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On today’s show we talk with Jake Dold from Stratus Dental Group on the importance of maintaining brand consistency everywhere your customers can find you, both online and offline.
Read the transcript:
Jake, how are you doing today?
I’m doing great. Excited to be here with you today.
Cool, thanks. So we are planning to talk about what we’ve decided. We were looking at calling it just brand consistency. Now I guess we’re going to call it cross channel brand consistency, which sounds pretty technical and cool, I think.
But there’s a lot of different ways we could tackle this, right? We’re going to be talking about the different mediums in which you represent your brand, how your brand might vary or should vary or should not vary across those different mediums. But let’s just start with step one, and talk about why– if you had to give it to sentence speech on– that’s not much of a speech, but you had to tell me in two sentences why brand consistency is important, how would you kind of sum up why that’s something even worth talking about?
Brand consistency is important because you want to make sure that your customers know what to expect every time they interact with your business and you. And so, a lot of times, what we find is that there’s this inconsistency, meaning in one medium you have different colors or maybe a different tone of voice that you’re using. And in another medium, say the website, it’s not the same.
And when your customers come to you, they don’t know what, necessarily, that experience is going to be like, especially when there’s differing points on those different platforms. Ultimately, that experience they have with you in your business, interacting with you or your team members, that’s really the embodiment of your brand. And if your other branding practices, or your other branding efforts, don’t exemplify that, then you’re creating this inconsistency, and it really just lacks professionalism.
I really like to talk about experience as a facet of that, because when I say the word brand, I think, like a lot of people, the first thing that pops into my mind in a series of things is always like the visual representation. But as you pointed out, the experience is– I mean the visual representation is a kind of experience. And then the experience also extends into inside of your brick and mortar location, if you have one. For instance, how you’re treated by staff, and so forth like that.
Yeah, absolutely. I think step number one with branding is identifying your logo and your colors your taglines, but that’s just the very base. That’s the foundation. Once you’ve done that, there’s so much more that goes into what a brand is, going all the way down into the culture of your business. So how your employees are interacting in front of and when they’re behind closed doors. That all impacts your brand.
So we’re going to spend most of today’s podcast talking about the reasons and the ways that you can and should keep your brand consistent, but let’s ask a one-off question real quick. Are there any times when you might want to deviate from your brand? Or can we just write that off entirely?
Yeah, I would definitely write that off entirely. One of the things that I think is important for you to understand is that there are times for you to change slightly the way that your brand is presented, but it’s never OK to switch completely who you are. So I want us to think about our brand as being a person. You can even pick yourself just for this example to make it easier.
When I go to present myself in different situations, I’m going to, often, present myself in different ways, but I’m still the same person. And your brand should be the same. If I go in to apply for a job, I’m going to be a bit more professional than I would be at home while I’m entertaining friends or family, but still on that same person. And so it’s OK for you to change the way that you’re communicating, as long as the roots of who you are or what your brand is is still being presented.
That does make perfect sense. I noticed, since you told me to think about myself, I was trying to think about the way as I am different, as you point, out at work, or at home, or if I get pulled over by an officer, I’m suddenly much more polite, or something like that. Whatever it could be, but yeah there’s something that is innate to me, or to my brand you could say, that doesn’t change. But you’re also talking about these times when there are shades of the same brand. So maybe we can use that as our segue into the way that these similar things can be applied slightly differently.
So for instance, let’s say you’re a company and you decided to run a campaign. You’re going to advertise anything at all for this example, but you’ve decided that you’re going to run it in the news print, social media, and then it’s going to have a presence on your website. Could you just talk a little bit about the way that those three elements might look the same, and how they might be shaded differently but still be consistent?
So to answer the question, I want to give an example here. We’ll actually use a shaved ice company. Let’s say they have several shaved ice shacks that they just put up for the summertime all around the city, and they want to promote this. And so we have the newspaper, we have the website, and we have social media.
So for the newspaper, we’re going to really want to make sure that we’re promoting in a way that is applicable for, or appropriate for, this medium. In this case, that’s oftentimes a coupon. And think back to the example I gave about your person being a– you are a brand, and you may present yourself differently in different situations. Well in a newspaper, it’s a little bit more of a formal setting than in social media, for example. And so you might have a little bit more body copy, some more text in the print ad, you’re going to have those coupons, and it’s not going to be as playful.
