Waves and the Art of Public Perception

It’s a raw, overcast November day. I’m walking along Hammonasset Beach, Connecticut’s largest shoreline state park. It’s late afternoon on a Sunday. Vast salt marshes on one side. Open ocean on the other.`On any given summer weekend, the park reaches capacity an hour after it opens, but today, I have it to myself. I pass few people — a couple on their electric bikes, several few and far between dog walkers, and a small boy, running ahead of his bundled-up parents, delightedly chasing an enormous flock of grounded geese. I’m guessing it’s too cold to fly.

There’s an onshore wind sending low waves breaking along the shore. One after another, lapping, I match my gait to their beat and think about how some things never change. I know that one wave will always follow the next: in a gale, a hurricane, or on a windless July day. They will roll onto the shore, following the tides, and we trust that this will always be what they do. Everchanging, yes. Consistent, always.

Bear with me. There’s a connection between the rhythmic patterns of the waves and the strategic elements of branding. Waves are always what we expect them to be, even as they must constantly adapt to atmospheric conditions. Just like strong brands (think Coke, FedEx, Google), we know what we’re buying, even as market trends and public perceptions shift.

Just as the waves persistently roll in, successful brands maintain a level of consistency that builds trust and recognition. Great brands exhibit a remarkable consistency that serves as the bedrock for building trust and recognition. This consistency is not a static conformity but a dynamic dance between adaptability and trusted brand identity.

Akin to waves responding to the pull of the moon, brands must adapt to the currents of market trends, consumer behavior, and technological advancements. Nimble brands are able to navigate these currents, attuned to the evolving landscape without compromising their core identity.

Not to belabor this analogy, but wave patterns instill a sense of predictability, much like how a reliable brand experience fosters trust. People come to expect a certain level of quality and reliability from a brand, and meeting those expectations is critical to reinforcing trust over time.

The dance between adaptability and a brand’s identity is a delicate balance. Brands that strike this balance effectively not only weather the storms of change but also emerge stronger, earning a lasting place in the hearts and minds of consumers.