If you think your brand is your logo, colors and company name then you’re missing the mark. I have met too many individuals that believe the logo should be THE predominant piece in marketing. If your name isn’t said so many times then the consumer will forget you. Or if your company color doesn’t take over the page then people won’t stop. Branding is much more than just a nifty logo.
Sit back for a moment and think about the brands that you love the most. Why do you love these brands? Do they feature your favorite color? Is their font a fancy serif design? Does their logo have a cool mascot? These all may be great things to help you remember the brand, but they usually aren’t what afixes you to the brand. You’re drawn because of the lifestyle that the brand provides or the problem that is solved by the brand.
What is Branding?
Branding is the portrayal of who your company is and what you are about. To get technical, Merriam-Webster defines branding as “the promoting of a product or service by identifying it with a particular brand” then defining a brand as “a category of products that are all made by a particular company and all have a particular name”. These definitions seem to leave it up in the air a bit as to what I am referring to. I would like to dive a little deeper.
“The word “brand” derives from the Old Norse “brandr” meaning “to burn” – recalling the practice of producers burning their mark (or brand) onto their products.” — Wikipedia
As we look back ages ago we see the use of brands and marks throughout society. Cattle and sheep were “branded” with a mark on them to show what rancher they belonged to. Then if your neighbors branded cattle ended up amongst yours you could return it to the rightful owner. This practice is shown to date back to ancient Egypt. Wikipedia sites that “The word “brand” derives from the Old Norse “brandr” meaning “to burn” – recalling the practice of producers burning their mark (or brand) onto their products.” The word means literally to burn. It is our duty as brand builders to burn the image and vibe of our brand into the mind of consumers. From cattle it later branched out to paper, herbs, shipping companies and now the modern day brand. Branding is everywhere around us now.
A brand is an intangible asset, but often times is the most valuable asset on a company’s balance sheet. This shows the value of establishing a brand of recognizable importance. A company can make great product, that being part of the brand, but often that is not enough. However, consumers don’t buy a logo, they buy what the logo represents. This representation is all of the components that make up a company’s brand. These include, but are not limited to; The company culture, the benefits of the products provided, the lifestyle portrayed by the company, the imagery & other creative assets put forth, the products, the unique selling propositions, the story, the copy, the logo and the colors. Yes, the marks are important, but what a brand provides for its consumers trumps all. Below I show some examples that I have seen of companies that have built great brands.
Brands That I Think Get It
Yes, that little apple is everywhere nowadays, but it is not because its a cool mark. It’s simple. Frankly, its a piece of fruit, but when you see that mark you don’t find hunger pains, you have thoughts of beautiful design, creativity, simplicity and reliability. These are a few of the things that Apple wants to instill in the consumer’s mind. Another, lately, has been adventure. They want you to find new adventures and achievement by utilizing their products to get you to great places and learning. Check out the Apple commercial below to see what I am talking about.
This is probably my favorite outdoor brand. Patagonia is authentic to the core. There are other brands out there that make great product and have a great story. I use many things from these other brands, but when I look at a brand that is doing it right in branding and messaging then it is Patagonia. They are true to their messaging in everything that they do. They are willing to take risks in marketing that encourages people not to purchase their products. Their first priority is the earth that we live in.
“The reason why we won’t face up to our problems with the environment is that we are the problem. It’s not the corporations out there, it’s not the governments, it’s us. We’re the ones telling the corporations to make more stuff, and make it as cheap and as disposable as possible. We’re not citizens anymore. We’re consumers. That’s what we’re called. It’s just like being an alcoholic and being in denial that you’re an alcoholic. We’re in denial that each and every one of us is the problem. And until we face up to that, nothing’s going to happen. So, there’s a movement for simplifying your life: purchase less stuff, own a few things that are very high quality that last a long time, and that are multifunctional.” — Yvon Chouinard – Patagonia Founder
Over the past few years there have been a couple of key ad campaigns that Patagonia has pushed out there. First, they ran a campaign a few years ago to “Don’t Buy This Jacket”. The campaign was centered around the importance of not buying more stuff just to have stuff. It was focused on one specific jacket of theirs and the cost to the ecosystem for just the manufacturing and shipping of the one jacket that they make. Then, this past Holiday selling season they pushed their “Worn Wear” campaign. They encouraged people to skip the Black Friday shopping and instead come into their stores to watch a video on how to prolong the life of your clothing and other products. Instead of buying more stuff they wanted us to make our stuff last through hand me downs, sewing torn seems, patching and more.
These features and then the culture that they live breaths through everything that they do. The executives are all climbers, skiers, surfers, trail runners, hikers, and all things outdoors. They understand the market that they are in. They are passionate about it and want all of their customers to get out with the products that they make to do more.
How does a drink company become an icon? They build their brand around the story of adventure, high octane and crazy stunts. They are catering specifically to the adrenaline generation. They want to show you that you can push yourself to new heights and achieve amazing things. It is not the wings that you get from Red Bull that get you there, but they sure portray that theory. I don’t need Red Bull to jump off cliffs, drive fast cars, ski gnarly terrain, surf mega waves or even drop to earth from outer space. Red Bull has this generation convinced that you do though. It is amazing branding. Never do they talk about taste, ingredients or any other feature of their drinks. They are solely focused on branding and that sells cans and cans make a lot of money.
I love what Whole Foods is doing as a brand. They are in one of the toughest markets, grocery. They work on relatively low margins and constantly expiring products, but they are about bringing the best food and the best quality. They want us to eat right, but prolong the health of the planet and its people the best way possible.
With great courage, integrity and love – we embrace our responsibility to co-create a world where each of us, our communities and our planet can flourish. All the while, celebrating the sheer love and joy of food. — Whole Foods’ Higher Purpose Statement
They are passionate about what they do. They are authentic to the core. Providing healthy recipes, food tips, classes and opportunities to give back.
How To Brand
As you’ve seen above, branding is about the story & culture created by a brand. You can leverage your products and benefits to tell this story, but you need to couple all of it together. At Altra we have sought to build a brand that embraces the running vibe and culture. We are committed to showing runners find their soul in running and achieve what they may not have believed possible. We have seen many that have come back to running or have pushed their running beyond previous limits. There is a passion for the sport in everything that we do. We must be authentic to the core. Another great benefit that we had was that we created something new. We were first to market in a new category of running shoes with a FootShape™ Toe Box and a Zero Drop™ design.
“Today brands are born, not made. A new brand must be capable of generating favorable publicity in the media or it won’t have a chance in the marketplace. And just how do you generate publicity? The best way to generate publicity is by being first. In other words, by being the first brand in a new category.” ― Al Ries,
Find the unique features of your brand and use the benefits that they provide to tell the story. If you can be authentic in your story then you can build a brand that will succeed.
What are other keys to branding?