When I say the word “brand,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Most likely, it’s your company’s logo. For many people, brand equals the visual symbol that represents a company or product. And while that may be true to a certain extent, a brand is so much more. At least it should be. If it’s not, that may be holding your product or company back from being the category captain. Successful brands compete for mind share, just as hard as they compete for market share. And they do so in so many invisible, intangible ways. One of my partners, Ed Holme, recently shared a similar look at brand, from the business perspective that a complete, thriving brand ecosystem is what fuels the growth and value in your brand and its identity, ultimately creating perhaps the greatest asset an organization can own. I couldn’t agree more. So from a designer’s perspective, how does that happen? By being everywhere.
I’ve shared the BOLTGROUP definition of brand several times, but it’s worth repeating: Brand is the sum total of all visual and non-visual, verbal and non-verbal, tangible and non-tangible elements that help to identify, form, create, and influence unique and positive associations for a product, service, or entity that differentiates it from its competition, creating meaning, value, and preference in one’s mind.
Notice the word visual was only used once in that long definition. That’s because your brand is so much more. Your brand, and the feelings associated with it, are what drive and influence behavior toward and for your brand. Those invisible, intangible feelings that hide in all kinds of places are what make your customers love you. And love your brand. Our job is to make sure we know what those invisible and intangible feelings are supposed to be, through empathy and insights, and then design them into the experiences your customers have with your brand. Cool trick, right? As strategists and designers, we work hard in the discovery and definition phase of a program to ferret out those brand attributes—those adjectives that describe feelings you want people to feel about your brand. Then to visually and verbally manifest those through every single expression of your brand, especially the ones you don’t think about. How those feelings are expressed is what differentiates your brand from anyone else’s. And that’s what creates meaning, which becomes value, and ultimately drives preference.
Don’t get me wrong, having a mark or logotype that visually distinguishes you from your competition is very important. And so is having a website that gives its users a greater experience than the competition. It’s all part of what we do as brand developers. But that’s not enough to achieve a successful brand that people will love, especially not in today’s highly competitive market. You must go beyond, making sure your brand touches everything that your constituents touch. And feel. Think about all the ways your customers interact with your brand on a daily basis. Think about the phone calls, the supply chain, the shipping, the retail, the e-tail, the conversations that take place right outside your office. The brand is there. Or should be. As a living, breathing thing, your brand could be providing the emotive qualities required to turn an employee into a brand ambassador, or a shopper into a customer. For life.
So as you think about your business goals this year, overlay your brand strategy. Then do what’s required to make sure your goals are aligned, driving and influencing what you want to make your customers feel from your brand. Love, trust, and loyalty.