By Steven Diebold
Mixed messages can kill a campaign. And yet, people send disconnected messages all the time. This is part of the reason we learn not to trust them and even question their actions. Marketing messages or corporate communications are no different. What we say and do must match.
Let’s visit the definitions of congruence and continuity so we can see how these apply to marketing.
As an abstract term, congruence means similarity between objects. It is a relation which implies a type of equivalence, but not complete equality. It can also be the quality or state of agreeing or coinciding. In psychology, congruence is a rapport within oneself, or internal and external consistency, perceived by others as sincerity or certainty.
With these definitions we can see how important the application of congruence is to an effective value proposition within a campaign. If you want to appear sincere and certain (and who doesn’t?) your value proposition and what you actually deliver must be consistent.
Make Your Case and Support It
For example, if you are creating a direct mail campaign that has clearly identified an effective value proposition, use support statements that align with that original proposition. Though it seems obvious, sending any mixed messages can and will dilute the communication’s power. Each supporting message must sync up with the main idea. If your headline starts with one idea and your supporting statements veer off track, you make your case weaker. The best way to think of this is like an attorney proving their case in the courtroom. The lawyer must explain their case with congruent emotional and logical arguments. If they bring in bad or irrelevant evidence, they’re likely to lose the case. If anything is out of place in an argument, people lose trust in the presenter and start to question the case they are making.
Another example would be this article you are reading now. Every statement I make in this article needs to line up with what is promised in the headline or I start to lose focus and veer off track from what made you read it in the first place. If I don’t deliver on it, then you just stop reading. Still with me? Good.
In fiction, film and other media, continuity is understood to be the consistency of persons, plots, objects, places and events as seen by the reader or viewer. But how does it relate to marketing? Let’s use film and television production as an instructive example. Most productions have a script supervisor on hand who is paid solely to maintain continuity across the chaotic and typically non–linear shoot. In a sense, this person is like the “Brand Manager” of the project. Their job takes the form of stacks of paperwork, photographs, and an extremely detail–oriented memory. Their memory is often assembled into a ‘story bible’ which usually includes scene notes and technical details, such as camera positioning and equipment settings. They also catalogue images, using Polaroids or, more often today, digital cameras. All of this is done so that, despite perhaps being shot thousands of miles and several months apart, the story is told in a logical flow. If this job is done perfectly, the script supervisor, or brand manager, can often pass without notice.
Make Sure Your Details Match Up
Continuity can be a bit more challenging. Every customer touch point should be evaluated to ensure that each message and experience is aligned. If there is any breakdown in this process you will have opened up a weakness for a competitor to use against you. Let’s go back to the example of the attorney. Without doing his or her homework, from timelines to evidence to what was said and when, they will be unable to prove their case. A customer is just as, if not more, skeptical than a jury. They are very discerning with their dollar. If your argument is weak and poorly developed, you risk losing your case, and thereby your market share. The best way to protect against this happening is to apply continuity and congruency to your value proposition.
Build your case well and you will be rewarded.
Steven Diebold is a brand strategist, author, and speaker that brings over 10 years of proven business, creative, and human relations expertise to the table. Steven has coached over 300 entrepreneurs and professionals to launch new ventures, develop their online brands, rebrand companies or optimize their business models and marketing systems. His gift lies in connecting them to their unique value proposition and making them stand out in the marketplace.