As part of the quest to build my own business, I have come across some useful information – via podcasts and talks uploaded to YouTube – on branding, what it is and how to build one. I have collated what I have learned here in what is hopefully a useful resource for you also. Let’s all succeed together? Yes! 🙂
What is a brand anyways?
When asked what a brand is, many would reply that a brand is a name and a logo. It’s the colours and form associated with it. For example, Apple is associated with technology that is very industrial in design, favouring metal tones paired with curved corners. The design aesthetic, the bitten apple logo and the name of the brand, Apple. That is what a brand is, right?
Well, almost. Those are all key components of the more tangible side of a brand. Logos and names and the essence of how the brand looks are all parts of the brand, but they are not by themselves the brand. (Say what now? Haha, I’m getting to it, I was puzzled by this idea also.)
The Brand as an Identity
Let’s make it more relatable than that. You have a person. Their hair, bone structure, flesh, eye colour, skin, the clothes they choose to wear. These are all the visual aesthetics and physical traits that someone has and we associate with their identity. But that by itself, is not who they are. So they also have a name, and that is what we call them and how we identify them from someone else, but again, that by itself is not who they are and doesn’t describe them. They also have body language quirks, an accent, the way they present themselves to you in a picture. But while that gives us something to identify them out of the crowd, it is not who they are.
The person is the personality and soul, the beliefs, values and ideologies and all those intangible properties behind all those tangible things. That is the important part that has to be right about our brands and our businesses. The name, logo and aesthetics are not nearly as important as what they represent.
Now let’s go back to our first example, Apple. What is their brand, then? The company ethos is for making the best products that serve passionate individuals, people who want to change the world for the better.
[Apple] honours those individuals who believe they can change the world with their passion.
Having their core value, their fundamental ethos down to one simple sentence is the pivotal factor which leads to making the best decisions for the company and the brand. An idea or concept either adheres to your brand – and you adopt and work on it – or it doesn’t – so you leave it out. It dictates the response to situations that may crop up, whether it’s with a serious face or some smooth humour. Building on that with having a clear mission statement and vision, shapes the culture and who the company is as an entity.
Knowing what your core value is, not only enables you to make better decisions for your whole company, but it is what people will buy into.
The Brand as a Relationship
The brand is also about how it makes you, as a customer, feel. How do you feel when you see your favourite brand? That is an important part of your relationship to that brand. That it can impact on your emotions, the way you react to it, shows that it is no longer just a notional name and picture combo, but is an entity that you interact with in your life.
The Brand as a Relationship: Emotional Value & Big Picture Impact
Again, let’s use Apple as an example. I’m sure you have heard of the android v iPhone and windows v mac battles that rage infinitum. One of the arguments for why you should not buy an Apple product is that they are so ridiculously overpriced.
Yet even with this knowledge, people go out and buy the product anyway. Sure, hearing that the latest iPhone has a production cost of £200 (illustrative figure, not actual cost) and the consumer is charged over £700 can be upsetting and annoying, but that consumer still bought it.
Why is that?
While I am sure there are other costs which the £200 mark quotes from around the internet do not factor in, it is still a large mark-up. But that is not really the point. It is not the be all and end all of why you choose one item over another.
Let’s take a quick look at a holiday as an example.
You have enough budget for any hotel you like, and you find a 5-star hotel by the beach front. The hotel is respectful to the environment, employs locals and does as much good for the locality and its residents as it does for you in terms of amenities and holiday experience.
On the other hand, there is a 1-star hotel. It is also by the sea. But the grounds are run down and the owners are visibly careless in how they operate. They underpay their staff and over stretch them.
Now, what they have in common is that they cater to your need to have a roof over your head on your holiday, in the area you have chosen to visit. So what strikes the real difference for you between the two could be the money – but you have enough budget for either.
Taking into consideration the facilities and the environment of the hotel, what it has to offer is important. If those were the deciding factor, you’d go for the first one.
But hold on there. There may be more to consider than that. When money is not the deciding factor, nor are the amenities, then what is?
Holidays are a big spend, so maybe it would be nice if your money did some good for more than just you. You want to make an impact with the cash you have worked hard to earn.
Which holiday resort ethos are you going to buy into: the hotel which looks after the environment, the locals, and has the optimal setting which even just thinking about makes you smile; or the one which damages the environment and badly mistreat their staff, which makes you grit your teeth and frown?
Exactly. Easily the first one. It’s just a bonus that it’s 5-star.
But conversely, if the staff in the 1-star hotel were lovely, and helped out their community and respected their staff, rather than the 5-star hotel, where instead they were rude and had an extremely elitist attitude, despite the amenities, which would you pick?
Which are you going to be a part of? Which has greater positive emotional value?
Albeit an extreme example, that is the essence of choosing between two brands based on the emotional value they provide. It’s more than the raw cost to you, it’s how you feel when you have the experience of one or the other, and the values of the brand that you buy into.
And when you buy into a brand – based on the emotional value were your ideologies of (as in this example) helping local communities are in agreement – you are beginning a relationship with them.
The Brand as a Relationship: Marketing
Here’s another example, but let’s look at Nike this time. Nike doesn’t show off their product in their adverts. They are not the focal point they want you to look at. They want you to look at their brand, and the athletes in their videos.
To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. – Nike mission statement
*If you have a body, you are an athlete
What are they about as a brand then? Supporting athletes with their products. As a company, they know they are not perfect. To make sure that they are never called up on being less than flawless themselves, they make sure that if their representative athletes have a scandal, they stand by them through the ordeal.
How, then, does this make the consumer feel about the Nike brand?
Perhaps, something like this:
“I love Nike because they support athletes. Did you see you this athlete showed how the were human when they did this wrong? Unlike other brands which would have dropped them for that, Nike continues to support them. That they are there for you when you fall down is great; they are a human company, too. So if I fall down, Nike will be there for me, too.”
Nike is an entity that it there for athletes. This ethos, which purports that they have your back makes it seem like they are a trustworthy ally, even a friend. And that kind of knowing a company, a brand, is what builds a relationship and creates a loyal customer.
So we have gone over that a brand is more than the tangible properties of a name, a logo and how it looks. Brands are about what a company stands for – something which all brands should adopt if the wish to last a long time.
So now it’s time to consider what your brand stands for. What is your impact on the world and your customers going to be? What value is your business/brand going to add to their lives? Whether that is providing them great service, a great product that serves an ideology which you have in common, or a more generic product/service that enables your customer to not only get what they need but also lets them support a good cause just for choosing your brand, it is important, if not vital, to know what your core value is.
Your core value can be your beacon in the dark when your business is going through tough times. It is the compass point that will help you work towards the goal you have in mind – as the two tend to have very similar wording.
Take the time to consider what your brand/business stand for. Build up from there.
Best of luck! 😀