Don't Break The Chain


Brad Isaac was a young comedian starting out on the comedy circuit.


One night he was in a club where Jerry Seinfeld was performing. Isaac caught Seinfeld backstage and asked if he had any tips for a young comic.


This is how he described the interaction…


“He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.


He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on the wall. Then get a red magic marker pen. Each day you write jokes put a big red X against that day.


After a few days you’ll have a chain. Keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. Your only job is not to break the chain.”


This is the ‘Seinfeld Strategy’. For years Jerry Seinfeld focused on not breaking the chain.


He wrote jokes every day. Jokes that formed the basis of one of the most successful sitcoms of all time. He still writes jokes every day. Jokes that continue to make him one of the highest paid comedians performing today.


Why are we talking about this? In the current environment there is a lot of pressure to take a short-term view. To change what you do.


You worry about your portfolio. So, you take things out and bring new things in. You worry about value. So, you promote deeper and more often. You worry about communication. So, you try different messaging.


You keep chopping and changing.


But this is usually a mistake. It can confuse shoppers. How do they navigate your range if you keep changing it? How do they know what a fair price is if you’re always on deal? How do they know why they should buy you if you’re always changing what you say?


The most successful brands don’t break the chain. They prioritise consistency. Consistency in what they do. Consistency in how they do it. They keep putting big red X’s on the calendar.


So, how can you ensure you don’t break the chain?


Proposition Consistency. This is about defining what you stand for. Then reinforcing this across touchpoints. Reinforcing it over time. It’s about sticking to your guns. Even as the environment and the competitive set changes. It’s about being patient. Not expecting immediate spikes in brand image scores. Knowing that if you keep putting red X’s in the boxes the measures will follow.


Messaging Consistency. This is about messaging that consistently reinforces your proposition. Messaging that shoppers easily understand, remember and associate with you. It’s about not getting bored. As we often say, you get bored much quicker than shoppers ever do. It’s about recognising that consistency might not win awards. But that it does drive sales. Red Bull have been giving you wings for a long time. Fairy Liquid has been lasting longer for a long time. They’ve put a lot of red X’s in the boxes.


Design Consistency. This is about consistency in primary pack design. Consistency in shelf ready packaging design. Consistency in POS design. Consistency in display unit design. It’s about shoppers being able to instantly recognise your brand and communication assets. A shopper can instantly recognise a Bonne Maman pack in whichever category it is present. They can instantly recognise a Cadbury’s display unit. Every time you design an asset is an opportunity to put a red X in the box.


Activation Consistency. This is about consistent activation themes. Think Walkers and flavours. It is about consistent targeting of relevant calendar events. Think Nutella and Pancake Day. It is about consistent targeting of key occasions. Think Kit Kat “Have a break have a…”. It is about consistent execution. Think the lunchtime meal deal. The best activation trains shopper behaviour. It puts a red X in the box. Then the next box. Then the next.


Consistency doesn’t mean blind consistency. You can be consistent and still adapt things over time. Kellogg’s Corn Flakes has always looked like Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.


Every evolution is another red X in the box.


Jerry Seinfeld is 68 and he’s still writing a joke a day.


Ironically, after writing a blog about not breaking the chain, we’re doing exactly that and taking a summer break! We’ll be back in September.