If you search for branding on Google you get 773,000,000 results. Most of the articles on the front page talk about the importance of a modern logo, before analyzing how a famous company logo has changed over time.
Unfortunately these articles largely miss the point. Brand identity is important, but a successful branding exercise is a lot more than creating a modern looking logo.
I thought the best way to start this article would be to do something a bit contentious. Below is an image of how the Apple logo has changed over the decades overlapped with the company share price.
As you can see there is no link between the value of a company and the design of a new logo. If I had made a version that linked the share price of Apple with the release of key products, like the iPhone and iPad for instance, there would be much more of a correlation.
The reason for this is pretty obvious.
The value of a company is about how much money they make from their customers. This is down to the products they are releasing, the quality of those products, and the service that customers receive.
Over time, customers and clients start to associate the quality of the products and services with the company. This is what you would call brand identity. It is incredibly important.
Brand identity defines how people perceive your company. It will impact how much money a person is willing to spend on a product or service.
The automobile industry is a good example of this.
The Importance of Brand Identity
In the automobile industry there is a practice called badge engineering. This is where two basically identical cars are given a different badge then sold to the public for very different prices.
It sounds nuts, but it’s actually a pretty common practice.
The Aston Martin Cygnet, and the Toyota Scion iQ are a case in point.
Aston Martin is expensive. It’s a luxury brand (everyone knows that!).
Toyota is a regular middle class brand.
Accordingly, the Cygnet costs £30,000+ while the Scion iQ costs £9,000+. People will spend £21,000 more on one car over the other – even though they are basically the same car – because of brand identity.
The same thing happens on your supermarket shelves. Store branded cookies made in the same factory are given a different box, sent to different shops, and sold at a different price.
Ok, the difference is 25 cents, and not £21,000, but you get the idea…
This is why brand identity is so important.
How to Run a Branding Workshop
The starting point for understanding your brand identity is learning about how people interact with your business. To get the answer to this you need to talk to your customers.
There are three fundamental points you need to cover:
1. What are your customers needs that you are fulfilling?
2. Why did they choose you to fulfill those needs?
3. What was their experience using your service?
These questions aren’t difficult. Getting answers to the questions is pretty simple, too.
If you’re running an e-commerce store, getting feedback from customers could mean setting up an online survey and mailing your list. There are a lot of online form builders on the Internet you can use to do this research.
I’d recommend combining this with interviews. You can do these over the phone or in person if you want.
While interviews take a lot more time, you get more information.
This type of consumer research is the kind of thing that’s talked about all the time in books for entrepreneurs like “The Lean Startup.” The reason experts talk about this is because it’s so important to the success of a company.
Analyze the Data
Once you have all this data, you need to analyze it. I’d recommend splitting your analysis into three sections. These are; Discovery, Experience, Loyalty.
Discovery: contains information about the problem the product or service you are offering solves. For example, if a person was buying a wooly hat online it might be because they knew winter was coming and it was going to get cold.
Experience: this is the experience the consumer had interacting with your company. Continuing with the example, this would cover things like how cheap the hat was, how easy it was to navigate the website, was the delivery on time, etc.
Loyalty: this is more than just ‘would they buy from you again.’ Loyalty is where you learn about the less tangible parts of brand identity. You can find out if your company is perceived to be expensive, affordable, etc.
What you get with all of this information is the customer journey.
The customer journey is a fundamental part of understanding why people are using your service. You will learn about things like the pain points they have, and the quality of the product or service you provide.
You will also learn about the less tangible parts of your brand identity. This information is useful, because you can build on it through the website copy you use, or the type of advertising campaigns you run.
Most importantly this research helps you identify the things that you should improve (those negative brand associations you want to dispel). It’s at this stage you might find out that your logo needs to be updated, your advertising is terrible, or you have great customer service.
Act on the Insights
When you have analyzed the data you need to come up with a game plan. Start by ranking the problems you find in terms of importance. You can use a 1-5 scale to do this.
Focus on priority issues first. These are problems that lose you customers.
There will be some things that you can act on immediately. Other issues will take a few months to implement.
For example, creating a new website might take two months to complete. Making sure that all customer service inquiries are answered within 24-hours is a change you could potentially implement tomorrow.
That’s the practical product and service side of things. This is the fundamental starting point for any branding workshop, as the products and services you offer should be top notch.
You can then build on your great service with clever marketing.
What’s Your Brand Identity?
Marketing can play an important part of your brand identity. For example, if you discover that people perceive your company to always offer high quality products you might be able to advertise yourself as a luxury brand. This means you can charge a premium for your products.
Aston Martin realized this with the Cygnet.
With a good product, you can build your brand identity out in different ways that go beyond what you are offering and how much it costs. The Dollar Shave Club is a great example of this. They’ve built a strong brand that stands out in a competitive landscape thanks to their sense of humor.
Their web copy is informal and offhand.
Their YouTube ad, Our Blades Are F***ing Great, has been viewed 25,000,000+ and counting.
The Dollar Shave Club don’t take themselves seriously, and their customers like that. This is a part of the brand identity they’ve developed which has nothing to do with what they offer.
None of that smart copy would matter though if they didn’t have a good product to begin with.
More to Branding Than Buzzwords and Logos
Your brand identity is a reflection of the quality of what you offer your customers. It is more than choosing the right color scheme and font pairings. To maintain and grow your market share you need to listen and learn from your customers.
As Jeff Bezos recently commented: “If we start to focus on ourselves instead of focusing on our customers, that will be the beginning of the end.”
Hopefully this article has provided you with a framework for your next branding workshop. If you ignore the branding consultant who comes at you with the newest buzzwords and focus on your customers then you won’t go wrong.
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