The Difference Between Strategy & Comms

New Balance 1

If someone walks into a party and announces to the room ”I’m cool” you immediately know they are the most un-cool person there. If you’re in a crowded room, it’s more often than not the quietest person that has the most presence. It’s hardly ever the loudest. It’s the person who carries themselves the most. There’s a lesson here for brands to learn. There’s a difference between communication and noise. Communication must be more than just words. It has to be true. It is very intangible, but brands should understand that they need presence and not just noise. 
 
For Communication to be more than noise it needs to be underpinned by strategy, and strategy defines behaviour. Brands have to behave in a certain way, but not talk about how they behave. Fresh Partner Bob Sheard is passionate about this:

“Boxfresh used to have the tagline ‘We are you’. We told them you don’t tell people you are them – you prove you are like them by how you behave!”
 
The difference between what a brand ‘says’ and what a brand ‘does’ is key. 

When Fresh worked with New Balance we were able to turn them into the anti-fashion shoe. 

New Balance Marathon

Perversely we knew the ‘anti-fashion’ route was successful when half the designers at Milan and New York fashion week were wearing New Balance at the end of their shows on the catwalk. That may appear as if it’s a contradiction, but designers don’t want to be defined by the status quo, and anti-fashion in fashion is definitely not the status quo. 
 
“We were able to make them the anti-fashion brand by focusing on what New Balance did really well rather than talking them up all the time. They didn’t need that. New Balance don’t sponsor athletes. Secondly, they try to source, manufacture and create their compononets in each specific country the shoes are sold, for example the USA, UK or Japan. That’s important. It ticks the provenance box for a start and is a perfect example of a brand ‘doing’ and not needing to sugarcoat it with words. New Balance bahaved in a manner that was the antitheses of fashion and sports brands but never spoke about it.”

New Balance Winter Running
 
The real benefit to brands who act in the right manner, rather than just communicating it, is that once they achieve this they create so much more brand equity and credibility. It’s a very powerful and robust brand position. It’s not so much communicating what the brand says about itself, it’s getting the brand to behave over a length of time in a consistent way that enables people to draw their own conclusions. That’s more powerful than an ill-conceived tagline or slick, short term marketing campaign.
 
If an agency comes up with a great idea without immersing itself in a brand’s behaviour, then what they have is a campaign and not a strategy.  Effectively the brand knows what to ‘say’ but not what to ‘do’. It is all about having a strategic platform which relates to a brand’s truth from which you can then create the platform for what you ‘say’ and more importantly what you ‘do’. Therein lies the long-term health of a brand.