A brand is a set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.
– Seth Godin
Over time people have realised that in order to communicate effectively as a business (or even as an individual for that matter), we need to be able to eloquently articulate our views. If you look at some of the most successful businesses today, their identities are often related to much more than just a product or service; they have a distinct personality.
The personality of a business — it’s brand identity — is determined by interactions with it across its many touchpoints. A lot of which are through social media, articles, blogs, news media, events etc. In this way, businesses define who they are and what they stand for. In a world saturated with competition and similar products, the biggest differentiator is often who you are — not what you sell.
Catharine Slade tells us in her book, Creating a Brand Identity, “A brand is far more than a name, logo, symbol or a trademark that highlights its origin. Imbued with a set of unique values that define its character, a brand works as an unwritten contract promising to deliver satisfaction by providing consistent quality each time.”
Customers are likely to develop long term loyalty to a brand if they can emotionally connect to it.
Effective Branding Humanises a Business
Today’s web is an endless 24/7 cycle fed by content and social actions. In this cycle, brands are realizing that content is currency
– Bryan Rhoads, global content strategy, Intel
A weak content strategy is often the reason for the failure of a product or service. Apple’s ads for example tend to focus on how people are using the product, rather than the product itself (Taylor Swift vs The Treadmill, The Rock vs Siri, etc.). Despite sounding slightly counter-intuitive, this strategy has proven to be extremely successful. These ads have people using products to highlight it’s features, but also make relevant references to pop-culture (e.g. Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl ad).
The power of creating identities through content that people can relate to in their everyday lives is immense. The attention to detail is critical because the subliminal effect of everything you read, see and hear is almost impossible to measure.
The challenge today is no longer just to create content. It is to create content that users can engage with. We’re so saturated with direct advertising that we often completely shut them out. Original content that doesn’t talk about the product however, is an entirely different story.
Generate Content That Tells a Story, Don’t Sell.
BBS StoryWorks through its research, found that content-led marketing has a number of benefits — improved brand recognition, increased likelihood of brand recommendation and most importantly, increased consumption.
Red Bull is a classic example of a business that has built a very strong brand through excellent content and storytelling; it is no longer associated with just a caffeine packed energy drink. The brand is now synonymous with everything from extreme sports, to aerobatics and Formula 1. True to its tagline, “Red Bull Gives You Wings”, the company is now a multi-platform media company with a focus on sports, culture and lifestyle.
On October 14th 2012, Felix Baumgartner set a world record of free falling from 38,969m. This was sponsored by Red Bull in an effort to support and fund a project that was in line with their brand identity. The list of projects that Red Bull and other similar brands sponsor are endless. The subliminal messages of such advertising, however, have an everlasting effect.
Red Bull does not try to over-sell its products, and personally I never drink it, but I can still relate to the brand. The association is no longer solely with the energy drink, but instead with it’s carefully-constructed humanised identity. There’s a higher likelihood that I would buy a product from them over their competitors (if they ever sold something I wanted). if they ever release a product I might want to buy, there’s a higher likelihood of buying from them versus a competitor.
Instead of the commercial, be the show. Instead of the banner ad, be the feature story. The value returned is often that people associate good things with — and return to engage with — the brand.
– James O’Brien, Contently
The idea of subliminal advertising and branding could be seen as early as the 1930s, when radios played featured stories and songs that tactfully mentioned the name of a business. As times evolved, this scheme entered the television arena where you now have product placement in TV shows and movies. And today with advent of the internet, through blogs, YouTube videos and other digital means, business continue to craft their identities.
Content may have evolved over the past few decades, but the goal for businesses has always been the same — creating an association with certain contexts to help build an identity.
It is easy to create mainstream content that momentarily appeals to the masses but in order to build a lasting impression you need to be genuine and true to yourself. Trends fade, but your identity is timeless. Create original content that evokes emotion, addresses current issues and educates the audience. Toyota’s 2018 Super bowl ad in America is a classic example of this. In a divided country this ad tries to address a problem that is on everyone’s mind.
So What Should You Do?
Start to think about your business as a human. Define what you believe it represents and what the brand really is or could be. Be honest. Once you write down what’s important, you can then start to materialise these ideas in different forms — through writing, social media, blogs, articles, sponsorships, videos, etc. The possibilities are endless.