Branding draws from the disciplines of management, marketing, advertising, design and, most importantly, psychology, which is what makes it so difficult to do well — and so powerful when you get it right.
While a logo is an important visual representation of a brand, a great brand is so much more than just its mark.
If Apple decided to make a car, what would it look like? You can probably see it in your head already. It’s silver, sleek, techy, digital, electric, and the famous logo glows from the bonnet. The reason you can already picture a thing that hasn’t been made yet is because of the power of branding. You already know what Apple stands for, you understand its purpose, and you know what it does and does not do.
Hallmark’s essence is “Shared Caring”. You’ll never see a card from Hallmark that says, “I hate you!” because that would be a long way from caring, and therefore damaging to the brand. Hallmark could, however, launch a subsidiary, Evil Cards, if it felt the need to access the non-greeting card market.
One of the world’s most well-known motorcycle brands is Harley Davidson, which does not make the fastest, most efficient or best-handling motorbikes. Yet many Harley fans will happily get their beloved brand tattooed on their bodies. Why? It’s all about what the brand stands for; that rebellious Easy Rider freedom, the comradeship of the open road.
It’s a myth that Harley Davidson has a trademark on the distinctive rumble its bikes make, but it did fight a failed legal battle to own the rebel roar from 1994 to 2000. (Other manufacturers argued successfully that they make the same configuration of engine, so Harley couldn’t own the sound.) Harley fought so hard to own that clearly identifiable exhaust note because it knows it represents individuality and freedom in the hearts and minds of generations.
It’s not about what’s in the can
Imagine if Coca-Cola replaced its instantly recognisable red-and-white logo with a picture of a wombat or a washing machine. It would be dead as a business in an instant. It’s not about what’s in the can — the product — it’s about the hopes, dreams, memories, aspirations, prejudices and perceptions in a consumer’s heart and mind.
Our copywriter, Phil Barker, was once publisher of donna hay magazine about 15 years ago. He tells of watching in amazement as a new brand essence — “Special Made Simple”— just three words, made a spectacular positive impact on the business. It was applied to everything, including photography, recipes, captions, even the cover price and the cover stock. It worked because readers quickly came to understand what the donna hay magazine brand stood for; maximum bang for your dollar and kitchen time. The brand still owns that desirable position to this day.
BEING a brand
The Being Group’s essence is Enabling Human Endeavour. We call our brand mark the spark. It flashed into life in the negative space between two capital Bs, one reversed, as a nod to our origin as Being Brands.
The elegant spark shape now glows in neon from a wall in our Millers Point studio and sits in the centre of our laptop screens. For us, and clients who have come to know us, it represents the energy of BEING — a spark of insight that lights a way forward.
Our tagline and essence means our work is all about human beings — our challenges, aspirations and spirit of endeavour. It means we’ll only ever do work that is positive and meaningful. We choose our clients carefully. It also means the people who work here are treated like special human beings. It can be quite startling for newbies to encounter the elaborate, personalised birthday celebrations, the cute rituals that spring from our past, the open, honest (and sometimes emotional) monthly all-staff meetings. To be honest, it’s unusual. But great brands must stay true to their essence, internally and externally, to achieve long-term success.
The quest for greatness
American brand consultant, Scott Bedbury, once Nike’s advertising director and Starbucks’ chief marketing officer, helped both companies become super-brands. He suggests eight benchmarks brands must hit in the quest for greatness.
- Be in it for the long haul
All the truly great brands you know have been alive across generations.
- Be anything
Virgin started as a record company. Now The Virgin Group has a bank, an airline, and is flying into space, among other things.
- Know themselves
Great brands must understand their purpose, what they are, and what they are not.
- Invent, or reinvent, an entire category
What’s special or different about your brand?
- Tap into emotions
Great brands make people feel something.
- Show design consistency
You must be instantly recognisable but can evolve over time. Remember when Apple’s apple was rainbow?
- Tell a story that never ends
Like Qantas or R.M.Williams, great brands are rooted in the past and reinventing for the future.
- Always be relevant
Understand societal tastes are changing faster than ever before. Great brands connect their story to what’s happening right now.
How does your brand measure up?
The Being Group is a brand built to last, on what we believe are enduring values and sound principles. We have a side that conserves, in harmony with a vibrant spirit of change and innovation.
Whatever we do, the spark of human endeavour will always be at the centre.
At the end of this story about branding, it would be off-brand if we didn’t say that we can help spark your brand into life too.