by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded
In the current market place, brands have a great challenge and opportunity. One key question is, “What is the meaning of brand in today’s world?” Is it the same as it was in the 70s, 80s, or 90s? One problem with the definition of brand is that it’s often left up to interpretation since it is more art than science (though there is more and more science that does back up the validity and power of brand and emotion). Because of technology, a revived social consciousness, and more power with the consumer, should brand be redefined? Yes and no. Brand is still about emotion, a human connection. It is “personality” and a reason for being (very Zen, I know, but the best companies are Zen in their approach to their brand).
• In essence, brand is about who you are and why you exist. It’s acting and being yourself. With the technology today, you can’t pretend to be someone you’re not. One of the biggest mistakes is to fake it instead of being real. Too many companies hop on the latest buzz category (go green, support social causes, etc.) even though it’s not baked in their DNA. For example, Apple doesn’t go out of it’s way to add going green as a part of their brand definition. Customers would immediately see that as a lie and would hammer it for being fake. Apple stays within who they are, a company that turns innovation into cool.
• You must be original. If there is nothing special about who you are or why you exist, why should customers flock to your brand? If you can get the same experience somewhere else, then you’re really not special, just a commodity. Originality has nothing to do with what you make or sell. That is commodity. Only a rare few can claim they make something that no one else does. All other businesses must be original in who they are as a company. Google made search special, not just by results, but by being something original. There were many other search engines who promoted technology as their sole reason of being. Google believed they were different and had a true mission. Their brand of “Don’t be evil” is very emotional and unusual for a tech company. This added to their quirkiness and fun image. This stance wasn’t invented because they thought the marketplace wanted it, it was already existing in their core belief of why they exist.
• It must communicate reality. The best brands do a better job at communicating who they are and the reality of what the experience is when you engage with that brand. We all have had the let down when we see a promise from a company only to experience something far less than expected. That’s where reality sets in. A great brand has better reality. This goes from better internal operations to customer service and everywhere in between. Brand must be real and alive throughout the organization. That is better reality. Then a company must communicate that reality in a way that is understandable, appealing, and unique. It’s not complicated, but it’s not easy. It is simple, but hard to do.
In today’s world, brands must be original and have better reality. Technology and information access has changed the game, but if your brand was real and you were living it daily to begin with, today’s market place is perfect for you.