Did you hear the one about the customer who walked into a store looking for a pair of pants, and the sales attendant told the customer to just wait one minute while he walked across the street to a competitor, bought the pants for the customer, and came back to sell them at their ticket price? Can you guess which store that was?
Or how about the family that was driving by at night and saw this billboard:
They immediately knew what this was talking about…Do you?
When you read these words,
Do you know what entity they represent?
Three seemingly separate stories…
The one thing they have in common: they all represent one concept, one idea, Branding.
Isn’t “Branding” about having a cool logo? Actually, No.
In the olden days of the cowboy, a “brand” was a mark that was made on cattle to distinguish those owned by Jim from those owned by Bob.
Today, a brand represents so much more than that.
It’s your identity; It’s a person’s feeling about your product or business; It’s what you’ve built in the hearts and minds of the people that your corporation serves.
A logo is merely a symbol for a brand.
What’s in a brand?
As we’ve seen in the story examples above, your corporate brand identity can be manifested in different ways. The things that you normally associate with a brand are the visuals: your logo, your colours, your signage, prints, packaging, and also your digital media, including websites and online ads. Any points of sale, such as stores, and the environment and ambience they convey are also part of your brand.
Your voice and tone are an integral part of your brand. The very name of your business and the content and messages you put out to your audience in ads, in digital or published content, and on your products and services shape your voice, your brand identity, in your customers’ minds. Another aspect of your brand has to do with people: how you treat your clients, how you train your employees, what your employees feel about themselves and the corporation, how they act… all of these are components –though less tangible – of your brand.
Why do corporations have brands?
From their inception, brands served as a means to differentiate entities from one another, and to identify all products or resources that belonged to a certain business (originally, the rancher). In the modern business world, companies have brands so that customers can easily identify them and differentiate between them and competitors.
On a deeper level, though, brands offer businesses a way to convey their values, what they’re all about, to clients. It can provide a reason for people to associate with you, as people want to be seen as “charitable” (or stylish/powerful/awesome) because they buy products whose corporate brand identity exudes “charity” (or style, power, awesomeness, etc.).
Not all brands are created equal
Naturally, some brands are good, and some, not so much.
To be truly effective, brands need to be clearly defined in the minds of the businesses creating them. If all aspects of your brand are not well delineated, you run the risk of being inconsistent… which is another characteristic of a good brand.
Once a business completes its brand identity design – whether for the first time or during a rebrand – all of its products, services, messages, visuals, actions, and behaviors should revolve around it, strengthening it, and conveying to customers and clients that the business has a clear identity and delivers on its promises. People will appreciate the business’s integrity and come to trust it.
The Power of Brands
So, were you able to guess the identity of the brand on the billboard at the top? That’s what happens when a brand is so consistent, its symbols are recognizable even in their most abstract forms.
Oftentimes a brand is associated with consistent behaviour. Which brick-and-mortar retail store is associated with the best customer service like the example at the beginning? How about an online retailer? Which hotel chain is known for going the extra mile, always and forever, to please their guests? Which fast-food chain do you think of when “fastest delivery time” is mentioned? When a business’s corporate brand identity is so well defined in its culture and its behaviour, it becomes known for it.
And then there’s POWER… Do you have a Kleenex?
Some brands – usually the pioneers in a field – have achieved such strength that the brand name has actually become a moniker for the generic product itself.
In some countries (like Egypt), they use the word “Kleenex” to signify “tissue”, and the word “Thermos” for any heat-resistant container for fluids. In the southern United States, some people use the word “Coke” as a generic term for soft drinks, regardless of their flavour or producer. In the UK, people use the word “Hoover” to indicate vacuum cleaners, even though that’s just one brand of vacuum cleaners. “Googling” has become a de facto verb. Other
examples from all over the world include Band-aid, Chapstick, Zamboni, Crock-Pot, Jacuzzi, Jet-Ski, Biro, Sellotape, Lego, Pampers, Chipsy, and Speedo.
Brand names with that kind of power are so embedded in people’s minds, they’re changing the way they use language! And it’s not too late. With whole industries still cropping up and growing, any brand can dominate and have its name used like that. They just have to play it right with their naming, and make their brand identity so ubiquitous it dominates in people’s minds.
A brand can be an expense… or a source of revenue
Let us tell you a story: In 1957, a guy walks into the Nordstrom’s store in Alaska with a set of snow tires. He walks up to the counter and asks the cashier to return these tires and give him his money back. The cashier sees the price tag on the tires, opens the register and hands the customer a full $145 refund.
“Where’s the catch?” (you say).
Nordstrom’s doesn’t even sell tires!
It just happened to open this store in a lot that used to be a tire store, from which the man bought the tires two weeks prior.
“So why did they take it back? It’s not theirs!”
That’s their brand. They return anything the customer wishes to return, no questions asked.
“But it costs them money…!”
True, but people are still talking about the incident 44 years later with warm fuzzy feelings about Nordstrom’s. Whose store do you think they’ll visit when they need to buy something and be treated well? We’re putting our money on Nordstrom’s.
The costs of creating the brand are far outweighed by the lifetime value of customers brought in through stories like that.
Research shows that the majority of people prefer to buy from brands they know and trust. Being that known, the trusted band is a surefire way to boost your top line.
Take home message
Corporate brand identity design is not as easy as it looks. There are a lot of details that go into the process, and all of them must be made clear, taken into consideration, and adhered to consistently in all communication with the world.
Whether you’re branding for the first time or rebranding, whether you have a name or still looking, you need surgical precision to capitalize on the opportunity, leverage your brand identity, and avoid costly do-overs.
Now, go forth and brand thy business!