508 478 2750

One of my all-time favorite quotes relative to drift (aka change) goes something like this:

“The One True Constant Is Change.” — attributed to the 6th century Greek Philosopher Heraclitus.

Brand Drift

Not to be confused with continental drift (as in geology’s plate tectonics), brand drift is a known term to marketers and those who work in the branding arena. It is a phenomenon I encounter often as a design practitioner.

At its most basic level, brand drift operates in two directions as I see it.

First — It can be defined as when a business loses their “grip” on their brand and they start being defined more by the customers, competitors, and the market than by themselves. I always emphasize that a brand “lives in” the minds of a company’s customers, and that is true. I need to add that this is the core reason why brand demands control by the business — in the sense of always striving to get the correct, true, accurate brand message communicated clearly to the customers, competitors, and others.

Second — Is the internal drift of the business itself away from its core brand. When this happens, the marketing, and sales / promotional language that the business uses in their communications get out of sync with their actual products and services. Arguably, the second direction of drift is the primary cause of the first.

Site Drift

This is my own term. Site drift occurs when a business has a website that gradually gets out of date and no longer describes their offers accurately or completely. There’s that loss of “grip” again. It’s a microcosm of brand drift. Site drift happens when a site gets out of date with respect to its look, content, features, or functionality. This happens most often when a site ends up with stale content that no longer accurately represents the business.

The Worst Combination: Brand AND Site Drift

This drift combo happens when the business describes themselves on their website one way but describes their offers differently in other media channels: in print, in posts, emailers, and other marketing materials. The result of this is confusing to potential customers / clients. This drift happens when no one is watching out for content and brand consistency — either over time or across the communication channels.

Brand and content (via all channels) need to be maintained in sync. They’re each susceptible to drift in their own way. They can get to a point where they stay in their lane, but they’re weaving. Brand drift also happens when a company’s brand is “out of focus” and lacks a basic strategy — Cf. brand positioning.

My advice is to devote a part of the budget and management energy to keeping a solid grip on drift of all kinds. Because drift always demands change, and you have a choice between keeping or losing control of it.

A business that has a well-defined and well-established brand does best when the business is managing their message AND the changes mindfully while maintaining consistency in their messaging — essentially staying true to their brand promise from top to bottom. It’s never too late to come back and put focus and effort into this part of the marketing / messaging equation.

For Further Reading

How to Avoid Brand Drift — especially for startups

Content Drift on Websites, aka “Link Rot”

In Case You’re Curious

Continental Drift vs. Plate Tectonics

More on Continental Drift and Plate Tectonics

Concept Drift —  Going further afield . . .


Clearly there are many different kinds of “drift,” well and far beyond what we discuss here.

See more Thoughts.