On the other hand, you go to social media, and instead of putting all this copy in it, you’re going to use a lot more imagery. You’re going to be taking pictures of people enjoying their shaved ice near the shack or near the lake that the shack’s close to, things like that. And so it’ll be a little bit more playful and fun and engaging. And then the website, in this case, would probably be a little bit of a combination of both, where you’re able to see both situations, a little bit playful and you have some ability to read into what is offered there at the shack and things like that.
That makes sense, and I can see that these things working together is going to be able to give a more– a broader but consistent experience. But there’s going to be something visual elements that are going to be the same too. Like you were talking earlier about the logo, and your brand’s style, and colors and all those things that come to represent you visually. They’re going to be present in all of these in the same way, right?
Absolutely. Earlier I said that the logo, and the colors, the tagline, those are all the foundational elements, and there’s a reason for that. They should be found in everything that you do. Now there are some situations where that’s not going to be the case, but those are exceptions to the rule.
For example, you may have an ad in the newspaper that’s so small that you might not be able to include some of those elements, or it might be black and white. But in that case, you’re finding ways to still tie-in elements of your brand so that when someone sees that ad, and then they go on to social media, they’re going to be able to draw that line, draw that connection, immediately and know right off the bat this is the same shack. There should be no chance for confusion between your ice shack and the competitor’s ice shack.
So one of the things you’re talking about is the variances and the limitations of the particular mediums. Something that comes to mind is, I was working on a digital ad recently where the campaign was consistent with the ad and vice versa, but the problem was that the dimensions of this particular digital ad were such that it cut off most of the picture. So you were showing people that were familiar to the campaign, but their heads were all cut off. And I was thinking, well this not only kind of skews the message a little bit, but it also delivers a different experience. So it’s the right idea, but it’s maybe not– it’s not going to perform as well on there, so maybe you want to borrow from other aspects of the same brand figure.
Yes, so an example of this is Jiffy Lube. They have what they call the Jiffy Lube wave, and that’s at the bottom of almost all of their marketing. And you can actually pull in that element. And it’s amazing that, there may be instances where you’re not able to use your logo or something to that effect. And all you have to do is pull in that wave, and all the sudden, there’s instant brand recognition an association.
And so you’re able to leave out certain pieces of what you would typically have in all of your advertising. Another example would be a tagline. Ideally you’d love to have that tagline in all of your advertising, but ultimately, sometimes it’s going to be too small– your space that you have to work with is going to be too small to have that tagline on there, and so you need make sure that you’re able to pull in enough elements from your branding, that foundation, that it’s still recognizable as your brand.
You know, another thing that comes to mind with that too that falls in the same line, is I’m thinking back to say was 2008 or 2009 or so. You remember that iPad, or iPod commercial, that was just like a solid, I think, white background, and they had the silhouettes of people dancing, listening to their iPods. And everything looked the same no matter where you were. Like if it was selling Apple, you had that kind of imagery. And you didn’t even have to– you just had to see that format, that visual format.
That silhouette with headphones coming down from the ears of the people dancing.
Yeah, it wasn’t even a logo, but it was part and parcel of their style, because it was minimal, and there were other elements too that I probably wouldn’t have to think about, honestly, but they were ingrained in me.
Yeah, absolutely. One thing, though, I would caution as we have people listening to this that may be small business owners, Apple was able to do that because they have such a strong brand. So just be careful. If you think that you’re at a place where you can be pulling in those elements and ignoring some of the other pieces that are foundational, you have to be careful.
Those big corporations have a lot of money to be able to support that. Apple ran a lot of TV spots and internet spots and everything to make that image resonate with you and to stick in your mind so that even now, we remember. A lot of times these smaller businesses, they simply don’t have the budget to be able to get to that same point. And so it’s more important for small business owners to remember to pull in as much of their brand foundational elements as possible.
That’s a really good point, too. And if the brand isn’t established with– or if they are established with those foundational aspects, it might almost look more like they’re rebranding dependent on– excuse me, depending on the size of the brand at that time. So that could really run afoul.
One of the things that we had talked about prior to recording that I think is a good counterpoint to this, though, is we were talking about McDonald’s. And this is a– I mean, McDonald’s is always one of those brands that people are talking about. They can do pretty much anything successfully, it seams.
