Far too many people are taken in by the bright and shiny — the style of something over its substance. Used car dealers have known it for years: You can sell a faulty car for more money if you repaint it, first. Unfortunately, the same thing happens all too often in the world of brand development. For […]
Far too many people are taken in by the bright and shiny — the style of something over its substance. Used car dealers have known it for years: You can sell a faulty car for more money if you repaint it, first. Unfortunately, the same thing happens all too often in the world of brand development.
For the past 15 years or so, we have watched as marketing directors, CFOs, CEOs, ad agencies, design firms and others shifted from talking about brands in the abstract to branding in the specific. Branding was put into the hands of those who only saw (or perhaps understood) its tactical manifestations: colors, logos, taglines, ads, websites, etc. The more this happened, the more these surface items became a proxy for the brand itself. The terms ‘brand’ and ‘branding’ came to be used interchangeably. As this deterioration took place, ‘branding’ became synonymous with stuff. And fluff. And rightly so. Problem is, this artificial concept of branding never had anything to do with what a true brand is in the first place.
As the economy grew, non-marketing people saw a quick buck in what they understood branding to be. “Gimme a logo and a tagline and a few cool ads and we’ll go sell things.” With no hope of a differentiated position. With no intention of investing in one. That’s not a brand. That’s a house of cards.
You can’t brand a brand. You can position it. You can advertise it. You can publicize it. You can even promote it. But ‘brand’ is a noun, not a verb. It is the essence of a company, a product, a service — a shortcut path to all of the emotional and logical benefits a thing possesses; a shortcut to experience.
Today, we’re seeing a rebound in the economy and a resurgence in companies inquiring about how to build, strengthen and refresh their respective brands. That’s the good news. The bad news is that far too many of these companies see the process as nothing more than a fresh coat of paint. Unfortunately for many, a few years of neglect has left the foundation of their respective brand outdated, broken or worse — no longer relevant.
Many design firms now label themselves as ‘branding’ firms. With little strategic experience in wrestling core business and strategy issues, and if so, only from a visual standpoint. It’s unfortunate, because many of these firms are outstanding design firms. And while visual thinking is critical to the development of a brand, it is but one element. Brand is bigger than identity. Bigger than logos.
And far more important than only style and form.
True brands are about substance. The link between action and offering; culture and message. And they require a foundation of substance that can act as a driving blueprint for all communication.