Avoiding Brand Drift

By Tom Dougherty
duluth trading company breezeshooter shirts winded large 7

Avoiding brand drift: Why it’s important

One of the most delightful brands today remains Duluth Trading Company. You know the TV ads. The simple, pencil-drawn animation. The willingness to go there. But the new spot featuring its women’s line is a prime example of brand drift.

The new holiday ad highlights Mrs. Claus, as a hard-working woman who does the work behind the scenes without the praise her male counterpart receives. Take a look.

It’s fine and all. But bland as week-old bread. Compare it to a typical Duluth spot.

“It may sound boring to some. But avoiding brand drift is what great brands do.”

You wouldn’t even know the two ads came from the same brand. The men’s underwear spot feels a tad shocking. Keep your boys where they belong is wonderful. The Duluth brand means knowing that underwear is a little funny and embarrassing. It aligns with a precept.

Forge your merry way doesn’t. In fact, it borders on cliché.

So what happened? It’s a perfect example of brand drift. Brands may find the gold mine in their marketing. Sell it. Market it. Then grow tired of it so they try something new. Even if they have good intentions. Like recognizing the hard work unrecognized by women.

Brand drift makes your brand position less believable

But here’s the thing. You, as the marketer, grow tired of your brand position long before your target audience does. You see it every day and think, “Let’s try something else.” Meanwhile, a member of your target audience may only see it once in a season.

In fact, when I heard Duluth was airing a holiday spot featuring its women’s line, I was fired up to see it. What a letdown.

Brand driftThink about this. Anytime you waver from your meaningful brand position weakens the brand. It becomes less believable. Brands often fall into this brand drift trap when unveiling a new product or service. They think it refreshes things.

Consistency may be an overused word in branding. But it’s important. Vitally important. Without it, you just become a marketer looking to justify your existence. And that doesn’t help anybody.

It may sound boring to some. But avoiding brand drift is what great brands do. When Apple, the greatest brand in the world, falters, it’s because it drifted from what makes that brand meaningful. And it usually snaps back.

I don’t know the female equal of “keep your boys where they belong.” But I do know “forge your merry way” isn’t it.


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