By Subhojit Roy, Partner, Connections PR
Brands help people make a choice. The purpose of branding is to ensure that your product or service is the preferred choice in the minds of your key audiences (whether customers, consumers, employees, prospective employees, fans, donors, or voters).
Perception customers have of the brand determine the behaviour towards it, how relevant it is to them and how differentiated it is from the other brands in the same category. In turn, customers derive their perceptions of a brand from the interactions they have with it. “Branding is about signals—the signals people use to determine what you stand for as a brand. Signals create associations.”- Allen Adamson, BrandSimple.
Branding cannot control what people think of a brand, it can only influence. A brand can put some of the elements in place that will help people understand why they should choose or prefer a particular good, service, organization, or idea over another.
Essentials of branding
Starting a branding project includes finding the right reason, commitment, and strategy; analyzing brand equity; and uncovering insights and opportunities.
Start with the right reason
“Take care to get born well.” George Bernard Shaw, playwright
Fundamentally, there are two reasons a business needs branding. Either a new product or company has been created or there is a desire to change an existing brand to better reflect new business objectives (most often called a “rebrand”).
Start with the right commitment
It is critical to have the right steering committee before starting a branding process. Because the brand idea reflects what a organization says it stands for and its vision for the future, the Organization Chief must be 100 percent in agreement with it.
The foundational signals of a brand need to last at least a decade, Creating a new brand or undertaking a rebrand requires significant investment and signals change, there is really only one opportunity to do it; so it must be done right.
Creating the brand signals includes defining the brand idea, brand architecture, and brand personality, and producing the creative brief.
Defining the brand idea
A good situation analysis leads to insights and identifies areas of opportunity for a brand, but a stake must then be placed in the ground to define the brand idea: what you want the brand to stand for.
The most important thing about your brand idea is that it is differentiated from the competition and relevant to your target audience. Creating the brand idea also requires a leap of faith to articulate something that captures the good about the present state of the brand, and, more importantly, a vision for its future.
The more visionary this idea, the more it can inspire the people who are tasked to deliver it.
Defining the brand architecture
One component of developing a brand strategy requires establishing a clear structure and relationship among brands in a portfolio. This process is usually called “brand architecture.” Fundamentally, brand architecture is about deciding what you want to show as your face to the market and how to present your goods and services to your target audience. Many models and a great deal of marketing terminology are used to describe different approaches to brand architecture.
Defining the brand personality
There are not an infinite number of brand ideas in the world, and many brands occupy very similar territories.”
If, as Christopher Booker says, there are only “seven stories in the world,” yet tens of millions of books, films, and plays tell these stories differently, the opportunity for relevant differentiation remains strong. BPand Toyota both focus their ideas on a sense of progress. However, nobody would say these brands are the same. One way they differ is through personality, and defining this is the next important element in building a brand.
Producing the creative brief
Once a brand idea and personality are in place, the core visual and verbal symbols can be developed. They are usually encapsulated in a “creative brief,” literally a short document that a creative team will work from as it designs and generates names, brandlines, and visual and sensory identities. A good brief is succinct (often only one page), uses words and pictures to help stimulate creativity, and has the brand idea and personality at its core. It also reflects learning about competitors and market categories from the situation analysis
Creating the brand experience
Creating the brand experience involves crafting the verbal identity, designing the visual and sensory identities, and testing the verbal and visual identities.
A new brand needs a name whereas a rebrand rarely has a name change. Indeed, changing a name signals that something significant has happened in the business, through forced circumstances, through a merger and acquisition, or through a negative event. A company that changes its name is expected to change the way it does business, too, so a name change should never be undertaken lightly Names can take many forms. They can be acronyms: IBM, BP, NBC.
They can take the form of existing words or phrases: Shell, Apple, Twitter. They can be names constructed from other words: Spudulike, Kwik Save, Accenture. They can be coined: Avensis, Aventis, Avertis. And they can derive from the names of specific people or families: Ferrari, Hershey, Mercedes-Benz.
Ideally, a name should be the pure encapsulation of the brand idea and, along with this audacious goal, should meet other key criteria:
Because names can only do so much, brandlines are often developed in conjunction with the name to help signal what the brand stands for. Brandlines are often called “taglines”; however, taglines suggest a sign-off at the bottom of a piece of communication, and they can change as different marketing campaigns change. A brandline is developed as a permanent brand element to be used across different channels, often everywhere the logo appears.
Tone of voice
Tone of voice is another means of conveying what a brand stands for. Tone of voice is not messaging or writing; it is about how you say things rather than what you say. For example, a brand’s voice can be friendly, informative, precise, grounded, real, honest, daring, playful, irreverent, emotional, or witty. The brand voice can express the personality of a friend or teacher, a geek or gamer, a leader or an advocate, a visionary or a knowledge seeker, a magician or an engineer. When tone of voice is consistent, it gives the consumer another means of recognizing the brand and its promise
Designing the visual and sensory identities
Great design gives people the shorthand markers of identification and engagement with a product, service, or organization. It stops us in our tracks to think again about our usual choices. It helps us find coffee, aids us in sending urgent documents in an unfamiliar city, or can make us feel part of a smarter or more stylish community. As we sit at the neighborhood Starbucks, typing on a MacBook, wearing Uggs or Adidas, minding a baby asleep in a Bugaboo stroller, we may suddenly realize that all these brands stand for something singular, that all of them have a personality, and that all of them use their visual and sensory identities to create powerful associations that we connect with.
There is something revered about the logo, and it is probably the first thing that comes to mind when we think about branding. Some of the most memorable logos communicate multiple meanings. a logo must be evaluated on its ability to communicate at least one or two important concepts about the brand.
Delivering the brand experience
It is important to stress that only in combination do brand signals make an impact on a customer’s experience of a brand. And only when they are deployed boldly, with courage and single-mindedness, will they create impact in the cluttered world of brands we live in. You might notice the logo of an airline first, but it is your experience buying a ticket, waiting in line, flying in the cabin, and interacting with service people that will form your opinion of that airline brand. Red Bull may have a distinctive can, but its sponsorship and events probably imprint the idea of the Red Bull brand most firmly in our minds. Consumers derive their perception of a brand from the sum of interactions they have with it. And delivering the promise of that idea is the work of an entire organization,
Managing a brand
Brand management, which is generally interpreted as the means of controlling your brand and keeping its expression consistent. It jars significantly with some of the other key aspects of branding: the two-way interactions with customers on their journey, the continually evolving impressions of a brand in people’s minds, and the use of social media channels to develop a dialogue with customers rather than push out a stock message. Brand management today should be about determining what cannot change and what must change. Advertising agency DDBtalks about the 70/30 rule: 70 percent consistency but 30 percent flexibility. The 30 percent portion relates to language and cultural differences, buying behavior nuances, insights into the target market and its preferences
Measuring the performance of a brand
Tracking brand strength
Building a brand based on differentiation and relevancy is not simply common sense; its success can be proven. In the mid-1980s it was recognized that all brands, regardless of category, country, or target, seemed to live by certain rules.
What makes your brand stand apart
How appropriate this difference is to the audience you want to reach
How well regarded your brand is in the marketplace
How well consumers know and understand your brand
Measuring brand value
There is a natural desire to understand how much a brand is worth—to have a tangible means to measure what is fundamentally an intangible asset. However, just as absolute control in brand management is not an achievable goal, neither is there a widely accepted, definitive way to accord value to a brand in financial terms.