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Brand behavior defines how a brand engages stakeholders in day-to-day interactions and moments, bringing the company’s values, personality and promises to life for customers, investors, partners and/or employees. It’s the brand strategy in action at the moment people make important decisions like whether to invest in the business, consider/buy its products or apply for a position. And it represents either a vulnerability or a true source of value creation for the company.

If your brand behavior doesn’t align with who you say you are, it can drive stakeholders to conclude you’re inauthentic—and limit how much they’ll trust you. No positioning statement or website copy will persuade audiences that a business has values it does not demonstrate through its communications and interactions.

But when brand behavior aligns seamlessly with a company’s brand identity and messaging, it reinforces the brand story, forging lasting connections with people who see the business as truly different. When stakeholder understanding and care become tangible through brand behavior, stakeholders welcome a relationship, not just individual transactions. It can inspire them to believe in the brand and develop loyalty, motivating them to take actions the business needs to grow.

A missed opportunity

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

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

Ironically, the bank in question—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. The brand’s behavior was not aligned.

Misaligning brand and brand behavior

So, what went wrong? Why were these letters so ineffective at communicating critical brand messages?

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 by sending out a generic mass mailing. They were talking the talk, but not walking the walk. And 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. 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 brand 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 about the bank’s recent merger and how it might affect your business. You feel included and informed, believing the bank cares about your concerns because it’s behaving like it does.

You leave with a brochure containing key information about the post-merger bank, along with a business card for the branch manager in case you have any additional questions. When you get home, you receive a push notification on your bank’s app—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 the customers of its acquired brands. Going forward, the bank was able to successfully maintain its relationships and forge new connections, all defined by trust and promises kept.

This experience provides a valuable lesson for any company: when making any business leap, matching what you say about your brand with how your brand behaves is critical. To build brand equity and momentum, you can’t fulfill a promise to be personable with a mass mailing, and you can’t promise innovation but provide a glitchy app.

Aligning brand behavior with the brand identity will ensure more effective moments of engagement—and help the brand grow stronger with every business evolution.

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

About the author

Hannah Foltz

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.

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