It’s important for any business to share the values of its market. Oh sure, you can be a vegetarian and run a butcher shop at the same time. But you’re not likely to have much business success. The butcher who can provide customers with personal knowledge about various cuts of meat will win out. But even if you do share your market’s values, it’s not always easy to communicate that. How do you let your market know you stand with them and deserve to be a part of their lives? One answer is to take a public stand that your customers will admire. The classic example is Patagonia taking a leading role in ambitious conservation efforts. And, recently, Nike gave us a spectacular example with its ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernik. With it, Nike demonstrated an alignment with a younger, more diverse, more inclusive western world. A world that just happens to buy a lot of athletic shoes, by the way. Many people are calling the businesses that employ this tactic “purpose-driven” brands. I feel that by using this description we are injecting needless confusion into the larger discussion of what branding is – and what it is for.
“A brand is your logo, right?” Those of us in the branding business get that question all the time. And, no the logo is not the brand. The logo is actually a form of marketing communication. It communicates a) the presence of the brand and, hopefully, b) what that brand is all about at its core. The Nike “Swoosh”, as abstract as it is, has been used so frequently along with the slogan “Just Do It.” that now, just by seeing the mark alone, one is reminded of that never-surrender mindset. Marketing communication takes many forms because communication itself takes many forms. Advertising is communicating with the market, whether it’s through a two-minute Super Bowl spot, a one-color pamphlet or a biplane towing a banner at the beach. One can communicate through a blog. One can also use flag semaphore. The medium doesn’t matter except in determining the best use of one’s budget. (Word to the wise, semaphore has a notoriously low ROI.) But, if any sort of messaging can be defined as marketing communication, what is branding?
Last week we examined how brand identity is moving into new dimensions, specifically sound and voice. This week, let’s imagine, in a little more detail, what that might entail. We know now that most people experience brands online as much or more than they experience them in the physical world. And that has meant enormous shifts in how brands are depicted visually. Many logos have had to be adjusted or even redesigned to read well on a smartphone screen or as a favicon (the tiny logos that appear on the tabs in your browser). Now, content on the internet is rapidly moving into video. Some say, in the near future, 80% of all searches will be video searches. I play guitar and, in the past, I’d have to hassle friends to get the chords and lyrics to learn a new song. Now I just go to Youtube and type, “How to play Stairway to Heaven on guitar”. One click and there are ten music teachers ready to show me how to play it. I can spend a few seconds with each of them and determine who is the best teacher for me. And I can hear the song played so I know how it’s supposed to sound. Mainstream business is slowly catching up. After a couple of decades of using the web to post what are, basically, electronic brochures, businesses are finally realizing that they can also utilize sound to advance their brands. They’re late to the idea because …
When people are given the job of marketing something, there’s a natural rush to “tell the story”. Advertisers gonna advertise. The CEO is under pressure to get results and the CMO is determined to deliver those results. It’s a full-court press! Fill every channel with content! Leave no stone unturned! Make sure we’re top of mind in the buyers’ decision-making process! But remember. Branding is supposed to be a love affair between a market and the thing that needs to be marketed. If you’re so eager to start the love affair that you do all the talking on the first date, well you’re unlikely to get a second date. Marketing, at it’s most effective, is a conversation between the brand asset and the brand user. Always has been. But in today’s interactive world, there’s no excuse whatsoever if you’re not letting your client/customer get a word in edgewise.
Authenticity and transparency. The words are used so often these days I’ve heard business people are getting sick of them. Just two more entries into the lexicon of stale business buzzwords. That’s too bad because they both matter. And, as our society speeds up even more, thanks to robotics and AI and AR and blockchain and … I don’t know, Amazon? … consumers and decision makers will crave authenticity and transparency all the more. Human beings will want to identify and separate those things they perceive to be “real”. They’ll want to know which products and services have living, breathing human beings behind them as opposed to cold, corporate, lifeless brands apparently designed for the sole purpose of separating people from their money. People want – need – truth. They hunger for authenticity in their relationships. It would be unwise to discard that hunger just because the word itself it overused. Authenticity remains, and will continue to remain, vital to any successful brand. That said, one has to question whether it’s possible to be too authentic, too transparent. When should a brand just shut up?
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Best Branding Reads
Week of December 10, 2018
Why Brands Are Crucial To Innovation
A fascinating and compelling reversal of the adage: Innovation is crucial to brands
Brands once used elitism to market themselves. Now inclusion sells.
Exclusion still works for very high-end luxury experiences.
No more Mr. Nice Guy: why every brand needs an enemy
V-e-r-r-r-y interesting, Mr. Bond.
How B2B Brands Succeed With Thought Leadership
“But only when … others can benefit…”. That’s the key.
Queen logo: Who designed it and what does it mean?
Never knew they even had a logo. Guess I’m just a casual fan.
New Logo for Drinkworks
In the future, every household will have a robotic bartender that will have “the usual” waiting for you when you get home.
How this veteran’s company found profits in Trump-era patriotism and polarization
“Polarizing topics create brands.” says the entrepreneur. How I wish this wasn’t true.