Let’s play a word association game.
If I was to say the word ‘safety’ what brand would come to mind? …
For many of you, depending on your priorities right now, it may have been Volvo. Why is this?
Well back in 2002 Volvo was, once again, recognised for its seat belt awareness campaign focusing on safety first. Then in 2016, they launched their Vision 2020, where they saw a world of zero deaths in their cars. A little extreme but impactful non the less. All of their efforts in the automotive space over the past 90 years have affirmed their position as a safety innovation leader, launching campaign after campaign telling drivers that they are safe to drive. Their sole aim is to ‘own’ this idea in peoples minds so that we associating ‘safety’ with who they are making this their brand identity.
But why the focus on safety?
What is a brand identity?
Volvo itself is the company’s registered trademark name, but with it come a set of associations. For some, it may be boring for others exciting but, the company as a whole has dedicated its brand identity towards building an image around safety, directly targeting consumers who care about this as their key purchasing criterion.
The brand identity is, therefore, the visual image and whole set of associations attached to a brand. Within our business strategy, it is essential to enhance our brand image by mitigating negative associations and elevating positive ones.
How has the competitive environment changed for branding?
In today’s global economy the reality is that things are changing at an ever more rapid pace. Keeping up with these changing conditions can sometimes be difficult but it is a constant task that does need attending. As business intelligence is all about deriving insights from an array of sources to build the best strategy for your business let’s take a step back 20 years.
As a young student, I was introduced to the concept of perfect competition, which in 2000 sounded ludicrous. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, a perfectly competitive environment is one where competition is so fierce, that industry players start competing in price. Margins are cut so low, that profits need to be cut too.
For perfect competition to occur, there need to be a large number of sellers and consumers. Practically no entry barriers to entry and exit, homogeneous or commodity-like products and ‘perfect information’.
Over the years, competition has meant exaggerating business offers to capture attention. However, in the long term, sensation driven marketing only results in reduced customer engagement and dwindling levels of loyalty.
Now, if we fast-forward back to 2021, just take a look at the number of sellers in any given market. Amazon and Shopify being a perfect case in point of easy entry and exit, ruthless competition, homogeneous or commodity-like products and perfect information. Everyone is under pressure as they are all selling the same product.
Google and Safari provide us with perfect, instantaneous information on products, prices, utility and cost functions. Not only do we all have access to more information than we did yesterday, but often, we have access to more information then many sales reps do on the specific product that we are interested in.
To make matters worse (or much better, depending on your take), consumers are emphasising the importance for businesses to be authentic in their marketing efforts. This means, ‘tell us the truth and show us who you really are; the good, the bad and the ugly. We are all stuck to our smartphones and can catch you out at any time’.
Obviously, ‘quality’ is a perception and dependant on individual customer experience, but one thing that no one likes is feeling lied to. This is where branding comes in.
Why does brand identity matter?
Does it really matter if we buy from Nike or Under Armour? Porsche or Mercedes? Shell or BP? The short answer is YES.
A brand is not a product or service, it’s an experience that happens during every touch point over a prolonged period of time.
You will have hundreds of touchpoints which cut across all of your business silos, and its the combined behaviour of dozens, if not hundreds of employees all hidden in the background that create the magical experience of a brand.
Whether you are a commodity or a service, you are creating expectations, values, beliefs, innovation and promises and then delivering on those that you have chosen. The inside of your organisation needs to fuel it and deliver through customer experience. Just take a look at Disney, Harley Davidson, Zappos, Johnson&Johnson baby centre and Netflix (to name but a few), they are the ultimate example of selling experiences, identity and dreams.
The moment you forget about ‘brand’ in 2021 you become another organisation competing in price. Not only are you competing within your space but within your company. Your brand should be part of your company health and culture. It should be your heart, pulse and head, it should be part of your business strategy and process itself (operations, HR, IT), fuelling innovation and driving behaviour before being delivered straight to the customer experience.
A brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.Michael Eisner former CEO Disney
Why is visual identity important?
Visual image is not the outcome of brand identity, but part of the whole promise you are communicating to your customers. When a consumer chooses one product over another, they aren’t just purchasing your product or service but your identity, your values and what you stand for as a company. Your visual image will be what represents who you are and what you stand for in the eyes of your consumers. Ultimately, it creates recognition.
Most entrepreneurs and SMBs don’t really think about their brand image until there’s a problem with the image they already have. This is the first mistake.
Remember that the devil is in the detail and first impressions matter. The way you and your employees dress, speak, stand, the way things are laid out and presented, your business cards and website, are all part of a non-verbal language potential clients are reading into. It is important that you learn your client’s unspoken language, and tap into this so that it feels familiar in a way that they are comfortable with if you want them to trust you. People have stopped buying products or services, we have started buying what you stand for.
Brand identity is more than products, style and personality, but a business strategy that needs to be implemented throughout your whole organisation. The way you position yourself will occupy that space in customers minds. It reflects your values driving a strong connection with your customers, distinguishes you from your competitors and shapes excellent customer experience.
- represent something positive so as to appeal to your customers
- are consistent throughout all touchpoints
- create a logo that communicates the correct brand identity
- implement a brand policy to help enhance proposed identity, values, beliefs and mission
- ensure your company is internally committed to your brand’s qualities