written by Ben Mottershead
I've always found it startling and albeit interesting that many creatives or entrepreneurs can't accurately explain, or define what a brand is. Considering so many new businesses spring up every day around the world and we constantly expect people to engage with, or associate themselves with brands whether it be on a commercial or personal level.
So, what exactly is it? It's not a logo or advertising. These assets are fundamentally controlled by the company. Instead, a brand is a person's gut feeling about a product, service or company. If the word 'brand' didn't exist, we'd have to try and create a new one as nothing else comes close to the complexity which is a brand. As strategist Marty Neumeier has stated in the past,
' a brand isn't what YOU say it is - it's what THEY say it is'.
A couple of years ago I was reading 'How to Launch a Brand' by Fabien Geyhelter which presents a simple formula to define what a brand is as a way to assist in developing its purpose and place in the world, and it goes like this. "A brand is a service, product, or person with 'Soul that is Attractive & Smart.’" The industry really loves its jargon, doesn't it? So aside from getting all deep and entering Gandhi level ambiguity what does this phrase actually mean?
SOUL = THE BRAND PLATFORM
It is the primary reason for the companies existence. Consumers often trust brands which appear to have a soul, a deeper purpose i.e Google, Apple, Tesla and are happy to invest their money into the company. To have a soul is to build trust and if you have a customers trust, you then earn their loyalty.
This is the difference between success and failure. Successful brands recognise a consumers need to interact with something more, something which has a purpose that isn't just a shallow promise. An actionable, observable soul will turn your 1 customer into 50 by making them a brand ambassador and advocate for your product, or service.
This can also be said about charismatic figureheads or CEO's which are attached to companies and brands in their own right. If they develop a strong 'soul' to their own brand then that will affect positively on the company they are associated with. This falls partly into the 'House of Brands' company structure, but that's a conversation for another time.
ATTRACTIVE = THE BRAND ATMOSPHERE
This is the carefully crafted voice the brand develops over an elongated period and the emotional reaction, or connection a customer feels when engaging with the brand. It isn't tangible. It ultimately can only be crafted through calculated trial and error and by interaction with a consumer.
A good example would be to consider when you open a new purchase from the tech giant, Apple. Everything about the experience has been designed to draw you in and create an experience and emotional reaction. It's not uncommon you find people discussing the 'experience' of un-packaging one of their new products.
This is something I feel, despite the backlash, Apple has nailed as a brand. While many touch points can be communicated within a brand, the atmosphere has to be developed and ultimately emotionally experienced by a customer.
SMART = YOUR BRANDS USABILITY
How easy is it for a customer to engage with the product or service. If it’s a fashion-based brand then the quality of the materials and availability is important, if you work in construction then referrals and trust is a priority. If you’re a creative offering a service then the quality of that service and ease of communication will take precedence and will ultimately define if your brand is considered 'Smart', or not. How the people view and access your brand has a direct impact on whether or not they will engage with it.
Is there really any surprise that the streaming giant Netflix rose the fruition during a period when the only real way to engage with films was to either visit a cinema, or walk to your local Blockbuster, or another rental store with no guarantee it would be in stock? Even during Netflix's early days, you had to post the DVD's back to them but it offered something which others couldn't... Ease, and reliability.
Understanding the make-up of what produces an effective brand is fundamental to it’s a success within a marketplace. It's one thing to know and understand these principles but another entirely to action them in an effective way. That being said the ability to begin successfully deciphering a brands SOUL and why it's ATTRACTIVE and SMART will help enormously when you're working on a branding project for yourself. Only by working these elements out can you start to identify any short, or long term problems and go about finding solutions.
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