You talked about an example where they kind of misinterpreted their brand, and you had an example of a specific campaign that they ran. Maybe we can talk about that as an example to see just how this problem can affect anyone, and they’re taking a chance with any sort of branding consistency. Do you remember their campaign I’m talking–
Yeah, absolutely. So it was a couple years ago. I was driving to work, and I came across this big billboard that McDonald’s had just put up, and it said, “foodies welcome”. And it had a picture of a hamburger that you knew would never look like that when you bought it from McDonald’s.
And we live in the Portland area, and food is a really big deal around here. And if you call yourself a foodie, which I don’t classify myself as a foodie, but those people that I know the classify themselves as foodies, it’s definitely a very unique subset of people who are very particular about the food they eat. And they would never go to McDonald’s to eat a hamburger thinking that it was a great experience. And so “foodies welcome” really is just missing the mark, in that case. Now if McDonald’s was trying to do it with some sense of sarcasm– I’m not really sure, but I think it wasn’t well received, in that case.
OK so let’s really whittle this down a little bit, because I think we can reverse engineer the issue and have it apply to other people too. So I saw a picture of one of these billboards, I don’t quite remember it from my own experience. But it looked, in the picture at least, consistent with a lot of their other stuff. It’s an enormous hamburger, as you said. I think I remember I was just on a level plane, just facing the side. You’ve got big juicy patties, and I won’t get into describing the hamburger too much, but it looked consistent–
Make me a little bit hungry.
Yeah, it is almost lunch time. But you had this focus on the hamburger, and then it’s just a very simple large block text, and then maybe like a smaller golden arches or something like that. I mean that sounds a lot like the McDonald’s brand, so are you saying that just those two words and the concept that was attached to that was enough to completely deviate from their brand consistency?
Yeah, absolutely. They missed the mark on who their audience was. And you can go online and find tons of examples of businesses who have missed the mark with their brand. And they’ve done it in so many different ways. In this case, it was audience.
One of my big calls to action for businesses is that honesty is the best way. And so sometimes things happen in businesses where they’re ashamed of some action that happened, maybe it’s by an employee or some choice they’ve made, and they’ve missed the mark. And sometimes they’re tempted to go ahead and post something online or something that’s more of an excuse, but not addressing the situation head on with complete honesty. And that’s one big way that someone can definitely miss brand themselves.
And even though they have the colors, and the logo, and everything involved in there, they’re really missing the mark, because they haven’t hit the honesty. Or in the case of McDonald’s, they didn’t do– they didn’t target the right audience. And so it’s important to make sure that you have all the elements of your brand in mind when you put together an advertising piece.
So are these kinds of elements of your brand experience, are they things that can be taught to your staff and employees, or do you have to hire them in?
I’m really glad you asked that question, because what it does is it allows us to talk about a point that I really was hoping to get into, which is culture. Culture is a really important part of your brand. And a lot of times, business owners end up trying to separate the two.
Because for example, they’re very factory driven. They want to make things happen as quickly as possible and as effectively and efficiently as possible at their team level, and so it’s all about, let’s just go, go, go, go, go. And then on the other hand, they have their audience, their patient or patient base– I’m refer back to dentistry, which I’m in all the time– but their customer base, they want to have a little bit more of a lighter mood or approach.
Maybe in the case of the shaved ice shack, they’re trying to be a little bit more playful. But if you’re trying to make sure that your workers and your team are all about being efficient and getting things done as quickly as possible, there’s a misalignment there. And it’s going to be really difficult for your team to represent your brand effectively if they don’t feel that brand in their own lives working with you.
So then, which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Do you build your brand around the people that you started the company with, or do you try and continue to hire in that same way? Or can it work the opposite way?
Ultimately, it comes down to leadership. You should be the embodiment of your brand as a business leader. So that business owner should come in and say, look this is my brand. I’m going to run the business the same way that I would like to have my brand represented. And then I’m going to hire people in, and train them with that brand. And ideally, there should be a match.
You can’t take someone who’s a complete opposite of your brand and hope to train them to function in the same way that you want your brand represented. But on the other hand, you may have a brand that’s so unique that you can’t find people to work that same way. And so it’s important to find people that have that middle ground, and that are teachable. So I don’t think there is a chicken or egg situation here, it’s a combination. It’s pushing the egg and the chicken together into one.
That’s quite an omelette you’ve got there.
So as the leader of a small business, or any business for that matter, you’ve decided on your leadership style and how that’s going to reflect in your brand. But let’s say that you haven’t really thought too much about your brand in the past, or maybe you’re ready for a rebrand of some sort, or whatever it is, and you just don’t have those pieces laid out just yet. What’s some advice that you could give on how to actually turn those concepts and ideals and practices that you want to represent you into something that might become an advertisement, or campaign, or a repeatable brand element?
