Sticky, Tricky Branding
Branding is a sticky, tricky business. Sticky, because that’s exactly what you want your brand to do – stick in the hearts and minds of your audiences. Tricky because getting your brand to do that is not quite so easy.
A sticky brand is like the perfect toffee. You anticipate the experience. Devour it with your eyes, followed by all of your senses. It has just the right smell, flavour and texture. You taste it, savour it, explore it. And the sensations linger long after it has left your tongue. You perhaps had to go a little out of your way to get that particular brand, but it was worth it – not like that other toffee you spat out when it first passed your lips and wasn’t at all what you expected.
If this concept resonates with you, it probably means that your brand is not so sticky, or not as sticky as you’d like. Perhaps your start-up or new product/service has not got started as you thought. Perhaps your company/product is well known, but not breaking through. Or maybe you find your business a little lost in a changing world. These are all sticky brand situations of an entirely different nature.
So what’s the trick? Why haven’t the new logo, ad campaign, website, digital marketing or other new communication tools done it? That’s the tricky part. It’s very much about both clients and suppliers confusing the tools to communicate your brand with the brand itself. Or confusing marketing with branding. You need to understand exactly who you are and want to be before you determine the ‘who’, ‘where’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ strategies to sell and communicate it. And particularly before you create the tools to do all that. Branding requires expertise and experience to define, to build and to manage.
Branding goes beyond what you learn in business school. The research is different. The results are different. The understanding is different. Defining it means understanding who you are, what promise you can not only make to your audiences but sustain, and being honest about it. It needs to be authentic to who you are: your product, your service, your philosophies and your business culture. It requires research to help you truly understand who you are and how you differentiate – not “we have the best product”, or “our service is better”, or other vague un-provable claims – and how that fits with who you are. And it requires someone who understands all that to develop a clear brand strategy and tools that effectively communicate it to the audiences that matter to you – in ways that matter to them.
Once defined, developing effective communication tools is a lot easier. It comes before choosing a name (and identifying language faux pas). Your logo, tagline, and corporate identity come after. They’re important tools in communicating and reinforcing your brand promise, and they need to be unique enough to be able to be trademarked – a costly and unfortunate discovery down the road for many businesses. Your website needs to be responsive to all devices, have brand-driven content that is also SEO-centric, and reflect the reason it’s there, to begin with. That might be primarily to drive sales leads, or to inform – back to the need for a strategy again. You’ll likely require some combination of online and offline advertising, collateral materials (brochures, posters, labels, point of sale, etc.), packaging, displays, event materials and the like. Plus content communications ranging from blogs, social and business media posts, white papers and articles to reinforce the key messages of your brand. Every tool has a specific job to do and requires a brand-driven strategy to fully integrate, allowing all the tools to do their jobs and to be as successful as it should be.
Too many businesses make the mistake of either developing branding in-house or allow logo designers, content providers, web developers, and digital marketers to ‘create’ their brand. The results may be moderately successful in sales, but with no or minimal strategy and brand-driven research behind it, the business, and the brand, get stuck. Undoing what’s been done is an awful lot more expensive and difficult than defining your authentic brand, to begin with, and managing it going forward as markets, trends and conditions inevitably change.
Sticky branding is about discovering that elusive flavour. Creating a taste that comes naturally to you and that your audiences can’t resist. Adding, building, as people want more – always mindful that everything about your brand comes back to expectations and that anticipated experience. Get it right and the results are sweet.