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What is brand behavior? Simply put, brand behavior is how your brand interacts and reacts with real customers in the real marketplace. While your positioning statement may say one thing about your values and strengths, truly demonstrating them is another matter.

A missed opportunity

Picture this. You’re sitting at your desk flipping through a small stack of mail. Most of it are publications, but there are a few direct mail letters. One is from a bank. You recognize the name: it’s just bought your business’ bank. You pass a building with the new, prominently displayed logo every day. Inside the envelope is a standard corporate-sounding letter introducing the new bank, which you skim. Seeing nothing of interest or importance, you toss the letter in a nearby trash can with the other direct mail.

Forgettable, generic, corporate — this is not the first impression any company wants to make. Unfortunately, research revealed this was exactly the problem our client, a fast-growing community bank, found themselves in as they expanded into new markets through acquisition.

Ironically, the bank, which had a strong reputation for serving local businesses in urban communities, had built its brand pillars around being “part of the community.” Existing customers liked its high-touch, “human” approach to everyday banking needs — something they couldn’t get from large, national banks. But newly acquired customers weren’t hearing it.

Misaligning brand and brand behavior

So, what went wrong? Why were these letters so ineffective at communicating this critical brand message? Simply put, the brand was saying one thing (“we’re high touch,” “we’re part of the community,” “we’re human”) but behaving in quite another way by sending out a generic mass mailing. They were talking the talk, but not walking the walk. This inconsistency between brand and brand behavior was confusing to its new constituents.

At the root of this discrepancy was a lack of alignment between the bank’s high-touch brand position and its expansionist business strategy — and business strategy was winning out. Clearly, what made for effective M&A communications did not translate into good brand communications. It makes sense. What investors want to hear about a merger — efficiencies of scale, growth opportunities, enlarged markets — are not what customers want to hear. Instead, they want to hear that their services and experiences will improve, or at least stay the same!

Harmonizing strategy, positioning, and communications

Now picture this. You walk into your business bank to make your weekly deposit. A friendly branch manager greets you and engages you in a conversation where you learn more about the bank’s recent merger and how it affects your business. You leave with a brochure containing key information about the bank and a business card for the branch manager in case you have any additional questions. When you get home, you get a push notification on your bank’s app — it’s a secure, personalized message with a summary of what the merger means for your accounts.

Personable, human, high-touch — this is the impression the bank was able to make after it re-focused attention on how it was communicating with customers of its acquired brands. Going forward, the bank was able to successfully

This experience provides a valuable lesson for any company: when going through any inflection point, matching what you say about your brand with how you say it (your brand actions) is critical. You can’t say you’re personable with a mass mailing; you can’t say you’re innovative with a glitchy app. Aligning brand behavior will ensure more effective communications and help the brand emerge even stronger after the transition.

For more insights on aligning brand and behavior, contact us.


Hannah FoltzAbout the author
Hannah Foltz is a Senior Strategist at DeSantis Breindel. When she isn’t stuck on the L train, she is diving into research and helping develop positioning and messaging platforms for B2B companies.