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Evolution of Branding



A long time ago, here on planet earth.

In the ancient world, branding wasn't about CTA’s and slogans, values or quality- it was a matter of ownership. People would mark their livestock to prove ownership, a practice that dates back thousands of years, nearly 4000 depending on which historical sources you believe. While the term brand wasn’t used back then, the word as we know it today stemmed from the old Norse “brandr” meaning to burn.


So, the origin of proving ownership and using a mark to do it is old news. What is it then, that has now made the word Branding and Brand of such importance in modern business? How does putting your mark on it add value?

Spoiler alert! It doesn’t. But before I am tempted to travel off into a diatribe about misconceptions  surrounding brand, I shall exercise restraint and return to the original intended explanation of the evolution of “Brand”.


As trade expanded and economies evolved, the concept of brand/ing took on a new meaning. While it continued to be important to be able to identify your livestock, containers, bags of grain or other items brand also evolved a little more.

For example if your animals produced more milk than other owners then by default your brand would be seen to have added value, especially for those people who wanted dairy products. If perhaps your tonic or wine was perceived to be sweeter than another, your brand might appeal to a different and potentially more affluent clientele.


At this stage I think it is also important to point out that the word Brand will often conjure up an inseparable link with the word Logo. And while in our highly visually charged modern world this element is seen as increasingly important, there needs to be a considered understanding that your Logo is NOT your brand. Not any more at least. The thing of value is what lays beneath.


So how do you compete with your neighbor who makes an identical product? Make yours cheaper? Provide free delivery? Perhaps even offer credit terms to your buyers. All these elements (none of which I would suggest are your first port of call as a business) add to your brands value.


What next, your neighbor copies you, but then your customer asks why they should choose you over them? You reach a stalemate and then one day a few weeks later the customer returns.


The product they bought from your competitor was bad, the competitor replaced for them it but were rude in the process. So now they have come back to you. By default, your brand benefits because you are seen as a “nice” business to interact with. Your reputation, how you talk to your clients and customers, how you align with their values, all of these things are also your brand.


More modern evolution..

All of these things now are interlinked into how a customer interprets that logo, and that logo you see is no longer the definition of brand. In fact it is now a mark signifying your promise to the customer of what they should expect when they come to your business for goods or services that you offer.


One of the crucial things to remember is that no matter what it is your business sells, everything you do to support the product or service is as equally as important as the thing you sell itself. This is because we are surrounded by branding. Therefore, it can be argued only by ensuring all of the things we do align can we create a “Brand” that will attract and retain customers.


This is where the modern practice of developing and maintaining brand guidelines becomes an important step for any business. But unfortunately, it is often the case that what a business develops does not have enough substance to provide long-term value to the business… why?


Well one of the first reasons that we see where brand guidelines fall over is where they are produced by a creative or design agency – absent of a brand specialist or business specialist. This very often leads to guidelines being superficial. Lacking elements like brand story, values, statements and things that help define the personality of the brand itself. Visually inspiring brand guidelines are important, but beauty as they say is only skin deep.


The second reason we see brands struggling to create a relatable guideline or one that allows the brand to grow is the use of in-house resources or the “ familiar” agency, with whom the business has worked for decades.


Pre-dispositions, false realities and assumptions cloud the judgement of people when they assess what the brand believes it is and how it is perceived. Add to this a general lack of outside inward-looking critique and brands can quickly lack being challenged and evolve too slowly to even make a difference to consumers perception. Sometimes even retaining elements that they believe are selling factors but ultimately put of the new generation of consumers.


In-short it is a crowded world out there and if you want to be visible and challenge your brand using an outsider can reap huge benefits. And as an added bonus should you really not like what you receive you can walk away – without the need to restructure your marketing department or fire your in house lead creative. Or the agency you know creates great marketing for you.


The evolution of Brand is now not just about what you say about your products, or what your existing customers say. It is about what everyone says about you.

To quote Jeff Bezos, “Brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room” think about that for a moment. -Not in the room- The simplest way to explain this is that when a customer is on your website, holding your product or absorbing your marketing you are in fact firmly “in the room” weather the customer connects with you or not is influenced by factors that you control. You are connecting with them and attempting to influence their experience to build brand awareness or make a sale. But at least you are present.