So if you’ve been in business for a long time, something that I want you to understand is that it’s OK for you to make the change now. If you’ve found that your branding just isn’t what you want to be, don’t worry. I deal with this all the time as I work with dentists every day. And oftentimes we get a new practice on board with us, and their brand just isn’t working for them.
They’re finding that the number of patients that they’re seeing on a regular basis is pretty low. They’re having a hard time with their reputation. People sometimes don’t even understand that they’re a dental practice. And so we take and we’ll redo their branding.
We may change their name, change their logo, colors, all of that. And we’ve seen an amazing results right off the bat where people, now they’re able to instantly understand that that’s a dental practice and not some just other place of business. They start seeing immediate new patients coming in. And so it’s OK to make the change now, as long as you’re willing to do.
Now stepping away from that and answering your question a little bit more directly is, one of the biggest mistakes that I see people do it is that they pick their brand, how they want that represented, some of those foundational elements, based off of their own personal preferences. If I’m a very wealthy elegant person, I might like my brand to reflect kind of that Rolex style or Jaguar, but maybe the customers that I’m looking to work with, they’re not in that same pay range. And in that case– and by the way, I’m not in that Rolex pay range, if anyone was wondering. But they may be in a much lower pay– a much lower economic environment, and so you will have to adjust to what they need.
And one of the best way is that I’ve found to do that is to actually identify, again, one person. Pick who your audience is by one person. You even give them a name, so let’s get going for example here. You can say my ideal customer, her name’s Morgan, and she’s 32 years old. She’s married. She has two small kids.
She values convenience over the experience that she could have at whatever, maybe it’s the going out for ice cream, she values the convenience of it rather than having that amazing experience. Her own health and the health of her family are one of the most important things to her. She has a household income of $75,000. And you go on and on and on, and really identify exactly who that customer is for you.
Then once you’ve identified that person, you stop and you say, now what would appeal to that person? What would resonate? What branding elements would resonate with Morgan? And all the sudden, you find that you’re in this new place.
All the sudden, you’re looking at it from a completely different set of eyes. Rather than looking for that flashy, or that the class look from Rolex, and you start looking at things that are a little bit more colorful, and vibrant, and fresh, and clean. And so you need to make sure that you’re identifying who that perfect customer is, and what messaging and imagery would resonate most with them, not what appeals to you.
I have to agree with you twice on this. One is that I’ve also– well, more than twice, but two I want to hit on specifically. I’ve also had to deal with sometimes people are– they have a hard time divorcing what they think looks great from what actually works.
And so sometimes their concept of what, for instance, a good looking website is. Really speaks more to them as a customer than the customers that they’re trying to advertise to. And so they make that mistake of advertising to themselves rather than advertising to the people who will actually be potential clients or customers in that way.
So the reason why I brought up that Rolex example several times is because I just recently had an experience with one of our practice owners who, he– we just presented three different directions that we could go, three different creative direction, and one of those had that Rolex appeal to it. And he saw that he said, I love that. I want that.
And then he himself stopped and said, wait a second, that’s me talking. That’s not my audience talking. That’s not my patient base talking. And so we showed on the other two examples, and he found that a third one, which we all agreed was the right direction to go, but ultimately that third one was the one that would really appeal to his audience rather than to him himself.
Well kudos to over that was, because that is exactly what we hope to run into. That’s a great observation to have. One other point I want to agree with you on is that, when you’re talking about mood boards or your target audience, Morgan or whatever you decide to name them, they have their own proclivities, as we’ve already pointed out. So you can find what works well with that demographic, and then make that part of your brand also. That could be part of your visual element, for instance.
So we’re talking about the Rolex appeal, for instance. If we know that’s not going to work, then we can look at, how does that factor into other things? It might be more than just not putting flashy watches on your advertising, for instance.
It could have something to do with the way that your font selections work, and how can you implement that into your logo? Does a color that you use frequently, does that represent excessive wealth, or does it exist express something that’s a little bit closer to Morgan’s taste and living style? And I think that’s exactly the right way to go with this.
