One of the most important aspects of branding, in my opinion, is consistency. Inconsistency makes us nervous. It feels like something is off or wrong. Inconsistency begs us to keep digging, to see what the "real" truth is. Inconsistency suggests we're being played or lied to.
And…when faced with an inconsistency — actions always speak louder than words. Ever have someone promise you something…and then not deliver? Do you think of them as reliable or unreliable?
The actions always win.
I spent this past weekend at the Iowa High School Speech Association's All State Festival, where the best of Iowa's drama students get to showcase their talents. It was a remarkable display of talent and celebration for these high school kids.
At the opening ceremony, we were told in no uncertain terms that this was not a contest. Each of the 1,000+ students who would perform that day had already won the highest honor — they'd been invited to perform at All State. This was a celebration — a festival where we could and should put aside our school rivalries and enjoy each other's gifts.
But….in each category of performance (mimes, one act plays, etc.) there would be a critic present. That critic is a professional with a great depth of experience and expertise in the specific genre of performance and at the end of the day, they would select one performance as the "Critic's Choice."
Guess what — their actions (having the critics and giving out an award for Critic's Choice) made it a contest. No words or flowery speeches about collaboration and appreciation was going to change the fact that every kid (and coach) in the place now wanted to win the coveted Critic's Choice award. Who can blame them?
I'm not saying that having it be a contest was wrong. It was a fun part of the day. But, what I am saying is…when you say one thing and do another….your actions will always trump your words.
So….how does this impact us? Do you have a tagline that your employees don't really live up to? Does your brochure or website make a promise that you rarely keep? Do you promise to deliver on a specific deadline and then usually run a day or two later?
Words are dandy. But they are quickly dissolved by actions that do not match up. When protecting and building your brand…do not make promises you can't keep.
That sort of brand damage can be incredibly costly, if not downright impossible, to repair.
How do you guard against this in your business?