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The Brand As Mental Shortcut

Some day we’ll be able to gather in groups again. Next time you’re in that situation, pay close attention to what happens when a new person joins the group. You’ll find that you form an instant opinion about the newcomer even though you may never have laid eyes on him or her before. In a nanosecond, you notice the person’s bearing, hair style, clothing, attitude, demeanor. You can tell if the person is nervous or perfectly comfortable joining a new group. You see how open and friendly the person is. You can tell if the person is a total stranger or is known to some in the group. You notice how the person is greeted. With enthusiasm or with mere acceptance? And even if you’re aware that this is just a first impression you’re forming, and you may well be wrong, it’s an impression that nevertheless is formed in just a fraction of a second. Now consider that every other person in the room is sizing up the newcomer in precisely the same way. And, in turn, they’re being sized up by the newcomer. And – it can’t be stressed enough – all this happens instantly. The same thing happens with brands.

People use your brand identity to make instant, snapshot decisions about who you are, what you’re like, whether you belong in their life and, ultimately, whether they want to do business with you. From the moment people see your logo, they’re making rapid-fire micro-decisions about your offering, be it product or service. They’re measuring it up and determining if they have any use for it. They’re calculating if your brand is the sort of business with which they’d like to have a relationship, as a patron or even just as a fan.

As the owner or the manager of the brand, it is your job to see to it that it attracts the right sort of people. If your business is selling stuff to the youth market, you’d better have a youthful looking brand and not some old, boomer-attracting brand. If you’re offering services to the C-suite, you need a brand that exudes professionalism and doesn’t come across as clunky or amateurish. Just as a newcomer entering a room is judged, so are brands judged by their markets. In both cases, a determination is made as to whether the person or brand “belongs”.

People adjust their wardrobes to ensure they’ll be seen as belonging in the room. Going to a wedding? Dress for a wedding. Going to a music festival? Dress accordingly. Everyone wants to fit in. No one goes to a business meeting wearing a clown suit.

Ask Boardwalk to design a meaningful
brand identity for your offering.

But what if your business is wearing a clown suit? What if the logo is amateurish? What if the website isn’t interactive? What if your messaging is tone deaf? What if your branding imparts no meaning at all? You may still be able to build a viable business. But, if you do, you’ll find you’re constantly swimming upstream. You’re struggling to win sales in spite of having a brand that repels customers. It’s called cognitive friction. You’re placing barriers in the way of your customers as they endeavor to understand what you’re supposed to mean to them.

Nobody likes cognitive friction. Consumers don’t like it. Purchasing agents don’t like it. People want to see you and get you. Then they want to move on with their lives. You either mean something to them or not. They don’t want to invest time to stop and figure it out. They won’t do it. So your brand has to be clear to them. Instantly.

Some businesses with lousy brands have survived, even thrived. But that’s unlikely to hold true for very long. The world as a whole – and the business world within it – is a fast-moving place. Everything is in flux all the time. And now, COVID-19 has injected a level of uncertainty into life that is unprecedented. That uncertainty will be with us for a long time, if not forever. More than ever, a business needs to ensure its brand identity conveys purpose and meaning to its market. In the words of behavioral scientist, Richard Shotten, “If brands are a mental shortcut (to meaning), and the world is becoming more complex, then brands are more, not less, important.”

BEST BRANDING READS – WEEK OF MAY 4, 2020

No Short-Term Fixes: Innovative Brands Plan Beyond Crisis
Now’s the time to create scenarios for a post-virus world and imagine how you’ll thrive.

Balancing Business Survival And Responsibility
Turns out almost any business can be responsible.

Marketing Has a Self-Identity Crisis
It’s true. Many marketers are mistaking social purpose for brand purpose. They need to get over it.

Six Rules For A Post Virus Brand Revitalization
You knew there were going to be rules, didn’t you? At least there are only six of them.

Kai Takahashi wins best worst logo contest
Congrats, I guess, to Kai. 1145 entries. This is actually painful to see.

New Logo and Packaging for Wattie’s
A New Zealand category leader makes the bold choice to evolve its brand.

How Successful Advertising Campaigns Changed Brands Forever
It’s not enough to know your brand promise. You have to effectively communicate it too.

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Best Branding Reads
Week of May 25, 2020

Nation-Branding Soft Power: The Case of Brand China
An engrossing, tragic case of China’s recent brandicide.

How to Build a $100 Million Brand People Love
A really good case study from about four years ago. Worth the short read.

Seeking Sustainability, Finding True Brand Mission
Best possible outcome today. Best possible outcome tomorrow.

Brand Relevance: The Strategy Behind “i’m lovin’ it”
A fascinating deep dive into a slogan with 15+ years of success.

Worst Logos Ever, Redesigned.
Italian designer fixes some really bad logos. Oh, they are so very bad!

Dieline Awards 2020
Best packaging of the year. You see? Something good has happened in 2020.

5 Reasons Empathy Drives Business Success
Hard facts about the soft skills.