We Take Building Brands Seriously

The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.”

Think of Target’s bulls eye, Nike’s ‘swoosh,’ Coca Cola’s ubiquitous red and white logo, Starbucks’ mermaid and the ‘macdaddy’ of them all—the famous golden arches of McDonalds. No matter where you go, anywhere on Planet Earth, you know those brands without ever seeing the company name. They’re consistent, no matter where you see them—in print, online, in social media, everywhere—and for good reason.

Stanley Hainsworth, the creative guru behind some of the world’s most well-known brands, including Nike, Lego and Starbucks, declared that a brand is “an entity that engenders an emotional connection with a consumer.” He’s right. Think about what you feel when you see the brands I just mentioned:

  • Nike – with these shoes, I can accomplish great feats of athletic prowess!
  • Target – I expect more and pay less. Good old fashioned values with a mix of designer goods thrown in the mix
  • Coca Cola – drinking Coke brings happiness around the world
  • Starbucks – a splurge that I indulge in with a company that’s fun and recognizes social responsibility
  • McDonalds – it’s not luxury, but here’s where I can get consistent food in a hurry

Your brand and your company are joined at the hip—interchangeable as far as your customers are concerned, so it’s important that your brand be consistently represented in every medium from advertising to social media. Here are five reasons why:

1. Reinforce your identity – a consistent brand reinforces your products, services, and value; in other words, your unique selling proposition. Knowing what to expect from your brand, and seeing it represented consistently, helps customers assign a value. This takes on even more importance if your company has a good story to tell. Stanley Hainsworth points to Starbucks as a great example of this and to Microsoft as an example of a brand that has never told its story well. “There’s no emotional story to rally around. The Bill Gates story is such an incredible story, but it’s never really been expressed by the brand,” he says.

2. Increase recognition/reputation across all media – if you’re consistent across all media, customers will recognize your brand just by the colors, jingle, tagline or the logo itself. Think of Apple’s half-eaten apple symbol or McDonald’s “I’m loving it” tagline. This is especially true for social media, where the objective is to reach out to as many people as possible. You can only do that if you are consistent with your brand.  and you can only

3. Create credibility and trust – as I mentioned earlier, brands have a ‘personality’ that customers attribute to it. That personality encourages (or discourages!) customer loyalty, which can establish, maintain, or often recover a company’s position in the market. Establishing and maintaining trust helped companies like Johnson & Johnson overcome its 2010 Tylenol recall; it will be interesting to see if the J&J brand is strong enough to withstand recent problems with its surgical mesh product. And Target is hoping that its brand credibility will ease consumers’ concerns after the company’s massive data breach last year.

4. Set you apart from competitors –  the most obvious reason to keep your brand consistent is because it’s what differentiates you from your competitors. Consumers are overwhelmed by the volume of brands and are easily confused when products and packaging are similar. By maintaining consistency in color, font, design and placement, the messaging that defines your brand’s promise will be constant across all channels.

5. Serve as a living example of what you can do for your customers’ brands’ – last but not least, if you’re creating a brand presence for your customers, your own brand needs to be clear and consistent and serve as a living example of your expertise. You know what it’s like to get excited about a company and then visit their web site and it’s a mess. Practice what you preach and walk the talk.

A brand is often your most valuable corporate asset. Controlling brand consistency will help you drive customer perception from first contact all the way through the buying decision-making process. If you’d like to know how to make your brand stronger—and more consistent, Iconic Orange can help.