“Brand” must have more meaning now more than ever.
The word “brand” is ubiquitous these days. There are probably more articles on the topic on any given day than there are actual brands. Our consultancy throws the word around quite a bit too. I never did a count on our website or other media outlets but I’m sure the word is there dozens if not a hundred times. But what does it really mean?
While reading Nicolas Bordas’s insightful article I started thinking. What does it mean to have a brand in this day and age? To be a brand? In the “old-days” a brand was a cool logo, some advertising, and maybe a tag line that was subject to change. The branding work was handled by guys with fancy suits over martini lunches. It was likely the realm of larger companies; you didn’t worry about branding until you needed to worry about branding so to speak.
The reality was smaller companies, such as independent retailers and widget makers, were working on branding all along, but probably not consciously. It was just how they did business. What big-business spent big bucks on, came naturally for the mom-and-pop operations. Ironically while the larger companies paid to craft perceived authenticity, the little guys often oozed authenticity. If you wanted to know what a big brand stood for, you ate whatever their marketing team fed you. As for the small guy you went up and talked to them; saw first hand what they stood for. Although they probably couldn’t tell you what their “brand” was if you paid them. Sort of an ironic “authenticity gap” between perception and reality. I’m not sure how else to describe it. Also I’m sure somewhere in the middle there were brands that were probably best described as having “made-up” authenticity – woodsy sounding product companies located in someone warehouse downtown for example.
The point is over the course of the last few decades, with the advent of mass communication, peer review and access to information, the meaning of brand has evolved incredibly. The playing field is being leveled in many regards. You simply need a brand now more than ever.
And the meaning of your brand can’t be left to chance, or hidden behind smoke and mirrors.
Branding is no longer the luxury of large companies or the boutique cuteness of little ones. Everyone, big and small, is (or should be) scrambling to craft a brand message and communicate it to the world, or at least the audience that might buy what you’re selling. Your brand needs to be more than just a clever logo and flashy product design. Even Apple will tell you that. It needs to be purposeful and comprehensive; permeating throughout your organization in a real, tangible, meaningful manner. In fact the authenticity gap that was easily covered up in the “old days” is suddenly front and center. Every organization had better wrap its head around what their brand is and be able to communicate to customers why that brand exists, quickly and simply.
To do that successfully, the meaning of “brand” to your organization has to evolve. Figure out what your niche is; where you fit into the business ecosystem. Why do you exist? Delve into what your brand stands for socially, environmentally and from a business perspective.
And don’t try to fake any part of that message. Consumers are savvy, they’ll know if you’re trying to fool them. They’ll shut you down quicker than you can say “fourth quarter earnings”. Every organization has to be authentic to succeed. This is the new brand meaning.
When you come to a fork in the road, your well established brand philosophy is your roadmap.
Ingrain that authentic message into everything you do, internally and externally; every touch point. Build your business around that. Communicate with one voice. Nurture your brand and your customers. Establish feedback loops and evolve as necessary. If you do that then business life becomes simpler. You’re no longer solely focused on competition, you’re now focused on customers and your brand. The idea isn’t to take over the world. Concentrate on who you are and the rest will take care of itself. When you come to a fork in the road, your well established brand philosophy is your roadmap. It will answer every business question you have from what kind of soap is in the bathroom to how you’re going to rollout your next product successfully. Brand self-awareness trumps the latest business thinking du jour every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
You can argue that I over simplify things, but on the other hand maybe we spend too much time (and countless dollars) making things overly complicated. Evolving what brand means to your organization could be the secret to your success in this day and age.
What does “brand” mean to your organization? Share in the comments below.
President – Chris Weigand Design, LLC
Chris Weigand Design is a retail design consultancy that can help your brand message resonate with consumers in the physical retail space. From graphics, to displays to holistic interior designs, we create experiences for your guests that delight them and have them telling their friends how awesome you are. Contact us today so we can start working with you.