Brand Building: Why You Need a Strong Brand Presence

I was recently inspired by Marty Neumeir’s book The Brand Gap. As a designer, it’s important to continually look for inspiration and educate your understanding about branding further. Here are a few of the concepts that stuck with me from the section about Brand Building.

A brand is not a Logo, not an identity nor a product. A brand is a person’s inner feelings towards a product, a person or an organization. Or more like what they believe the product, person or an organization is about. It’s something so intangible, only to be defined by a person or an individual, not companies, or media and market.

Building a strong solid brand is important if you want your legacy or business to thrive. To do this, you must observe 5 basic effective brand disciplines namely: CONTRAST, COLLABORATE, CREATE, CERTIFY & CULTIVATE.

CONTRAST.

Be different. It’s a fact, our brain instantly processes and acts as a filter to protect us from too much information. We are hardwired to notice only what’s different since it is in our nature to adapt. Because that, we are also sensitive towards change. It’s important for a brand to have focus. You have achieved this if your client sees you, what you do and your branding consistently.

By reinforcing your brand’s focus, you are growing its value. For example, Porsche is known for sports cars. They do have SUVs but they have always been known for their sports cars. That’s Porsche’s focus. The most common reason for the loss of focus is badly thought out brand extensions. This is often due to chasing short-term profits, unfortunately at the expense of long-term brand value. On the other hand, good brand extensions grow the value of a brand by reinforcing its focus.

COLLABORATE.

Like building a church, building a brand is a collaborative project. It takes a community to build a good brand. The one-stop shop strategy contains the resources to develop and steward/manage the brand. The brand agency hires best-of-breed firms to help develop and manage the brand. The Integrated Marketing Team is managed internally with open collaboration among best-of-breed specialists.

In reality, collaborative networks aren’t that simple, but that is ok. Collaborative networks are not new, a successful model has existed for years. Like Hollywood and Disney making a movie takes hundreds of collaborators as seen in “roll credits” after movies like Avengers Infinity war. In the 1990s, Creative Collaboration spread to brand building. An example is the Netscape brand which was built based on the Hollywood model. The mathematics of collaboration is nothing less than MAGIC. It’s like… 1+1 can be equal to 11. It’s a myth that wide experience leads to deep insights but rather deep insights come from deep experience.

CREATE.

Execution, not strategy, is where the real test happens. Creativity is what gives brands their traction in the marketplace. Why do companies have so much trouble with creativity? Because creativity is right-brained, and strategy is left-brained. It’s important to have great graphics. Logos are long gone. To begin with, the brand needs a stand-out name. When competition zigs, you’ve got to zag.

Now, how do you know when an idea is a revolutionary one? Answer: When it frights the hell out of your generation. When something is too predictable there is no surprise. When there is no surprise that means nothing’s new then there’s no value. Take logos, for example, they are on the brink of extinction! Here come the icons & avatars! An icon is a name and visual symbol, that suggests a market position. An avatar is a brand icon that can move, change, and operate freely in various media.

For products that sell at the grocery or in public markets, the packaging is often the best and last stand for purchase. The diligent packages create thinking, a cue or an opportunity for a sale. A shopper will notice the package design and fills up with thoughts “What is this?” then thinks about “Why should I?” The shopper wants to be persuaded and needs proof. By showcasing the proper information and creating these patterns, the packaging can push the product sales.

If you talk to your clients/consumers online, your website needs to follow a similar pattern. Only give users the information they need instead of trying to cram everything onto the landing/home page and making your users do much of the work, which will eventually cause them to hit exit. There are too many examples of websites that are fattened with trivial information when all you need is ask is a simple question: “Does our website look fat in this dress?”

Here are some observations and made up words from Marty Neumeier that categorize these situations here of the following:

1. TURFISMO: Every department wants to be on the homepage
2. FEATURITIS: Inexperienced communicators believe more is better
3. TECHNOPHOBIA: Experienced communicators resist new media

CERTIFY.

Certification means bringing the audience into the creative process. The past speech 101 model: Speaker- Speech- Listener, was a monologue. What we need is a dialogue, like the new communication model to test your most innovative solutions before they get to the audience by getting feedback from the receiver to the sender. No need for large quantitative studies or focus groups. Quantitative studies bury the problem in heaps of unhelpful data while focus groups focus on the research rather than being the research. The best test is quick, cheap and dirty. However, better to have a rough answer to the right question than a detailed answer to the wrong question.

Here are some tests from Neumeier that you can try without spending too much.

Test 1: Swap test – This test is a proof for trademarks. If the names and graphics of two trademarks are better when swapped, then neither is optimal.
Test 2: Hand Test – This test is a proof of a distinctive voice. If you can’t tell who’s talking when the trademark is covered, then the brand’s voice is not distinctive.
Test 3: Field Test – The field test is a proof for any concept that can be prototyped. If your audience can’t verbalize your concept, you’ve failed to communicate it. Field tests measure five things: distinctiveness, relevance, memorability, extendability, and depth of meaning.

CULTIVATE.

Business is a process, not an entity. A living brand is a pattern of behavior, not a stylistic façade. Brands are like people. Think of this: If people can change their clothes without changing their characters, why can’t brands? The goal now is to influence the character of a brand. Gone is the old paradigm that there should be control of the look and feel of the brand.

However, don’t let your brand behave in a way that ruins your consumer’s trust. If a brand looks like a Swan and swims like a frog, people will distrust it. For example, don’t sell fitness bar snacks with a tagline “thin is in”, when you’re in an event promoting a major movie franchise that focuses on empowering women in a general perspective. This creates a bad message or distorted image of your brand.

So let’s say you’ve CONTRASTED, COLLABORATED, CREATED, and CERTIFIED. Your brand is now is SUPER NUMBER ONE in its category. What’s your next step? Keep it rolling, hand out the compasses!

But really, what’s a compass? As Neumeier describes it, “The Compass is a continuing brand education program. Brand orientation, brand seminars, positioning workshops, brand audits, strategic summits creative councils, quarterly critiques, group brainstorming, teamwork training, innovation clinics, design audits, brand manuals, brand publications, brand road shows, teamwork tools. The more distributed a brand becomes, the stronger its management needs to be. What your company needs is a CBO or Chief Branding Officer. The CBO forms a human bridge between logic and magic, strategy and design.”

By mastering the five disciplines of Brand Building, the company creates a virtuous circle and with every turn around the circle, the value of the brand spirals higher, building a sustainable competitive advantage. We should thank all the experts and who spent their life, studying and working on how brands evolve into something more than what was expected and kept on growing.

Pax Francia

Pax Francia

Patrick (aka Pax) is our quirky Graphic Designer. He’s full of ideas and likes to get creative with avatars and logo designs. He draws a lot of his inspiration from Manga and Anime. Pax is also a major hoarder of colored pens and Gundams. There are so many on his desk, it’s enough for him to disappear behind. Literally.