What is a brand?
First, I’ll tell you what it’s not. It is not a name, a logo, nor a trademark. These are only its symbolic representations.
A brand is what people feel about a company, service, or product. It is how it is perceived. It is a live entity. It is born, it grows, and yes, it can die.
To create one, you must cover what’s on this checklist:
- Target audience: Define who the consumer is.
- Voice: Craft a communication style that resonates with the target audience.
- Personality: Is it high-tech or classic? Friendly or professional? Fun or serious?
- Positioning: Differentiate from the competition.
- Design aesthetics: create a visual language that includes color palette, typography, photography style.
- Culture: Establish the mission, vision and values for the organization. They function as the compass that steers decision making.
All that is just the beginning. Even after all the items on the list are in place, the newly created brand still doesn’t mean anything to anyone.
The key to building a brand is CONSISTENCY in communicating qualities that make it unique. It takes years of nurture and the work never ends. Those who do a great job are able to form tribes. Success is not only about having massive sales, but also a loyal following. Coke and Apple are a couple of examples of brands who have achieved that.
Some are aspirational, others have become commodities. Great care must be taken every step of the way to build trust and keep it. In addition to delivering promises, the consumer experience must be the same across all touch points. Be it packaging, retail shops, website, marketing campaigns, events, social media, customer service responses, etc.
Great brands use every opportunity to create emotional connections by engaging with customers in memorable ways. They let them in on the conversation and have meaningful relationships. It’s not a one-way road. Today, more than ever, people expect brands to be in tune with their reality. As Aaron Walton, co-founder of Walton Isaacson, said in a conversation with Ad Age “People ae not just buying your product or service anymore. They’re buying your culture and what you stand for.”
The really bold ones dare to be controversial. Take, for example, Nike’s latest ad with Colin Kaepernick. According to an article in Vox on Sept. 24th, it paid off. While some called for boycott, it saw its value increase by $6 billion.
They rise and fall. Some have such equity that they become truly powerful. Forbes make a list of top most valuable brands. In 2010, McDonald’s ranked 6th. Fast forward to 2018 and it did not make it to the top 10. Back then, Facebook wasn’t on the map. Today, it ranks 4th.
Building a brand requires love, strategy, creativity, and time. It is the collective effort of employees, agencies, vendors, media outlets, ambassadors, and customers. Their contributions ensure future sales and protect it from the competition.
Here are links if you would like to read more on the Nike campaign and the Forbes lists.