10th July 2019 Jonathan Harris

How to Tell Better Stories and Reduce Brand Dilution | Chris Wallace


Even if you haven’t heard of the brand dilution phenomenon, you’ve probably lived it.

It happens when marketing messages aren’t consistent with customer experiences and expectations. As more companies struggle to differentiate themselves in crowded markets, businesses can’t afford to let brilliant branding initiatives go to waste.

My company recently partnered with FocusVision to study brand dilution in more depth. Our research revealed that brand stories become less potent as they leave marketing and travel through different departments. By the time a message reaches front-line employees, it can look nothing like the marketing team’s original idea.

Of the people we surveyed, only 43% were highly confident that the workers within their organizations could tell the company’s brand story accurately. In my personal experience, I have yet to speak to a company that doesn’t struggle with this issue. It’s an age-old problem that a lot of professionals seem to have accepted as the status quo.

Marketing teams have the power to change that, though. To do so, they have to take ownership of brand dilution and help their colleagues tell the stories they worked so hard to create.

Fighting Brand Dilution From Within

In today’s commoditized world, experiences are make-or-break factors in consumer purchase decisions. When brands deliver experiences that are inconsistent with what they promised in an ad or misaligned with their main mission, consumers feel hoodwinked and don’t stick around.

I once spoke to an executive who told me, “We must stop letting our customers educate our employees on our products and services.” This is a serious challenge, though, when sales representatives don’t know how to deliver on marketing promises because they’re not confident in how to share marketing messages.

Companies don’t need to look far to find a reason to tackle brand dilution. Research from Walker found that 86% of customers will pay more for a great experience, which is incentive enough for most.

Consistency makes customers feel appreciated, and confusion makes them question how committed the brand is to their experience. Shoot for the former rather than the latter; it has the potential to set you apart as a brand that comes through.

Strategies to Reduce Brand Dilution

Brand dilution is a no-win situation. Follow this advice to ensure internal alignment leads to clear messages and fulfilled promises:

1. Identify and communicate responsibilities.

Brand dilution is worse when no one knows who is responsible for fixing it. Marketers share strategies with a series of internal partners who then pass those strategies down the line. It’s like a game of telephone, and most of us know how accurately those messages translate by the time they reach the end of the line. Fragmentation leads to customer experiences that don’t match expectations.

Establish clarity to turn front-line teams into expert storytellers. Get marketing employees involved with other departments to give context and answer questions. Because marketing teams judge success based on results and the strength of the brand, they have to play an active role in ensuring those outside their team feel able to share brand messages well.

2. Ask, don’t tell.

Our study found that when companies gather feedback from front-line teams, those teams are more confident in the consistency of their brand stories. By measuring their attitudes and opinions, companies can identify inconsistencies or weaknesses in brand storytelling and address them quickly to prevent coming up short.

Leaders have to do more than just gather employees into a room and repeat information from marketing emails. They have to help them understand the context of that information, which empowers them to see themselves as a critical extension of the brand story so they can go out and tell it boldly.

3. Modernize the tactics.

Tools and tactics are key when it comes to sharing messages internally so they can be clear when shared with customers. Respondents in our study pointed to email marketing and product training as the best tools to achieve internal brand awareness. But if this is true, why does dilution still exist?

The answer is that companies don’t treat internal marketing enough like external marketing, and the potential of these strategies is left wanting. But it doesn’t have to be.

We found that events and peer-to-peer learning activities are better ways to build consistency than static channels like email. Engaging with the brand story helps front-line teams experience brand promises for themselves. When they live it, they know it, which equips them to pass those stories on to customers in a way that delivers.

Don’t let brand dilution tarnish customer experiences or the messages you create. When company leaders, marketers, and front-line employees all come together, stories hold their power and and your brand keeps its promise.

Chris Wallace is the president and co-founder of InnerView

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