There’s nothing like having a great product – it’s the way that individuals pitch for funding, the mechanism that lets entrepreneurs launch a business, the one single thing that everybody knows about a company – its product.
So why do we need brands?
Brand – the underlying identity that unifies products and services, labels and trademarks and corporate identities – is a crucial element in the development of a successful product from ‘idea’ to viable business entity.
Brands add three vital elements that transcend simple product development
- Brands inspire and create emotions
- Brands transfer feelings, aspirations and identities from the product to the consumer
- Brands combine product, vision and desire to create and reserve a location in the customer’s mind that can’t be occupied by any other brand.
So given that brands are so necessary, how do we create them?
Brand identity – constructed or created?
Far too often, brand identity is imposed from outside, not necessarily outside the organisation, but outside the primary creative sphere of the business itself. The reason for this is that creatives often focus on product and then realise, belatedly, that they’re going to have to keep creating product, particularly fashion items, at a very high rate to maintain their market space. This may mean that they scramble brand identity together and try to drive it through the organisation without fully recognising that they’ve neglected point one, to inspire and create emotions inside the organisation.
Creating brand identity is a different process from constructing it. Moving beyond simple ‘label’ strategies to building brand enthusiasm within an organisation is one of the greatest techniques for creating long-lived and viable organisations that transcend a single product or idea to become synonymous with an emotion in the viewer’s mind.
In reality, the brand should be created, outlined and the emotions it should share and call for determined before the products are created or finalized. With the brand vision and what the brand should portray in mind, creative control can lead to construction of the products, rather than the other way around.
We can all name companies that lost their way. Kodak, for example, began to lose traction when digital photography took off, but the Kodak response was to shift into a number of other fields like pharmaceuticals and memory chips. Brand dilution is a common misstep when simple label identity begins to falter and can be avoided by having a true brand enthusiasm that comes from within the company.
The fashion industry is full of examples where brand diversion led to brand dilution. Extensive category licensing has in the past diluted brands such as Yves Saint Lauren and Pierre Cardin, eventually leading to expensive rights buy back strategies and consolidations in order to regain control over the brand identity and ethos.
Brand coherence is what allows a brand like Burberry to rejuvenate without dilution, it permits experimentation and exploration because it retains the central brand vision as part of the organisation, not as a set of standards or ideas that are separate to the people, products and processes that make up the business.
Belief in, and support for, a brand from within the organisation will generally create interest in – and desire for – that brand in customers. Take Rapha for instance, the London based luxury road cycling brand and SKY cycling team sponsor that we are proud to have worked with. The pure belief in the brand and the way in which the people within the brand live the values that Rapha stand for are infectious. Their consumers are not buying products, they are buying into a lifestyle that they want to be part of.
Instilling desire for a brand is a longer lived and more sustainable emotional process than simple product greed which can die the moment a reasonable group of people own the product.
Crucially, brand fans inside the organisation generate brand enthusiasm outside it, and identity with it. So to shape a brand that thrives on enthusiasm inside, and generates passion outside, start with creating what you need to nurture brand belief.