Where to start with branding
Despite popular thinking, a brand is not a logo. One of the best definitions of “brand” has been “a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or company” (Marty Neumeier in Zag). With the marketplace becoming increasingly crowded with brands, it can be a daunting place to start thinking how you go about creating one - or redefining one - in the first place.
“Branding” (not to be confused by the “brand”) is the work done by the company to create long term value by meeting/exceeding customer expectations of their brand. It is the attempt to manage the of meaning audiences attach to the brand.
You might be asking a tonne of questions at this point - such as how do I know my branding is intelligent, how can I make my branding attractive to the right people, how can I ensure my branding is consistent across a range of media, how can I differentiate my brand from the competition? These are all very good questions but the real place to start is defining your brand.
As you saw in the opening paragraphs, there is a subtle difference between brand and branding and people often make a start on branding their offering without a clear idea of what their brand is. So, how can you define your brand? To help with this, we first have to go back in time to the early 1900s and look at the work of Sigmund Freud (neurologist) and Carl Jung (psychiatrist).
Freud believed that all our actions stem from our sub conscious which influences our conscious and that our sub conscious is shaped as a result of events which happened in our past. Jung added a further layer to this called the “collective unconscious” - he believed that just by the fact that we are human, meant that we share a way of interacting with the world. He theorised that we all relate to archetypes - primitive mental images that categorise people or experiences.
In their book “The Hero and the Outlaw” Margaret Mark and Carol S Pearson define 12 archetypes which they believe to be a comprehensive representation of all archetypes. Each one has its own defining characteristics and is appealing to certain types of audience.
In simple terms, we as humans can all relate to the power of story telling and are familiar with popular myths that have a recognisable set of characters in them such as the “hero” the “rebel” the “lover” etc. Storytelling is one of the main ways that humans have communicated ideas with each other down through time.
This is where it starts getting interesting from a brand perspective. People don't look at brands as 'abstract things' - they view them almost as people. Today, the consumer will "join" brands that they align themselves with in terms of core values, goals etc. in a similar way they choose who to hang out with on a weekend. If you can determine which archetype your brand aligns with, you can then intelligently, and purposefully control and manage factors such as who your branding is aimed at, how to tell your brand story, where you sit within the market place, how your competitors compare with your archetype, how you should behave, how your materials should look, what you should say etc.
There are two main ways you can determine the archetype for your brand. You can either do it yourself or employ a professional branding agency to carry out a workshop/consultation to help you. However you do it, the process should be an in depth and detailed look at your brand story, target audience personas, competitors, offering etc. as this is a fundamental stage to get right.
Once you have defined your brand, you will be in a strong position to translate this into branding and achieve consistency across whatever media you are using.
May your brand live happily ever after.