Every company has a brand, whether you know it or not — and it’s one of the most important aspects of any business, large or small.
Building a good brand requires a lot of time and hard work to ensure that the company’s vision is aligned with not just its staff but also its target audience. First of all, it is important to know and understand the very simple yet fundamentally important question — What is a Brand?
What is a Brand?
A brand, in short, is an emotional connection that a company has with its customers and what they perceive of it.
A brand can be broken down into smaller parts that could help you understand better, how these factors and processes contributes directly or indirectly to building a brand.
One of the most essential and fundamental elements in effective marketing, copywriting helps to set the tone of voice that the company needs. A company that has a brand manifesto written by an experienced copywriter could help establish a brand strategy that could help teams within the company, align every interaction, message and/or campaign with the customers.
Would you rather buy from a company that says,
“Our app helps you with your sales.”
Or would you choose the company that says,
“Our app is designed to help you increase sales and run your online store more efficiently — so you can spend time on more important things, like growing your business.”
It would be important to emphasize that speaking to the customer on an emotional level helps to build a brand experience — and that’s where copywriting overlaps with user experience.
When the term ‘User Experience’ is mentioned, people often confuse it with ‘User Interface’ or think that they are both and the same. However, User Experience or UX stretches further than what most people perceive it to be. UX in short is what encompasses a consumer’s interaction with the company’s services or its products, with the consumer’s needs met without any hassle while making the product/service useful and desirable. For example, when a consumer calls Apple’s hotline to make an enquiry for technical support, how easy is the process for the caller to get what they need?
Take a moment to think about it — As a consumer, your experience starts even before you enter a store. If a store did their branding correctly, your curiosity will pique from the time you notice the store from the outside. How that store makes you feel from what you see, will enable you to make a decision if you should enter. That first impression based on what you see and perceive about the brand is in fact UX — based on emotions. Once you step into the store, what the consumer experiences; ranging from product desirability to customer care, will make a connection with them in either a positive or negative way. However, the worst thing to have, is a brand that is not noticeable, makes no impact, and could easily be forgotten.
Of course, there’s also UX for app and websites. These are just as important on how easy it allows the consumer to complete a certain task(e.g. making a purchase online, finding information). With the wide usage with apps and websites today, consumers will always lean towards any company with better UI/UX implementation.
Design would be a very broad term to use for branding — but for a good reason. A brand can also be supported by marketing collaterals, product design, packaging design, logo design, web design, UI design, publishing design and even motion graphic design.
But design is a process of creating a solution usually with a certain thinking process with an intentional outcome. Brands use communicative design crafted with memorable visuals to help bring across brand messages and values. The colours used will have a direct contribution to the perception of the brand, affecting how clearly we remember it, ensuring the brand stays memorable and recognisable.
A well-designed service and product, be it a website, an app or even customer service, motivates people to act, giving it a competitive edge over a company that doesn’t invest in good design.
In my previous post, I discussed about the importance of typography hierarchy. Typography plays a pivotal part in communicating the type of brand image you are portraying. For example, Barack Obama’s used the “Gotham” typeface for his 2008 presidential campaign.
The typeface helped portray masculine contemporary sophistication and a sense of trustworthiness towards the middle-class while not isolating the people on Wall Street, making it the “linchpin” to Obama’s entire campaign imagery. Now, think about what would have happened if they chose “Comic Sans” as their brand font.
Of course, the campaign wouldn’t be complete without its iconic “CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN” slogan, that helped propel his brand further.
Having said that, it’s important to understand what and how a brand works for different demographics and how different methods of brand strategies can be applied appropriately. For Obama, this was his personal branding. It worked well because the campaign was to show his capabilities as the right person to lead the country.
Branding is all about consistency — The colours you use, the things you say and of course, the experience that users have with your service or products.
The brand of Tesla is synonymous to Elon Musk, which is of no surprise when Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning are mentioned, not many people actually know that they are the actual founders of Tesla.
Part of the reason that people like Musk so much is how responsive he is to Tesla users who reach out to him. Where most CEOs ignore their customers, Musk listens to them and actively implements their suggestions if he finds them useful. Apart from his CEO position, he has also acted as spokesperson and occasional customer service representative for Tesla.
However, that also has its cons. When a brand of a company is tied to its CEO, anything the CEO does may affect the company’s brand image. Recently, Elon Musk tweeted about Vernon Unsworth, branding him a “pedo guy” after the British diver (who helped in the rescue efforts of the young Thai football team) gave a critical comment about Elon Musk’s mini submarine that it “had absolutely no chance of working”. That didn’t fare so well for Tesla.
After that happened, Tesla’s stock took a dive. The same platform that Musk had used to promote innovation and Tesla was now backfiring and working against everything he had worked hard for.
Another person who was tied strongly to his company is Casey Neistat, a very prominent YouTuber who started Beme. It was subsequently bought over by CNN for $25 million. While that may sound like a success story, Beme never got profitable. CNN thought that by acquiring Beme, Neistat would be the talent they acquire and the key to connecting CNN to millennials, with the hopes of turning the company into an independently operated daily online news show.
However, while Casey has a great personal branding, the brand of Beme was never detached from Neistat himself, which made it difficult for the company to grow apart from the fact that he was unable to figure out a viable strategy for Beme. A part of his target audiences also couldn’t understand what the difference was between his daily vlogs and Beme News (both on YouTube). As Neistat put it himself, the project was deemed a “failure”.
At the end of the day, a company should have its own brand; separate from its founders and/or CEO.
Putting It All Together
To have strong brand is to build a strong public image and perception. Digital & Content Strategy plays a huge part in this area. When it comes to branding, more often than not, people are driven by emotion rather than cold, hard logic. Brand loyalty, brand affinity and great product design is what drives us to make irrational decisions and impulse buys. Think of the last time you went grocery shopping — what were the driving factors that compelled you to choose your particular purchase? Did you go with something familiar or did you go with something you’ve never heard of? When you have a genuine vision and mission that intrigues senses, coupled with the right brand strategy, the power of brand perception can be very compelling for your consumers. They say that good branding is very costly. I think a company without a good brand strategy costs more.