when your brand becomes truly relevant. And not just a tool for the marketing team, defined at a management workshop.

But in stead as the sum of meaningful, engaging and coherent experiences or moments, conveyed through products, services, behaviour, surroundings and of course traditional marketing and communication.

Experiences & micro moments need to be coherent, relevant and attractive.

It’s about discovering what’s truly great about broccoli, in stead of covering it up in chocolate.

Bon appetit!

Thank you to Sebastian Deterding for introducing me to the chocolate covered broccoli metaphor, originating in the games industry.