We’ve all heard it before, and I guarantee it won’t be going away anytime soon. Nor should it. Branding is an essential part to any business. As someone whose job it is to develop and create brands, I’m constantly amazed at how many business fail at recognizing its importance.
There are many misconceptions, I find, when we talk about branding. Some say that branding can be this rigid, stagnant idea that ends with logos and a solid color scheme. On the other hand, some say it is the story behind the product or service. Or, even worse, branding is defined by the consumers, directly.
As nice as all those sound (cue the sarcasm), there’s actually a lot more to this breathing beast called Branding. First is that Branding is not all about looks. It might seem out of place coming from a strategy and design agency. However, shifting our main emphasis from design aesthetics to things that really matter — like substance, engagement, and personality — empower us to make smarter choices that connect client expectations with consumer needs.
Branding, at its best, is one of the most important aspects of a business. At its core, branding symbolizes everything that a company stands for. It isn’t the responsibility of your PR or Marketing team. Rather, every department impacts your brand. Each and every department can make or break your brand. People may fall in love with your brand but if the person greeting people at the door gets rude with a customer, then say goodbye to your customer and brand equity.
A brand is a holistic concept and each part affect the whole. It’s the why behind what you do.
So I’ll say it again, looks are not as important as substance.
But content and relationships are.
This isn’t new to anyone, but it is honest. As designers, strategists and writers, we affirm that an emphasis on storytelling and company transparency is key to successful communication relationships in our professional and personal lives. Countless companies are moving away from this confined ideology and moving towards a transparent vision of who they wanted to be. Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, recently tweeted out security protocol emails so that employees and customers were informed.
Chipotle enacted it’s brand revitalization by making the bold move to close its stores to restore cleaning standards; despite it costing them up to $16 Million. They also mailed out millions of coupons for free burritos to bring customers back into the stores.
Brand revitalization, in today’s modern terms, is most often associated with the story behind the product or service a company offers. But it actually isn’t. Sure, it’d be great to hear about the importance of Clydesdales in association to beer or how an old guy dancing in front of theme parks helps enhance corporate identity.
The truth is that these stories can be invented just to appeal to the customer. That’s called image building. Branding is the story behind why the people were inspired and moved to create the product and how they created it. Branding is always about people. People make brands, they break brands, they like and dislike brands, and they buy them. When people are taken out of that equation, you have a sad, little product with no meaning. Actually, come to think of it, there would be no product at all. So when we’re thinking revitalization, it is vital the make this covenant between the company’s “why” and the stories associated with it.
One of the best revitalization tools I advise to clients is to find out what your customers are asking for and run towards the innovation and change associated with it. This is different than customers defining a company’s brand. Let’s understand what happens when you let market research define your brand: you ask a group of people who represent the market how they would like your brand to look like. Now, your competitor does the same exercise and inquires the same sample. What do you get? Look-a-likes. But companies who see a need and revitalizes that, create and change brands that become unique and effective.
Apple’s 99 cent song initiative completely changed the game on buying music. It benefited business and consumer, alike. Netflix was spurred out of a high late fee from Blockbuster. Now Netflix is breaking over $1.82 billion in revenue. All because it’s a brand that broke out of the normal and revitalized its industry by solving a problem – by telling a better story.
Branding revitalization can easily be about making things “look pretty.” In fact, design is the easier part. There are pretty things everywhere. Better “why’s” and enhancing stories that share those reasons are harder to come by. Being a true brand is combining a lot of elements of engaging, changing, and recreating as if it were constantly growing. Because, it is.