A brand is a relationship, a reputation, a set of expectations, a promise.
Rita Clifton, Former Chair, Interbrand
Today brands are ubiquitous. Think of your toothpaste, your shoes, the apps on your phone, all the shops and cafes you’ve walked past since this morning. We see brands everywhere. In fact, we’re so acclimatised that we don’t always consciously take in what they communicate.
Businesses and organisations know this, and it can work to their advantage.
Used well, branding can be an incredibly effective tool. It doesn’t just help companies put across their message. It also drives growth and profits. A McKinsey study of 2013 examining the correlation of brand strength and financial performance found companies with stronger brands performed significantly better.
Strong brands typically drive the bottom line, and above–average financial performance strengthens the brand in turn – a virtuous cycle.
McKinsey & Company, Business Branding: Bringing Strategy to Life
Done badly, branding can turn into a disaster. Even trusted brands can get it wrong. Remember the time Coca Cola tried to sell filtered tap water under the name Dasani(They’d rather you forgot.) Get it right, and people will remember you for all the right reasons. Baileys Irish Cream – invented by a marketing man in Manhattan in the 1970s – has established its “Irish” roots.
At Sparks, we believe good branding requires careful thought and intelligent oversight.
Branding is more than a logo
Take a look at these.
What springs to mind when you see these supermarket logos?
Here’s another. Which of these cars would you buy?
Logos are important. Some you’ll know instantly. Even so, they’re not the whole story.
Perceptions arise from all kinds of marketing and touch points, such as packaging, advertising, websites and social media.
And it’s not just about what’s seen. It’s also about what’s experienced. If you say you’re going to make your customers’ lives easier, all your communications and actions (right down to the font of the forms you put on your website) need to back that up.
In crowded, noisy markets, a strong brand is what makes your business or organisation stand out.
It can shape perceptions, build trust and enable choice. And it needs to be consistent.
Who is branding for?
No business or organisation can afford to ignore its brand.
Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.
Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon
It’s important to get branding right inside your company, not just on the outside. A great example of good internal communications is the First Direct staff handbook.
First Direct has done a lot of work to develop and refine its brand. Its handbook sets out in black and white (and with a light touch) how the First Direct brand underlies all its business objectives.
If you’re a service company, your most important audience is your own people. Do a good job equipping them to understand, reflect and promote your brand, and they’ll find it much easier to engage and win over external audiences.
Brands have two roles… Persuading outsiders to buy and insiders to believe.
Wally Olins, Founder of Wolff Olins
Ultimately, branding makes an impact on people who want to buy. Think about what matters to people who might buy your product or service. How will it improve their lives? Don’t just think about features. Consider benefits.
Remember the first generation iPod? Apple could’ve led with a message about its revolutionary new 16GB mp3 player. But its first marketing campaign didn’t talk about features at all – Say hello to iPod. 1000 songs in your pocket.
What benefits will you offer?
Why does branding matter?
Branding enables people to make choices. Today’s markets are full of generic and bland language and design. Dare to be distinctive, and you’ll stand out. That’s the first step.
Branding matters for businesses and organisations because it drives growth and profits. Multiple studies show the correlation between brand strength and financial performance. Those with a strong brand can outperform others by as much as 20%, according to McKinsey & Co.
Investing in building your brand can pay off handsomely.
When to invest in branding?
Commonly, businesses and organisations invest in branding as they look to grow, or to move to a new stage.
Sometimes they embark on branding projects after a merger, to recover from a crisis, as they enter new markets, or as they expand their offering.
It’s good to ask ‘when’s the best time’? But it’s even more important to define your objective. What’s the issue or problem you’re trying to solve, and how will branding help you?
At Sparks, we believe there’s no point in change for the sake of change. Find your purpose.
How to brand well
Honestly? Hire the professionals.
We would say that. But in daily life, we trust professionals all the time, especially when there’s something at stake. Would you cut your own hair? Or trust an amateur to do your root canal treatment?
At Sparks, we’re involved in branding every day. We know it can be tricky to get the message right. Cover different angles. Strike the right tone. Achieve consistency.
By investing in an informed outsider perspective, you’ll increase your chances of success, and of driving growth. You’ll also reduce the risk of a costly failure.
Our approach is to simplify, well.
It’s a complicated and noisy world… So we have to be really clear about what we want [people] to know about us.
Steve Jobs, Apple
We’ve developed robust methodologies to help our clients build brands that people can trust. We don’t add to the noise. Instead, we’ll help you to stand out.