I focus, in my role here at Audigy, on what we call conversion rate optimization. And that’s pretty much the same thing. We basically analyze what can or does work, and then we make sure that we use that where it can work. So it makes a lot of sense–
No, you’re completely right on there, right on point with– everything that you have in your branding, to your font, the way that that is presented plays into the messaging, that subliminal messaging, that you’re sending. And that example that I was just saying, the fonts were very important, because there was definitely the Rolex type, very classy fonts, that we’re looking at on the first style that we presented. But on the third one, it was much more of a southern charm feel. And that is what he was really looking for. Think of that fancy lemonade type field of your fonts, and that was what was calling attention to his audience. And we ultimately ended up going that direction.
That’s interesting, because those are two very, very different brand types. And actually, I wouldn’t have guessed so that was the alternative that was presented, so it’s interesting to hear that. So one more thing I want to touch base on, here. Can we talk a little bit about the company’s life cycle and where in that life cycle you’re supposed to be, or you could find the most benefit from really evaluating your brand or fine tuning it?
We see this all the time where, when there’s dire need for new customers, and this typically happens early on in the business’s life, that there’s a much more need for direct response, where you need to get that customer in the doors or calling the business or ordering online immediately. And so your messaging changes a little bit. When you’re a more established business, you’re able to, or you have the luxury, of marketing in a little bit different way.
We can actually use some examples of some of those bigger brands. We used Apple earlier. You can think of Microsoft. There’s so many brands, and what are their calls to action? Can you even think of them? There’s nothing immediately off the top of my mind that I can’t think of that Apple is saying, hey we have this great deal for you, or anything like that.
They’re about branding, about creating this position for their brand in your mind, in the consumer’s mind. And because they’re so, so developed, they don’t have to be focused on bringing in that new customers through direct calls to action. But when you contrast that against a brand new business who has no brand and no customers, the most important thing to them at that point is getting those customers to follow through on the business cycle, getting them to make the purchases or to subscribe to the services or whatever it is that business does. Whatever widget that business creates, they need those customers immediately.
And so your marketing tactics change quite dramatically. Instead, you’re focusing on these direct response– these campaigns that we call direct response. For example, direct mail, so sending out postcards and having offers on there with this call to action, saying come do this, call us now. Those are elements that oftentimes people consider to be universal, that you need to on every marketing piece. But again, going back to those examples of those big brands, oftentimes their calls to action are much more subtle than that, and it’s because of the maturity of that business.
OK, Jake, well, again, this is an episode that we could spent hours working on, but I’m going to let you go soon. Before we do though, I’d like you to help me by wrapping this up into three bullet points that really encapsulate all the things that we talked about today.
Sure, I think number one is understanding what the foundational elements are. So you have your logo, you have your font, you have your colors. Make sure that you’re pulling that consistently to everything that you’re doing.
Number two is your culture, make sure you understand the tie between your culture and your business, your brand. Those are two very important things to be tied together, rather than having them two distinct parts. And number three is think of your audience. Remember who they are. Remember the activity that we went through of Morgan, picking up that one person that embodies your target audience completely, and make your brand appeal or resonate with that person. If you do those three things, I think you’re off to a great start.
Jake, that is some great advice. I’m going to go and do my homework right now too so I can start my brand. Thank you so much for being on Reach. We really appreciate having your expertise
It was great. Thank you.
Today’s show is brought to you by Misty Stern, Executive VP of Marketing and Operations at Audigy Group. Does your brand make you proud? How about your employees?
Does your brand make you proud? If you’re not willing to wear your brand– both literally and figuratively– on your sleeve, you should go back to those points of differentiation and really identify what it is that you want to represent. We go back to that golden circle of the why behind everything we do.
As business owners, this one’s usually pretty easy. We’re usually quite proud of what we’ve built, our knowledge, our experience, our education, all the people we’ve helped over the years. But sometimes, as employees within a business, this part can be a bit more difficult. And this is where it’s important as a business owner or the person in charge of marketing within a practice that we take some time to actually educate and influence the people on our teams to ensure that they are proud of that brand as well and they have clarity on what the core values are.
In this episode, Daniel Parscale brings in the creative big guns to discuss brands. Is a brand just a logo? What do you do to build, foster and promote a brand? What happens if you need to re-brand? Jess Lund and Ali House come to the rescue in this fascinating discussion on brands.
Read the transcript:
Today on Reach we’re going to be talking about branding. My guests are Jess and Ali, and between the two of them, they have more than 13 years of experience. Together, we’ve worked on branding, creative design, and all kinds of marketing.
