While drinking coffee this morning I idly picked up a catalog and started flipping through it. Because of the model on the cover and what she was wearing, I assumed it was an Athleta catalog, an athletic clothing company for women. I get them pretty regularly so it made sense.
Normally I love Athleta catalogs. The main messaging of Athleta is ‘Power to the She’ and everything in the catalogs and other advertising supports that. The women are strong. The clothing and workout gear are practical. The shoot locations are amazing and the women are always active – yoga, surfing, running. I have purchased clothes from them and have never been disappointed.
This is my expectation going into my catalog-flipping experience.
As I started turning the pages something felt… off. The first thing that struck me was a bikini. Something about the shape of it and the pose of the model didn’t seem right. I stared at it for a few moments then continued turning the pages. That ‘off’ feeling continued. Where were all the athletic models posed in their glory? What were all these thin, mostly unmuscular women doing in one of my favorite catalogs?!
I was disappointed and felt vaguely disgusted. With a small huff, I closed the catalog and suddenly realized why everything was off. The catalog was NOT Athleta. I shook my head at myself and laughed. At no point did I turn the catalog over to check to see if it was, indeed, an Athleta catalog. Such was my confusion and disbelief. (And perhaps that coffee hadn’t kicked in yet.)
I’m sharing my little self-inflicted mishap with you because this is very important when it comes to your brand.
That ‘off feeling’ has a name: Brand Dissonance and it’s not something you want.
What is Brand Dissonance?
Dissonance is when two elements are in disagreement or inconsistent with each other. In this case, it was what I believed to be true about Athleta and what I was seeing.
A brand is more than your logo, website or advertising. It is the experience you promise to your customers and what you deliver. When these two elements do not agree, you create tension in the mind of your customer when they think about your brand. This tension creates a feeling of distrust in your customer. Distrust makes people uncomfortable and makes them not want to work with you or spend money with you. All of this adds up to lost revenue and lost reputation.
This is something you don’t want to happen!
How do you keep brand dissonance from happening?
One of the main ways to avoid this is having a solid grasp of your why. Athleta’s message of ‘Power to the She’ informs all of their messaging. It informs anything they share online. The words and imagery they choose. It informs the other companies they partner with and the models they choose. I trust that when I pick up that catalog up I will feel inspired to do better, to be better. That catalog has the closest version I’ve ever found of a body that I would want to have.
That I actually felt betrayed when I was looking through that “other*” catalog speaks to Athleta’s solid message foundation and their consistency in spreading that message.
Betrayal may sound dramatic but think of a brand you love. How would you feel if you found out they were doing or behaving in a way that was inconsistent with their messaging?
Another way of avoiding dissonance is having a clear picture of your who. On the surface, it’s pretty obvious that women are the intended audience (that ‘She’ kind of gives that away). The age range seems to sit somewhere in the 30’s – 40’s though the catalogs regularly feature an older, gray-haired woman rocking out yoga poses I only dream about right now.
The narrowing or targeting happens when it comes to activities and lifestyle. The women featured appear strong, active and independent. The messaging is also targeting women who believe that women are a strong, powerful sisterhood, especially when they believe in themselves, each other, and lift each other up.
This accidental experience I had is a great example of how important it is to be consistent in your brand messaging, how it can impact your customer’s feelings about you and affect your business.
Have you ever experienced that feeling of betrayal with a brand you loved?