When I say brand, you may picture a logo, advertising, brand name, billboards or many other marketing expressions. Recently, the definition has become even broader: personal branding, user experience, automated marketing, social media, blogs and brand influencers.
Let's truly try and understand what a brand is in order for the idea “brand” to become more useful. According to Lindsay Pedersen, a brand strategy uses many different components, all curated in a focused, thoughtful way so that YOU can define what your business stands for (and not let it be defined by the market). Brad Batesole says: “It’s how we stand out, shape the industry, craft loyalty and shift perceptions”
The word brand according to Lindsay Pedersen comes from the old Norse word brandr. Which means to burn. People would burn their initials into cattle to show ownership. Later, when exporting goods and shipping them all over the world became more common, initials were burnt into wooden shipping containers. These initials in both cases stood for the idea of ownership and over time it also came to mean that “I own it and I stand by its quality”.
The 'brandr' differentiated the product from other goods. With time this 'brandr' became well known - and liked - because it stood for quality and service. Eventually it came to be trusted which meant it was something you should expect to pay more for. The 'brandr' became the trigger for the entire brand promise. Adding nicely to their bottom line…
I love the way Lindsay Pedersen explains branding - and I will refer to it a fair bit due to its practicality and usability. I believe these are key to implementation and being able to add real value to your product. She is also able to encapsulate what years of hands-on experience have been able to teach us as brand creators. The experience we can hopefully pass onto you.
Think of your Grans' homemade cake, made with love, care and pride. It was hers and she baked it! The recipe, that if shared with friends, would have one ingredient left out - just in case they made it better than Gran’s. The recipe that you were promised, would one day be yours. Your Gran would obviously stand by the quality of this cake - its recipe and its ingredients. She was proud of it. So you just knew it was going to be a great piece of cake.
Now imagine a cake at Woolworths - in a plastic bag with “no-name” branding. You just know it is probably going to be an average piece of cake at best. The quality will definitely be different, but most importantly when you are deciding which cake you want, you know the story behind your Grans' cake and the branding on the Woolies cake tells you it’s pedigree and heritage. It's story.
The Woolies branding is the visual tool, the cue that explains in a nutshell what it stands for “cheap - convenient - and won’t kill you”. A brand overtly or otherwise communicates what your business stands for, what makes it unique and special. It is the trigger for the emotional experience of your product. The relationship between you and your audience.
Like Grans' cake - it tells your story! Lindsay says that this is the exercise of deliberately assessing where you best fit into your customer's world. So by choosing what your brand's optimal position is - in other words, its optimal meaning - and then using it to carefully create the brand story that guides everything you do in order to grow - that’s a deliberate brand strategy.
Now we use this word “deliberately” or “curated” a lot when talking about branding here.
I’d like to take the time to flesh out what we mean by this. Imagine watching the famous movie Shawshank Redemption.
Imagine a team of script writers writing the script for months on end, rewriting and editing every word,then presenting that to Netflix to get funding and go ahead. Netflix then editing and reshaping the story, later a team of artists storyboarding the entire movie making sure that every scene is shot from the perfect angle, in the perfect location, in the perfect light, with the perfect actor or actress, in the perfect costume with the perfect make up artist, shot and reshot until it was just right. Then edited in a way to create a certain pace or reaction. Still later producers would decide when it would be aired, etc, etc. When sitting down to watch Shawshank Redemption, you’re oblivious to the effort that went into the careful and deliberate curated experience - you disappear seamlessly into their world view. You feel as though it’s real, well rounded, you can almost feel, touch and smell the experience. It would be awful to notice the editing in the movie. It would break our connection with it’s “reality” and “authenticity”.
Your brand story, like Shawshank Redemption, needs careful consistency - otherwise we would be less likely to feel we know, like or trust it. It’s storytelling at its best. Careful, intentional, deliberate and seamlessly curated. Put another way - a brand is all the feelings you feel, and the brand strategy is the way we curate those feelings and perceptions in your ideal customer - while making sure not to interrupt their perception.
Branding is about making sure when your customer sees your logo, walks into your store, sees an advertisement or a Facebook post and then shops online, the perception created by your brand establishes who you are, what your company stands for, what’s unique about you, what you are selling and why they want it.
Felicia C. Sullivan defines it as "A brand is a perception or set of associations consumers have of a business. Those perceptions originate from the story you tell about your business, the vision, the values you hold, the products and services you offer, and how your customers are transformed as a result of using those products or services."
Try and picture how many times the Coca Cola brand has intersected with and touched your life? The logo, the packaging, the print and TV ad’s, the in-store promotions, etc. I don’t think I could actually calculate that myself. It is argued that most brands need at least 5 touch-points to convert a client. Think of it as meeting, dating and then perhaps marrying someone. You need to really get to know someone before you trust them.
Trust often comes from a person showing you that you can trust them by repeatedly acting in a similar way to different situations. By the third time they have done this, we usually start seeing it as a pattern. Once this happens, we begin to feel we know and perhaps even like them. Trust takes a lot more consistency and validation.
A brand strategy that carefully considers each touchpoint of your ideal customer's journey from design, marketing, PR, customer service to company vision is what will separate you from the pack. Put a little differently, a brand is a perception about the product, service or company. It is the way we embed what is special and makes you unique in your customer's mind.
Do you remember when Coke launched the green label “Coke Life“? Well, I didn't really either because it was such an epic fail. The reason being, the confusion that happened in the market. Let's not interrupt this perception if at all possible. If you manage this, you will have a powerful marketing tool. Your sales division will thank you. So, we know what a curated brand strategy is, now we need to ask ourselves…
We define Brand as what people think, feel, and say about your business. This differs from marketing, which is what YOU say about your business. A brand strategy helps you understand who you are and acts as a blueprint - helping you communicate with your ideal customer in order to direct that feeling.
The dinergy* “Create a brand strategy” process is broken into three distinct parts. We guide you through the brand development phase: from your Brand Heart (the core of your brand), to the Expression stage: by articulation of your Brand Messaging (how you talk about who you are), to your Visual Identity (the visual expression of your brand). In the end you’ll have a full brand strategy, brand collateral with a set of brand guidelines to help you bring your brand to life.
We can help create all the things necessary for you to soar, package your product, create signage, create sales collateral, websites etc. We then go on to growing the expansion stage where the marketing and advertising help you shout your message from the rooftops. This can include trade show design, events and social media to name a few. A brand is the sum total of every interaction a customer has with you, your business and product.
The essence of a brand is perception and feeling. These intangible qualities are shaped by very tangible means. Every piece of communication with your customers affects the growth of your brand. The more unified the brand message, the more loyalty there is. Greater loyalty leads to less shopping around by the potential target market. A powerful brand can charge a premium while a diluted brand offers more chance for parity products to take over.
A good brand strategy will attract the right customers to build a strong, lasting brand. Position your brand in a way that helps you compete now - and tomorrow.
Your growth is our growth. Stay on target and squeeze as much out of your budget as possible. Spend on what's effective - because when you do well, we do well.