The Truth Behind Brands
Brand isn't just a company logo, branding isn't just paying an artist to design you a logo, branding isn't just visual and tangible, branding isn't just physical. Branding is everything, but I would argue if one thing can describe branding, it's emotion. Now that we got that out of the way, let us make a distinction and more accurately depict what brand and branding actually means.
What is a brand?
Glad you asked! Brand is a mixture of many complex factors which define who you are as a company and what image you project to the general public. Your company logo, the colors you use, the entire visual identity of your company is not a brand. It’s just a part of the bigger picture which can make you a brand.
Brand is something more, it is intangible, it is the feeling your customers get when they see your logo or buy your product. It’s a complex term which has a lot of marketers and non-marketers alike struggling to actually define it.
There are lot of elements involved when defining the brand so let’s get branding. Brand consists of the entire visual identity of your company:
color palette that you use,
your website design,
your style of communication,
the way you dress,
the way you interact with your customers
It’s essentially everything that you can think of which leaves an impression of who you are, a feeling you provide.
Developing the correct mindset
I debated whether to write this section as a branding how to, but it is more fitting to rather address the main issue which is spread through and through when talking about branding. The struggle to let go of the visual connection people have with brands. If we truly want to understand branding and maybe endeavor a successful branding process, we need to start from the most important step, developing the correct mindset.
All the designers, PR and marketing experts in the world won’t help you much if you don’t develop the correct mindset when viewing brands, branding or even rebranding. If you understand that branding is a complex process with a bunch of steps and variables, congratulations you know more than most people. Now is the time to build on that understanding. So, it’s a complex process but how does one… uncomplex it? It’s not that hard. Take your favorite brand, put everything you love about it on a piece of paper and voila, you just scratched the tip of the iceberg! All of those things you love and more, were carefully thought off and developed most likely since the start of the company.
The key to developing the right mindset is to note that the branding process has to be genuine, it has to represent something, you as a company have to represent something. More so the process itself needs to begin with the core ideals that are built into the foundation of the company. It has everything to do with the mission and vision of the company. Branding in a way has to be a common language inside the company, all the employees must act within the brands values and views. Branding isn’t just a job marketing does, it’s a process which involves the entire company, even the buyers. Everybody has to understand it, everybody has to speak it.
Brand’s added value
Brand's intangible value is something most of us have difficulties grasping. Intangible value can refer to companies’ intellectual properties or patents, trademarks and so on. But when we are talking about brands, brand recognition, brand awareness and the overall emotions that brands trigger should be the main talking point. All of these are intangible assets which make the majority of the brands value.
When we buy stuff, we mostly buy stuff that we recognize. Sometimes we buy stuff that we really like, or we heard good things about. Almost all the time we are familiar with things we want to buy but it's hard to explain why we buy them. We develop relationships with brands that we can't even explain half of the time. One of the companies that excels in creating and developing relationships is Apple. They are famous for having a hardcore customer base which is loyal to the core. They buy every single product that Apple launches and invest heavily into the entire ecosystem. It's not all coincidence, Apple has a very strong focus on developing and maintaining loyal relationships with their customers. Their ecosystem of products is what plays the main role in creating the loyal customer/fan base. It's not all thanks to the ecosystem, there are loads of things that make Apple one of the most recognizable brands in the world (focus on user experience, modern design, practicality and so on). All of these things contribute to the added value that Apple has, that is the thing we can't explain but we know that it makes all the difference.
Great example of Apple's brand power can be seen in one of their latest products, the new Mac Pro. When they first revealed it, they mentioned the ability to customize it more to your liking and there was some talk about wheels. What we didn't know is the wheel kit for the new Mac Pro costs 700 $. This wasn't a typo, if you want to put wheels on your new Mac Pro you need to cash out the equivalent of new car tires. You might ask yourself, why would they put that price on an item so trivial? Well it's simple, they can. They are famous for selling all sorts of products separately with a big price point, and people still buy it. They developed a deep and loyal connection to their consumer base, consumer base so loyal that it won't bother them to pay 700$ for tiny wheels. It's all thanks to the added value of brands. Value on which Apple worked hard with every product launch, event, interaction or commercial.
You guessed it, it’s storytelling time. Not much we can do, it’s such an important and crucial aspect of branding that it has to be mentioned. By now we can agree that brands are not only tangible but for the most part intangible, best described as a feeling, hence the iceberg remark in the earlier paragraph. The tangible side of brands is just the tip of the iceberg we see in the sea of products (really proud of this one) when casually strolling through the supermarket aisles. What’s below the surface is something more, brands are something more. They are not physical, they are metaphysical, again they are a feeling and what better way to trigger a feeling than by a story.
From planes flying pizza dough to just planes in general, we have a great example of storytelling as a part of branding in KLM Airways. An example which we recently covered in our BlogCast episode (Midori BlogCast - KLM storytelling) be sure to check it out. KLM decided to share the joy of Christmas with people who at that time and place needed it the most. People stranded at the airport in a rush to finally spend some time with their loved ones during their favorite time of the year. KLM brought them together via a symbolic setting of a family supper. Strangers sitting at the table, sharing a meal, laughing and having a grand old time. A wonderful story, received with emotions by strangers at the airport and everybody who encounters the story when looking for an airway to take on their next flight.
OK, but what is it though?
Do not be mistaken, having a visual identity which most accurately depicts your company and what you stand for is a must. If you have the means it is suggested to put a lot of time and thought into it. There are many aspects that go just into the making of the company logo. Then you must look into your color palette, what colors will you use in your communication. The point of this article isn’t just to shatter the perception that visual identity is everything brands consist of, it’s that visual identity is a huge part of the brand but it’s also just a part in a sea of many. If we don’t understand all the elements and how they individually work with one another, we cannot understand brands and branding for that matter.
If there’s one thing I want you to take from this article, it’s to trust the feeling. Believe in it, it’s what makes brands.