I am fortunate, in my role I get to meet some incredible businessmen, leaders who have built amazing companies that turn over billions of dollars and lead their sector. However, sometimes, even great leaders struggle with Brand... and who would blame them. It is a touchy, feely side of business that many leaders struggle to understand - some don’t even value.
There are many tools that we use to create winning brands, to help companies make informed decisions about what to many are creative problems. I would like to vanquish the myth that Brand is all about design. It isn’t. There is no doubt that there is a need for great creative thinking, an understanding of design, colour, sense, space and emotion in building brands, but the decisions made by great designers follow a form a logic that is based in a deep understanding of the commercial realities of business - strategy.
Business strategy is where it all starts, understanding your businesses territory, the land it occupies in the commercial world and putting in place the systems, technology, manpower and assets required to deliver to that strategy is the beginning of defining an organisations personality. There are many experts in the world who are able to help companies with this, we have all heard of Accenture, McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group (BCG). These organisations understand the need for Brand partners to work with them in creating business personality around the systems and processes they develop. Enter Brand.
Branding used to be about logos and colours - it isn’t any more. It is all about experience. Brand strategy plays a crucial role in developing the metrics from which a designer can steer your brand experience, and therefore the way customers and employees interact with your organisation - into the correct territory. Any branding agency that does not offer a Brand Strategy phase to any project will, in my opinion, be developing a logo that is doomed to fail.
What does Brand Strategy do for your business? It helps you make informed decisions on how to position your brand, from the words you use, to the colours, sounds, smells, vision, mission and values - to the channels through which you communicate with your employees and customers. Brand Strategists are geniuses, they speak to you, your customers and your business and extrapolate the magical ‘x-factor’ that really defines who you are. They understand commerce, they understand design and they understand business cycles. They help you make informed decisions about your brand.
I am reminded of a banking client I met recently who was the Chairman of a large bank. McKinsey had been working with the company developing their business strategy when they brought us in to revitalise their brand and retail experience. We conducted a Brand Strategy project phase as we always do, involving interviews with key staff and employees, customers, and benchmarking against regional and international competitors. Amongst other things, all the research we conducted pointed towards the brand being a ‘green’ brand - in colour. In this part of the world, the colour has great significance and this colour was ‘owned’ by the bank. So my creative team set to work repositioning the brand in the territory specified in our research - using the colour green predominantly in designs. We presented to the Chairman and he said - ‘great work but I don’t like green! Take it all away and give me blue or purple.’
I was shocked, but because we had conducted a Brand Strategy exercise that clearly pointed towards green as the colour of choice, I was able to press the CEO to change his mind. Eventually, after a number of weeks, it transpired that in fact it was his wife that didn’t like green and not him. He succumbed and green was chosen.
Can you see what has happened here? Unless we had conducted a Brand Strategy exercise, the bank would have chosen a colour and possibly a territory and defined an experience that was completely wrong for it’s customers. We informed their decision making, moving it from an emotional choice based on the whim of the Chairman’s wife, to the right choice for the Bank, it’s staff and customers, based on where they wanted and needed to be.
The new brand was launched with a huge success - and green was the colour of choice.
The third leg in creating a winning brand, after Business Strategy and Brand Strategy is Retail Strategy. Or how to turn your Brand into a memorable, appropriate and engaging experience for customers and employees. I will write about this in later articles.