Stop Putting Speedbumps in Front of Your Customers

This title embodies a “Catapult-ism,” around here it has become an -ism because of its frequent use here. We say it when we see unnecessary complexity added to brand identities and communications. Speedbumps are designed to slow people down, and why would you want to slow down your customer? Gaining your audience’s attention is challenging enough, let alone engaging them to understand your offer. The most common examples of brand speedbumps include: 1) over-naming, 2) adding unnecessary graphics and illustrations, and 3) altering core identity elements under the guise of “solving” for “something.”

It’s human nature to want to name things – especially new things that you are working on. While it can be useful in some contexts, it’s often unnecessary and can detract from your brand’s message. At Catapult, we spend as much time persuading our clients to avoid naming everything as we do in the naming process itself. The more names your audience has to learn (and figure out what they mean), the more it detracts from the most important name—your brand’s. This issue becomes apparent when auditing large product and service portfolios, we often find a confusing array of names that lack logic or a cohesive strategy. It’s usually attributed to the offer growing over time, but in most cases, there was no need for names at all. The naming clutter creates speedbumps between your customers and your brand. Adopting descriptive nomenclature can simplify matters, allowing customers to spend more time understanding your offerings and what your brand aims to communicate.

Adding Unnecessary Graphics and Illustrations:
This is a common pitfall. Brands often add graphic elements, usually to fill space or ostensibly to aid comprehension. And it usually takes the form of illustration or clip art, and then more clip art, until the clip art starts to become the brand identity itself. This makes it incredibly challenging to build associations and equity in the brand (it muddies the waters). Likewise, unnecessary color categorization can add complexity without serving a strategic purpose (e.g., a drink flavor). If it doesn’t enhance understanding, it’s merely another system for customers to decode, adding to the clutter rather than clarifying the brand’s message.

Altering Core Identity Elements:
This involves making changes or modifications to established identity systems, whether for a division or a specific communication channel. They might modify the font, add fonts, adjust the brand color, add a color, or all of the above. When we see this, we say, “your corporate structure is showing.” Now, sometimes this can be a strategic necessity, but customers have an affinity for a brand as a whole—they don’t care about the structure of the company (unless they are investors, of course). Consumers buy “the Brand” (Apple, Honda, whatever). And they expect the brand to communicate consistent attributes across categories and channels. (And if it is a different value proposition, there should be a different brand. A topic for another post.) Inconsistent identity elements can hinder brand recognition, loyalty, and trust. Strong brands maintain consistency and discipline in their presentation, a practice that requires ongoing effort and management.

While the examples mentioned may seem minor, they are common and stem from natural tendencies. However, effective branding requires discipline and consistency to build and maintain equity. The world’s leading brands understand this, dedicating significant resources to manage their brand’s presentation. This discipline is a key factor behind their strength and recognition, and…. this is why they are strong brands.



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