Branding is the emotional thing that happens after a consumer buys something.
I have met with many potential clients, paying clients, and previous employers about branding. They all want this magic logo, symbol, name, color, style guide, and all the other design elements to create or embody their brand. They never want to do the hard part about their brand, which is the emotional thing after the sale.
Brands exist in the hearts, minds, and mouths of the consumer, not the company. If a company wants to have their brand statement be “impeccable quality”, then they have to do a few things:
- Define what “impeccable quality” means in a measurable manner. Does it mean that every wire is perfectly dressed in the rack? How about the control system software has less than 5 punch list items before final billing? Maybe that all deadlines are met? Just exactly what is impeccable quality?
- How does the company deliver the brand? Exactly what are those efforts? It is nearly impossible to nail all of these details, but a strong, focused effort goes a long way.
- Inspect what you expect. Measure what you expect the brand to be delivering.
- Listen to your customers and the circle of people wrapped around the project. Do they say your brand?
Apple is worshiped as the exemplary brand by nearly everyone. The brand loyal consumers for Apple will say that Apple thinks differently and delivers really cool solutions. The brand isn’t constrained by a technology, a product or a specific activity, especially since they dropped the word “Computers” from their name.
I bring up Apple because there are many companies that try to create a brand name that will mean something to a consumer and help with the marketing efforts. Exactly what does a piece of fruit have to do with computers, a music store, tablets, or smart phones? Nothing. Many successful companies have a generic name and have been very successful. A few examples: Mercedes Benz, Ford, Rolex, Cartier, Rolls Royce, Google, and the list goes on. I would even argue that a generic name allows a company to grow and evolve as the consumer’s needs grow. Many of the companies that have specific names have tried to evolve beyond the constraint of their own name, such as: IBM, Best Buy, and AT&T.
Here is a small piece of insight on how Apple selected their name.
Writing in his 2006 book iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon, Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak explains it this way:
“It was a couple of weeks later when we came up with a name for the partnership. I remember I was driving Steve Jobs back from the airport along Highway 85. Steve was coming back from a visit to Oregon to a place he called an “apple orchard.” It was actually some kind of commune. Steve suggested a name – Apple Computer. The first comment out of my mouth was, “What about Apple Records?” This was (and still is) the Beatles-owned record label. We both tried to come up with technical-sounding names that were better, but we couldn’t think of any good ones. Apple was so much better, better than any other name we could think of.”
A book titled Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World’s Most Colorful Company says that both Wozniak and Jobs tried out alternate brand names such as Executex and Matrix Electronics, but they didn’t like anything as much as Apple Computer.
The point here is not to count on the company name, logo, tag line, or colors to do the work for your brand. You have to go do the work and not rely on a magical name.
A company’s brand is the essence of how their consumers feel about them. Form follows function. Dig deep into the emotional connection your company provides for your clients. Then put the essence of that into your symbols, colors, layouts, style guides. Understand the function and then create the form.
I found a recent study from Oracle, 2011 Customer Experience Impact Report that is pretty telling about the relationship. Here is an excerpt that I found interesting:
“Why Consumers Commit to a Brand
When it comes to consumer expectations for great experiences, there are several tactics a brand can use to woo a customer. What makes a memorable experience that causes consumers to stick with a brand? According to the CEI survey, consumers want
- Friendly employees or customer service representatives (73 percent)
- The ability to easily find the information or help they need (55 percent)
- Personalized experiences (36 percent)
- Brands with a good reputation (33 percent)
Based on the survey responses, hiring and empowering the right staff is the most critical element to successfully courting consumers. Next, brands must ensure easy access to information and support. Brands also need to create personalized experiences; this includes knowing what customers have bought in the past and service issues they’ve raised, as well as sending appropriate, timely, and useful updates.”
The full report is an easy read and confirms what most of us think about the brands we deal with.
My challenge to every business owner is to get out of their ivory tower of the office and go spend time with consumers. Get a solid understanding of the emotional part that happens after the sale. If your to busy for this, focus your branding folks on this effort. Do not believe your own hyperbole about how great the company is. Get it from the consumer’s mouth.
My services include brand consulting that is always eye opening. I have a great group of branding folks that dig deep, get to the essence of the brand, and them embody that essence into forms needed to drive the company forward. Contact me and let’s see how we can focus your company on true branding.