The famous parable of the blind men and the elephant is a great metaphor for company, product and service branding. The story goes like this:
Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today.”
They had no idea what an elephant is. They decided, “Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway.” All of them went where the elephant was. Everyone of them touched the elephant.
“Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg.
“Oh, no! it is like a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail.
“Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.
“It is like a big hand fan” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.
“It is like a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.
“It is like a solid pipe,” Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.
They began to argue about the elephant and everyone of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, “What is the matter?” They said, “We cannot agree to what the elephant is like.” Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. The wise man calmly explained to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features what you all said.”
“Oh!” everyone said. There was no more fight. They felt happy that they were all right.
Think of the elephant as your (company, product or service) brand, and the blind men as your customers (or customer groups if you’re a larger company). Think of the different parts of the elephant as your brand touch points — the points where your customers come in contact with your brand — these can include your web site, email marketing, social media, print collateral, advertising, even to the language and tone used by your sales staff and the person(s) answering your inbound phone calls.
Are all of these points of contact communicating the same brand identity (visual and verbal) consistently? Or are they communicating differently, and possibly confusing your current and potential customers? Remember that your customers, especially new customers and prospects, are blind to your core brand messages, just like the blind men in the story above. And even though the story ends with “no more fight”, there’s a certain amount of confusion in the tale.
When it comes to your brand, there’s no room in your brand story for any kind of confusion. It’s critical that your brand vision is crystal clear, and your verbal brand messaging and visual brand identity elements all speak the same language simply and consistently across your marketing communications. If they don’t, your customers could end up searching for a different solution to their need, one they can quickly and clearly see.