More Than a Logo
There are a few jobs out there that need no further explanation than their title: lawyer, doctor, NFL athlete…those people have it easy. For the rest of us who are asked what we do at networking events, weddings, the coffee shop, or any other number of places, it takes further explanation. For me, the series of events goes as follows: First, I tell them I work for a brand consulting firm. They look at me in bewilderment and I can see that they are trying to either figure out if they should pretend they get it or ask me the standard follow-up question: “what do you really do?”
I usually start to explain this by emphasizing that the core of what we do is work with brands. We help create them, mold them, and define them so that the consumer naturally resonates with what they have to say.
When most people look at me befuddled and ask what a brand is, I can’t help but laugh on the inside as they are sipping their Starbucks latte, blogging with their Apple MacBook Pro, about to hop into a Volkswagen with the bumper sticker, “I heart my VW,” all the while miscomprehending the essence of branding.
More often than not, branding gets misconstrued as nothing more than a company’s logo. When asked about their favorite brands, people tend to skip over the emotional connections they have with many of them. A brand is more than a logo; it’s the inherent nature of the company or product itself. It’s what immediately comes to mind when you hear their name or see their logo. It makes you think about their specific style, their tone of voice, their way of doing business, and what makes them unique.
Close your eyes. Well, not literally, or else you’d miss the rest of the instructions, but you get my point. In your mind, picture yourself walking into the following stores: Walmart; Target; Lord & Taylor. Did you feel anything different about each one of them? Did the quality of clothes or customer service come into play? What about if you were to walk into McDonald’s? Applebee’s? Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse? This time, did the smells have anything to do with what you pictured in your mind? What about the anticipated experience? The branding exercise you just went through is effective at depicting what makes each brand so different.
Building a brand takes time, effort, and purpose. And maintaining it takes just as much intention. Walmart is slowly re-designing all of their stores so you better enjoy your experience while you are there. A low-end, megastore won’t suffice anymore. McDonald’s is also changing the inside of their restaurants and making it feel like more than fast food. A grungy, get-it-quick-and-go type restaurant is not the future of fast food.
Neither of these changes are a coincidence. Customers change over time and so do their desires from their anticipated experiences. If brands don’t fight to stay top of mind, they will lose ground. Customers demand an experience that is memorable and unique because forgettable brands don’t make money.
So, when asked what I do, I cross my fingers and hope they own a Volkswagen.