The other day I couldn’t help but get mad about the people making branding decisions. How can it be that they don’t give a damn about their brand?
I am a rather relaxed kind of guy but from time to time I get passionate about things that others don’t bother at all. Like branding. Like the wonderful power communication has on our well being and our emotions. Like the marvellous effect self confidence has on our success and the strange impact brands have on all these factors.
Marketing is about selling your stuff but branding is about making that stuff personal. It is about filling a symbol—and that’s all a brand is—with emotions and meaning. And thereby you can multiply and conserve these values. Like a song you put all your talent and passion and experience into when you record it in the studio. And when people hear it they feel it. Everyone all the time.
There is a truth to the effect of branding that you can’t deny.
”Branding“ and ”truth“ in one sentence? I know that marketers are liars. And advertises are, too. But there is a truth to the effect of brand communication that you can’t deny. You can’t help but get a first impression of people, based on the things you have learned about the brands they expose. They express certain values encapsulated in the gadgets they use or the style they put onto themselves.
People choose a brand purposefully. They connect a certain personality to a brand, certain values and traits. That is the main purpose of a brand, to contain these traits and reflect them on the product. And that is something no brand can avoid to do, be it intentionally or by mistake. At the same time people can’t help but form an opinion. Even if they try to avoid that brain trickling effect they can’t change what they know—what branding devisions makes them believe. Strong brands make sure that people hear their messages, by advertising and product design, by targeting audiences and content marketing. Strong brands shape the public perception with great effort. A brand invents itself and so everything a brand represents is artificial—and you could argue that it therefore must be untrue.
But the fact that these mechanisms are all man made doesn’t make them false. They impact the people who believe in marketing messages as well as those who don’t. The brand may be artificial but emotions it arouses are authentic. A brand does work as a means of communication. And this doesn’t have to be a bad thing by default.
I bought a Fairphone—”The smartphone that’s creating social change“. And it was my decision to accept the values this project stands for. But once I got it, it got me. How can I ever buy a phone made by a manufacturer of less social integrity? Every time I hold up my phone it reminds me of what I want to stand for. Not only does this brand tell others how I think but it tells me, too.
Brands don’t just pretend. Their communicational effect is a real thing. They not only project their values to the person in front of you, they talk to you as well. And that makes you as a customer part of the brand, an evangelist of their values, a believer of what you want to believe. Brands change yourself by your own decision making.
That impact of a brand on our feelings and behaviour is extraordinary. Mostly because it is connected to products we use day in day out. Products are an omnipresent reminder of a brand’s features. Once we have become customers, they don’t just talk at us from billboards and display ads, but they can rely on us having made the decision to let this brand be part of our identity.
And of course this is a responsibility for the brand to accept. The client-brand-relationship is fragile. And clients who commit themselves to a brand will react very emotional if this commitment is disappointed.
How can people decide on a brand if they don’t feel this?
This kind of an understanding of a brand’s power and responsibility is not widespread among marketers. Usually their first obligation is to ensure an increase of sales. Sometimes they even are part of the sales department.
Don’t get me wrong: What marketers are doing is crucial to the success and the longevity of a corporation. Their creativity and instinct for the needs of the market can not be overstated. But if you want to build up a brand that people get enthusiastic about, you better ask a designer.