Hi. My name is Jess Lund. And I am a design manager. My spirit animal is the koala.
Hi. My name is Ali House. I’m a graphic designer. And my spirit animal is the moose.
OK. So thank you, Jess and Ali, for joining me today. How are you doing?
Doing great, thank you!
Cool, thank you. So we’ve got an expansive conversation to be had today about branding, brands, all that kind of stuff. And I started where I imagine both of you did, too, and everyone else on the planet. And I Googled it, and I came up with the definition that Google supplies for branding, which starts off with, “a type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particularly name.” And then it goes on to talk about branded livestock and images and things like that.
So is that where we want to start with this conversation? Is that what a brand is? Is it just a logo? Or what is it? What’s your working definition here?
I’ll step in. To me, I think that’s the general definition. I think when you think in terms of a brand, people tend to go to the mark because that’s one of the most recognizable things. But in terms of the bigger picture of a brand, brand is really, to me, an essence or a persona that a business portrays.
And that goes to the way the in-store atmosphere is. That goes to the way the employees interact with their customers. It comes down, to me, to a feeling or an attitude. It’s like the bigger picture. It’s the soul of that mark, to me.
I totally agree. It’s interesting. I don’t remember ever taking a brand course in college. And so I feel like most of what I’ve learned has been in the industry. We definitely talked about logo marks and the good, the bad, how to go about them, and how to sell them.
But brand– I mean, that’s a whole ‘nother topic. It’s pretty complicated because there are so many layers to it, so many nuances. And when you look online, there’s not a single definition. In fact, you’ll see several different ways of defining a mission statement versus a brand promise.
So in my experience in working with Ali on some branding projects for some of our clients, we had to really define exactly what that meant for us. And you can break it out in, like I said, a variety of ways. But at its core, you can think about what the brand idea is, which is, what is the product? What are you selling the audience? How is it unique from your competition?
There is the mission statement, which you can think of as how you want your audience to perceive your brand and what you do, what you want to embody– what values and attitudes, like Ali said, you want to embody. And then there is the vision. Where do you want to take this brand?
So you can’t think of brand as just here and now and a pretty logo. You have to think about it as this wider experience that happens throughout time. Brands evolve. But I don’t know that people really think about that.
That sounds like a really metaphysical kind of answer, which I love. And it’s interesting because I think that the first thing that comes to mind whenever I think about a brand of any particular company is going to be that visual component. And it sounds like what you both agree on is that while that’s a factor of the brand, it’s more of like a symbol of what the actual brand is. And it’s maybe something bigger than any sum of the part. It’s kind of like an avatar of whatever those things you’re trying to represent are, right?
Yeah. And it’s interesting you bring up that point because if you think about some of the larger successful brands, one in particular being Nike, that’s one–
I’ve heard of them.
That’s good because they’re pretty big.
I mean, people look at that mark. And there is a lot of conversation that happens around that mark. And people say, like, oh, it’s one of the most recognizable marks. And the question is, is it the mark that made Nike so big, or is it everything else behind that mark?
And I think in terms of brand, the mark is just a supporting feature of everything behind that. I mean, your mark could be a circle– literally, a circle. But if you can have all these other things that go behind it with experience and tone of voice– those types of things that people can resonate with– that mark will just elevate everything else behind that brand. And it’s a way for people to attach themselves.
Well, so what can you tell me about the things that you would– Jess, you already touched on this a little bit about what kinds of questions you would ask in order to come up with the brand concept. But what are some of the potential answers there? Like, if I was being asked by you, my creative team, to help me come up with my brand, like, what are some of the things that I should be thinking about in order to really figure out what my brand is before we even get to the part about the logo or how we’re going to represent that visually?
When we start looking at a brand, there are a few approaches that we like to take in exploring what the brand is currently and where the brand wants to be. So some helpful tools are thinking, again, what is your unique positioning within your market? It’s pretty natural for people to want to state what they do in pretty general terms. But there needs to be some real deep investigation into exploration into how your product, your attitude is really different and why your audience should care– how they’re going to connect with that.
So that can be tangible or intangible, too. You used the word attitude. And I think that’s interesting.
Yeah. So that could be your product. But we like to start with, what are some adjectives that describe your brand? Are you caring? Are you sassy? What are you bringing to your persona?
And then how do you speak to what you do? How do you bring that persona to life? And then what’s the walk? How do you back that up with what you do?
