Although most of us would say we know what “brand” is, it remains difficult to define. David Ogilvy said it’s “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes,” while Neumeier has described it as “a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.” The problem is that brand is about feelings and emotions, which are themselves are complicated things.
Another definition that gets dusted down each time the topic arises is from Jeff Bezos, who says, "Your brand is what other people say about you when you're not in the room." Although this is still quite nebulous, it’s useful as it moves us in the direction of looking at a business as a person and the brand as the description of that person.
We’ve all been in the position of having to describe an absent friend or colleague: the description can range from obvious physical attributes that will be clearly recognised by everyone, to non-visible personality and verbal tics, and possibly beyond that to habits and likes and dislikes that have been revealed over the course of a long acquaintance. In fact, the full description amounts to Ogilvy’s “intangible sum of […] attributes.”
Brand isn’t about marketing and selling your product or service; it’s the emotional perception of your business. Brand is about connecting with people and being recognised.
Obviously, logo and brand colours help with identification, in the same way that height, weight and hair- and eye-colour are part of a person’s description. But if you really want to help someone single out your friend from a group of physically similar people, you’ll look beyond the superficially obvious to voice, physical movement, personality…
An established brand is a company persona that enables your clients to see you at a distance and recognise a friend they can trust.
One of the keys to strong branding is consistency. People change their clothes, but they often have a recognisable underlying style, and their own physical attributes remain more or less constant. For a business, consistency conveys a certain outlook and attitude and it shows professionalism, purpose and stability. It instils confidence and eliminates confusion, enabling us to manage perceptions.
We’ve all got that colleague who always attends events even though he never responds to invitations; his name goes down on the list even if no one has heard back from him, as everyone knows he’ll turn up. Customers know what to expect from a strong brand: they don’t need to check the small print on the label to know that foods from a particular manufacturer will be vegetarian, or that a certain high-street retailer will give them a no-questions-asked refund.
In the same way that you develop personas for each of your target markets, it’s worth taking time to explore your own brand persona. Imagine your brand as a person, as a member of your organisation or team. Ask yourself:
Consider which adjectives you – and your customers – use to describe your brand and interactions with it. How does your brand make you feel? How do you want people to feel when they come into contact with it?
Once you’ve defined your brand persona, don’t lose sight of it. Remember that every time your brand communicates, it is an opportunity to strengthen and consolidate this persona and the way your brand is perceived by others.
Your aim is to make it easy for someone to talk about your brand when you aren’t there and have everyone recognise it from the description.
Gwyneth Box is director at Tantamount, a full-service agency with international experience in brand creation and development. Working across sectors in both print and digital spaces, Tantamount specialises in creating outstanding designs and inspiring experiences that communicate corporate values and engage with customers and other stakeholders, turning them into advocates for your brand.
To talk about brand, rebranding or any other design projects, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0798 661 3437.