When we talk about a company’s brand, we most commonly reference a company’s logo, color palette and tagline, right? It’s instinctive. When asked, the majority of us would be able to immediately identify the Nike swoosh or Apple icon. We know that M&Ms “Melt in your mouth, not in your hands,” and “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” We associate green with John Deere and red with Coca-Cola. You get the picture. And while these brand characteristics are the most tangible, it’s important to remember that a brand is so much more than a name, logo, color and tagline. A brand is a promise to your constituents. It’s something that needs to be lived, not just designed.
We call it strategic branding. It involves all audiences, your traditions, your vision for the future, your culture and most importantly, your internal buy-in. For example, an airline company can’t roll out “Fly the Friendly Skies” and simply re-paint a few planes if its employees can’t deliver on that brand promise. Your brand development must be strategic because the outcome must be a highly differentiated presentation of your ideals and your unique selling proposition.
So, what’s a brand?
An unwritten contract of intrinsic value. Take State Farm, for example. The company’s brand promise, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there,” is an unwritten contract with defined value. The company promises their customers that it will be there when they need it. After all, you don’t call your insurance company when things are going well; you call them when things go wrong. If the company doesn’t follow through on its promise, the brand falls flat, regardless of how pretty the logo is or what the tagline says.
A mark of trust and reduced risk. Marketers, regardless of their auto brand preference, can’t deny that Ford’s branding has established the company as a shining example of reliability and trust. The brand has stood the test of time and the company is known for listening and acting on its customers’ needs. These attributes have forged a strong connection between the brand and consumers, as shown by its high rankings for stability and dependability.
It evokes emotion. Coca-Cola sells happiness. The company unveiled a new tagline in 2016, inviting customers to “Taste the Feeling.” In 2009, it encouraged consumers to “Open Happiness” and in 2006 it showed us the “Coke Side of Life.” I could go on, but you get the picture. Since its inception, Coca-Cola’s promise has been to delight consumers, and it pushes this message consistently in every interaction with customers.
Has an identity, a reputation and a personality. Target is one of my favorite stores – it’s fun, hip, affordable and welcoming. It’s easy to forget that it’s a discount store. With creative ad campaigns and collaborations with high-end designers, Target has built a reputation and personality that’s appealing to consumers. And Target shoppers know they are going to have a good retail experience every time – they’re treated like guests, not just customers, with customer service that is friendly and consistent.
A collection of your stakeholders’ memories. One of my fondest memories as a kid was going to the movie theater to see the latest Disney® animated picture. These memories and experiences have created a powerful connection between me and the Disney brand. Whether you’re simply watching its latest motion picture or visiting one of its theme parks, Disney promises a magical experience every time. The consistent delivery on that promise is what keeps customers coming again and again, and my childhood memories of these experiences ensure that I will provide these experiences for my children, too.
A relationship with your customers. Starbucks has built a brand on creating connections. When you walk into the coffee shop, customers are offered free Wi-Fi and large tables with room for groups, enabling its customers to interact—bringing people together. Starbucks doesn’t have an official slogan, choosing instead to live its mission “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”
What’s a brand? A brand is a promise. One that should be experienced in every interaction your customer has with your organization. A brand should be predictable and turn customer interactions from transactions into relationships. The sum of all these attributes add up to deep-rooted and sustainable customer loyalty.
About the Author: Rebranding can be a wild ride. As an account manager, Ruby has led the charge on several large rebranding initiatives during her tenure at Amperage Marketing & Fundraising. She moves the needle for clients by providing direction and vision, and ensures all seat belts are fastened and all arms and legs remain inside the ride at all times.