What is branding anyway? Again, it’s what’s in your customers’ heads, not yours! [1]


Pondering what constitutes branding and what does not is always an interesting proposition. And any brand-builder, whether a home-based solo fighter homemaker with Organic Yoga Clothing Line aspirations, or a behemoth like GM (General Motors).

Ultimately what every brand-builder needs to realize – sooner rather than later – is that they have much less control over what a brand is. In the age of social media, thanks to the proliferation of internet and cellphones, there has been a dramatic (even this is an understatement… make that: FUNDAMENTAL) shift from brand-builder controlled to consumer-controlled.

It’s the age of the empowered customer, with a voice! One customer with a facebook and twitter account can do more damage to a company’s reputation than a group of people jointly attempting to file a complaint through a company’s Customer Service Dept.

An excellent case in point was the recent incident that afflicted Hollywood Producer, Kevin Smith, when he was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight in February 2010 for the reason of being overweight. Smith had purchased two tickets for himself, but because he changed to a different flight, where Southwest had only one seat available, they couldn’t allow him on board. Alas, Smith was one unhappy passenger.

Smith then blasted at Southwest for negligence, using facebook and twitter. At one point he had 1 million followers on twitter! Imagine the impact of one very disgruntled customer on a brand. BAD NEWS!!! Unthinkable only a few years ago, before the invention of twitter, facebook… any social media.

So, brand-builders MUST SHIFT their thinking about branding!!! And shift into higher gear of understanding the power of the “new empowered customer” in the realm of today’s social media. Because they can easily “make or break” a brand!

The following is an interesting insight about branding that follows the same line of “the power of your customer”.  The absolute MUST for the brand-builder to understand the EMOTIONAL CONNECTION customers have with a brand.

A brand is not a logo, it’s not your company’s identity or even a product.

A brand is an emotional and visceral reaction or connection to a business or product. Whether the emotion is love or hate the ultimate goal is an illogical reaction. Branding attempts to manage the signals that help evoke that reaction. Branding occurs in the heart and not the head, the “I want” and “I need” connection is invaluable.

Take Coca Cola for instance. Without brand value, they estimate their worth at US$50 billion, but WITH brand value they estimate it at US$120 billion. The math isn’t hard here, branding is crucial for any company big or small — it can make or break a company. Companies like Coca Cola will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars often millions to retain their brand status because they understand the value. In Coca Cola‘s case they spent over US$2.6 billion a year.

Brand is ultimately out of your control, it lies in the hands of your current customers or potential clients and how they feel about your company or service as a whole. So how do you influence customers — by branding simple.

Take visual cues from the big companies, UPS, Nike, AT&T, Starbucks, McDonald’s, FedEx, Staples. How are they handling their brands? They use brand signals such as color that works with their brand and not against it, typography to help create a unique look or visual connection to their product or business, a short memorable tagline that gets their company vision or message across and a logo icon that people can connect with and is in-line with not only today’s design standards but also tomorrow’s.

The difficult part of creating a solid brand often comes down to the education process for our clients. More often than not, they want to tell a story or include several design elements into a logo, have special effects or a tag line that is as long as an entire mission statement. Getting to “something simple” is what we consider the challenging part of brand development. If we start there and continue down this path, the process is painless for both the client and design company. Trying to do too much with your identity to help create the brand will work against you in the end — it’s that simple.

Inspiration: Designer Threads and Current

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About dianhasan

Brand Storyteller, Travel Writer, Speaker, Creative Writer & Thinker - avid observer of randomness in everyday life - Sustainable Business, Eco Matters, Sustainable Urban Issues, Architecture, Heritage Conservation, Innovation & Brand-Strategy, Cross-Cultural Communications, Travel, Tourism & Lifestyle.
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