It’s not pink and fluffy

Well what a discovery it’s been, to hear so many recent views on the importance of branding and people’s understanding of it.

It appears many think a brand is a logo at best and something pink and fluffy at worst. This is not a crusade to straighten the world out (well maybe a little bit!) but to help people understand what branding is all about. After all, a successful brand has value on a balance sheet and who wouldn’t want to be the next Google, Amazon or Coca Cola.

Just to get over some semantics; branding is the identity associated with a brand, the brand itself is the manifestation of a series of emotions and business ideals that culminate in an essence. A great reference to this was the furore around the London Olympics Identity which cost £0.5 Million. Countless times it was quoted “my 6 year old could do better than that”! Well if they could they’d be working by now. What the identity did do was to bring together the thinking behind the brand and demonstrate how it could be used in the digital age, the fee was largely for the thinking, not the creative.

Out there in start up, FinTech land, if a business is being launched without investing in the brand itself, it is reasonably fair to assume that money will be wasted further down the line. This becomes apparent in poor communication that appears inconsistent, sporadic and based upon subjective views. A robust brand exercise can remove all of this waste. Much time and money is burned on arguments over colour, tone of voice, strapline and content by people who don’t really know that much about the subject, but sure do have a view.

That’s the background, so here’s how to fix it. It’s not rocket science but a simple process that requires a good facilitator who can guide, coax and determine what is at the heart of a brand. This process applies to start-ups and rebrands equally well. Just bear in mind, as soon as you have more than one person in a room you have different opinions, some often stronger than others. By going through a series of interviews and workshops it is often surprising to see how one word can cause a serious debate. A brilliant example of this is when the word ‘Righteous’ came up in context of the Church’s credit union… that developed into half an hour of serious debate, which only lightened by a crow and a pigeon fighting on the lawn outside! Words matter, the only one we really ban is passionate.

The process is designed to develop a brand triangle or onion, people get quite energised about the vehicle to house the words but it’s raison d’être that makes it unique.

  • Functional benefits: what the business does
  • Emotional benefits: how you would like customers to feel.
  • Personality: helps determine the tone of voice for all comms.
  • Business values: how the business believes it should behave.
  • Essence: what is the company’s raison d’être, what makes it unique.

The essence is the all-important part, classic ones being:

Disney – Magical family fun
BMW – driving pleasure
Airbnb – To inspire people to live anywhere in the world (even for 1 night)

Once the brand essence has been established the branding work can follow on. Quite simply, the branding should reflect the essence, the creative should be a lot easier to judge against the essence rather than on personal likes and dislikes. Then with a signed-off creative this can be applied to a set of brand guidelines, and boy is this another area of complete confusion. Guidelines should be a guide, not a corporate straight jacket running to 200 pages that never get used, key info they should cover:

  • Background to the brand
  • Logo do’s and don’ts
  • Fonts
  • Colour
  • Photography
  • Tone of voice
  • Application examples – showing what good looks like

Once issued they should be used for all external parties and for in-house teams, they should help steer all comms and ensure consistency.

Phew, so to conclude… Pink and fluffy, no. A pathway to consistent marketing that emotionally connects and creates brand recognition, yes.

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