Visual Content Myth 1: Using Content that is Not “On-brand” Will Hurt Your Brand Identity
Truth: Testing new and different content will strengthen your brand
Brand identities are important, no one will argue with that. They’re the unique personality of a brand, a major differentiating factor, and convey the values of the business. Having a strong brand identity will always be important. But, when usable content is limited to only what corresponds with brand identity, a brand is actually hurting itself. They will be less successful in discovering new audience cohorts, uncovering new industry trends, and growing their business. As brands continue to grow and scale to new audiences, what has worked for your core audience will not necessarily resonate with new audiences.
Not to mention, oftentimes what is considered “on-brand” isn’t even a true representation of what drives the business or their core audience. It’s usually a person’s or group’s opinion on what is “good” content. Unfortunately, “on-brand” does not translate to performance. Brands struggle to look at content objectively. They’re often influenced or biased because they live and breathe the brand everyday. They have a different relationship with the brand than the avid consumer does. Consumers understand how the brand makes them feel and how the products positively impact their lives. Creating content that resonates with consumer sentiment at scale is vital to finding success in such a crowded digital landscape. Brands who are able to unshackle their creatives from a preconceived brand identity and allow data to guide the process will win in the long run. Now, more than ever, replacing “gut-feel” with data is the key to success.
There’s an enormous risk in maintaining the creative status quo. That’s not to say brands don’t experiment, they do. Many, however, fail to realize that using content to drive experimentation is the least expensive and most effective way to optimize marketing channels - and the risk for trying new content that could be considered off-kilter is actually quite low. The problem is not actually whether an image or video is “off-brand,” it’s the deep-rooted fear that breaking a preconceived brand identity will cause harm or anger the Creative Director.
Unless the content is outwardly offensive or goes against the core values of the business, there is no reason to avoid testing that content, especially on Facebook and Instagram. Instagram Stories, for example, have a reach rate of less than 5.4%, meaning that only a very small portion of your audience will even be exposed to the content.
Generating 50 images that are considered “on-brand” will yield less positive results than if you generate 50 images that have high diversity of people, settings, colors, and styles. More variables mean more experiments which means more knowledge. There is no telling how a piece of content will perform until it’s been tested, but you can certainly achieve more predictability when the content decisions you make are rooted in data. It requires a constant cycle of creating, activating, measuring, and informing.
Many marketers want to implement a data-driven content strategy, but years of legacy thinking at their organizations make it difficult to break away. Introducing a new content approach to a Creative Director who is deeply tied to the brand image is a hard thing to do.
Read more about increasing brand awareness here.
Getting buy-in for a data-driven content testing strategy:
1. Know your stuff
When pitching a data-driven strategy to an executive team, be sure to have a firm grasp on the ins and outs of creative testing. Your leadership will have a hard time trusting your strategy if you’re not well-versed in exactly what hypotheses you plan to test. Come prepared with exactly how much it will cost to implement the system and how much ROI they can expect from it.
2. Bring data with you
Be sure to have some actual data that supports your pitch. If you really haven’t done much testing, you probably don’t have much data to run with. Conduct some simple tests on organic social channels for free. Compare the performance of two assets, such as a video vs. a static image or a lifestyle vs. product image. If you’re able to prove that performance could be improved by honing in on data, you’ll be much more successful in persuading your leadership team.
3. Use FOMO to your advantage
Highlight how other companies are using data-driven content strategies to find success. If you can name a competitor, even better. Executive teams are constantly concerned with gaining market share. Pointing to other brands that are using data to beat competitors and capture market share will whisk your leadership team into action.
Reassure your leadership that testing different content will not hurt the identity of the brand, and is actually vital for growth. The new insights gathered through testing will allow your brand to deliver more value to consumers. This is because, through testing, you’ll uncover new and emerging consumer preferences. Generating and activating content that addresses these consumer preferences is simply not possible unless you understand what they are. The most dangerous words a marketer can utter are, “that will never work for our brand.” This doesn’t mean you should deliberately generate off-brand content exclusively or destroy what you’ve built so far, but the risks of activating content that scares you is far outweighed by the risks of maintaining the status quo. Brand fatigue can and will set in, taking a company’s strongest asset and turning it into a weakness. While your Creative Director may like the beautifully arranged lifestyle photo shot in perfect lighting, your customers might be more likely to click on the selfie photo of a creator using your product. Always let the data speak for itself.
Written by Parker Dietz
Parker is a staple in our marketing team - Our Marketing Manager brings with him an intimate knowledge of the platform, and is our go-to on technical topics, and user behavior. With a wealth of knowledge about competitors and pricing, Parker is all about exploring the best way to communicate Cohley's benefits. Outside of work, Parker enjoys poorly playing guitar at parties, watching every Adam Sandler movie ever made, and eating Arabic food.