But where are you not in the room? Well arguably the spilt second, they return the product to the shelf. The moment after they saw your billboard advert or online offer. At this stage the customer is left to contemplate the information they have just consumed, they may also do it again later triggered by something else in their day. This is where your Brand – the sum of their experience so far begins to have value to your business. Did the messaging resonate with them, can they remember it, can they link this to the product or service they saw. Do they like you?

Over and over again the customer is exposed to your brand and the more relatable, or relevant it is to the needs or desires they have the more likely they will engage.


The principle of brand doesn’t just apply to selling either. Consider for one minute you are a charity, you want to help more people, but your brand does not connect with the people you are trying to help… with the best will in the world no amount of altruistic donations will deliver your support to people if they don’t believe your brand can help them.


All the while outside of interactions with the brand itself people will also be talking about you. If the response is positive this will amplify your brand message and potential. Pick up negativity and the opposite will happen. At this stage you have zero control of the narrative. No ability to influence and this is where building consistency through messaging, visuals and communication as well as delivering on your promises made, becomes crucial. Because if you are not aligned then the customer is free to interpret their own story and as a result may lose interest.

Personality



One of the main elements that we often see left out when people are creating or evolving their brand which plays a major role in the value of a brand is its personality.


The concept that a brand has such a human trait is not a new one. Over 100 years ago Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung defined 12 separate brand archetypes. Each with its own pre-disposed ways of interacting  with the world around it.

So why is personality important.


Well, it all comes back to consistency and values. A brand that proports to be altruistic and a Caregiver Archetype that exhibits arrogance and poor customer service will quickly become disbelieved, regardless of how much it spends trying to prove otherwise. Conversely a brand that suggests that it is a Sage Archetype but consistently fails to answer messages on social media in a way that shows understanding of the field they are in will crumble quickly.


Brands will invariably have a mixture of perhaps 2 or maybe 3 different archetype traits but it is important that its dominant one is always considered when making choices about messaging, visuals and even what new products to deliver to market.


This is where we probably differ from most Brand specialists when evolving or creating new brands. Using this century old consideration and crafting a brand around a concept archetype it is possible to create a more consistent , believable, and understandable brand for you, and your customers.


Picture this, your Archetype is your business, its predisposition helps determine the way it talks (your messaging) the way it looks (your visuals) The way it thinks (marketing and sales strategy) what it brings to the table (the products and services) the way it behaves (values and purpose) and so many other elements.

While it is easy to create a pretty logo and colour scheme… without a vessel (your business) to apply it to you do not have a brand. You have an outfit on a hanger, devoid of purpose and unable to deliver anything in return.

What can you do to improve your brand?

Gaining an understanding of what you think your brand is will always be a good starting point as well as understanding the brands customers will choose. But this needs to be approached with an open mind.


Also understanding where you need your brand to be and what brand archetype it will embody is also a big part of doing something meaningful internally.

But the biggest element is the challenge yourself, preconceptions, and beliefs. If you are confident that you can do that then you have a good chance of developing something that will benefit your business.


But what if you are not sure?

Firstly we would suggest avoiding approaching any branding agency, consultant or specialist with a loose – “ we need to rebrand can you do this for us” the likely result will be a superficial but what on the surface appear to be cost effective visual change.



Instead either Audit your brand or brand concept, or engage with someone to do it for you. Be clear about the “why” element of what you are trying to do or achieve. It could be as simple as “ we feel that our brand is becoming dated and we want to try and make it more contemporary” or it could be “Our sales are being impacted by competitor-X and we need to reposition ourselves to be more appealing against them” a defined purpose for a rebranding or a clear mission for a new one will mean that you are challenging the person you engage with to specifically address what you need and prevent superficial results.

 

Want help?

Most people believe engaging with a specialist is both complicated and expensive. But while some corporations with multilayers and cultures will take longer to support in general most business do not need to spend a fortune on getting specific brand support.


We would suggest initially starting with a brand audit. Be specific about what you know and be prepared to gather and provide information on your business requested to support the process. Be prepared to be challenged and keep an open mind about what you discover in the results.


From this you will have a clearer and more realistic picture of what you are, where want to be, and more importantly open the door to put in place a strategy for how to get there. It might be simple change, or it might be deeper, but at least you will have visibility of what is required to get there.


If you are looking to engage with a specialist experienced person in the world of Brand, Ballistica provide a low-cost initial consultation that will allow you to establish if working with an external agency is right for you.

Not ready yet, or just interested in learning more. We have produced a handy short guide that covers some of the principles in this article along with some guides on how to create your brand which is downloadable from our website homepage.


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