Authenticity is incredibly important in brands nowadays, especially because information is at your fingertips. You can find out if your local gas station oil supplier is ruining the world or if the company you love to get coffee from is not paying their taxes like they should at a click of a button. And people don’t like that. Brands create this connection with people and, I would argue, when they’re at their best, communities. And so that authenticity is incredibly important.
So when you’re looking at these things, it’s really helpful to see what’s going on in the marketplace, what your competition is doing, but also what’s going on outside of your market. What are some brands that really resonate with what you’re doing? And it might not be a similar product, but it might be that they have a tone of voice that really resonates with where you want to go. And so looking at what they’re doing right and maybe what you might be able to do better is a great way to start that conversation.
Since you brought up oil companies right there, that reminds me of a brand that happens to be an oil company, and they failed at exactly what you just talked about. I think it was probably 2009 or something like that when a certain petroleum company rebranded with a– it looked like a flower. You all know which one I am talking about.
And it was obviously an effort to try and green-wash themselves, even though they’re an oil company. And to my mind and my understanding, that kind of backlashed against them. People saw that the headlines were not going to be just washed over by this brand redesign. And because there was that disconnect between what they were and their mark in this case, it didn’t work.
Obviously, they’re still around. But I mean, there was a lot of backlash. And we’re talking about it now, what, five or some odd years after the case.
Right. And that’s why it’s so important to look at if you are doing a refresh, it’s something that can’t just be a logo refresh. It has to be if you’re trying to change perceptions, if you’re trying to improve your credibility, that has to be inside out. So that has to be within the core of your organization and everyone that represents that and what they provide onward out to receive the appropriate perceptions that you’re going for.
I think you see that fail quite a bit. We were talking about Gap earlier. And that was a nice example of trying to create a more contemporary brand that wasn’t an inside-out approach.
Maybe we should, for the listeners who might not know what we’re talking about, that we’re talking about their logo redesign. And it went from the one that everybody still knows today– the blue box with– what is it?– just a white serif font.
The serif, yeah
And then it turned into this ugly postmodern ’90s monster– I don’t even know– like this sans-serif font floating in front of its past ideation. Like, I think that lasted five or six days before they pulled it at a huge loss. I’m getting the chills just thinking that logo.
Yeah. Speaking to that particular example, it’s really tricky when it comes to evolving your brand because as Jess spoke, there’s this emotional tie to it. And so for a brand to just overnight, all of a sudden– at least to the general public, overnight, just change its mark, for some people, that’s really scary because it’s like–
Where are they going now?
Right. Exactly. And growing up, I’m sure all of us in this room have our parents or even ourselves have brands that we’re totally attached to, whether it’s through their product or service offerings or just the way they communicate to us. And to all of a sudden see your brand that you’ve been going to for decades, let’s say, to just all of a sudden change their, I guess, aesthetic or their appearance, it’s a shock. And so you have to be careful when it comes to making these evolutions. You really want to do it over small, incremental pieces.
Like Google does with their logo. Like, one pixel a year or something.
I would say that even if you were going to refresh your brand, you’ve got to have in mind, like, the trajectory of how you might change that further down the line, right? So what’s an example of a– we talked about some bad examples. What’s a good example of a brand that has refreshed themselves? And let’s not just talk about the mark here, although I think that’s an important part. But, like, are there any brands that you guys are fans of that have completely changed their user experience and maybe come back from the dead a little bit?
Ooh, come back from the dead– ooh.
And I wouldn’t say necessary this brand came back from the dead. But I would like to think, in terms of a popular major brand, I would say UPS is pretty successful in terms of how they’ve evolved their brand over time. From the mark standpoint, it hasn’t really changed much. The most recognizable mark of that company is their shield. And over time, that shield has just very subtly changed.
But in terms of, I guess, that industry, the– I don’t know what you call that– the delivery industry? I don’t know.
OK. Let’s go with that. Mail services– I mean, with the introduction of the internet and some of those things that definitely upped the game in terms of how you deliver packages and what you can offer, I feel like they’ve done a really good job of being this company that, yes, we can deliver your packages on time. But they’ve started to include logistics and other things that businesses need to be this more well-rounded, I guess, business.
But they’ve stayed true to what their value proposition is, which to me is getting your products to you on time and making sure they arrive in the way that they’re suppose to.
That makes sense. And I’m trying to think in my head, firstly about the logo that they’ve used. And I can’t remember what it used to look like, which I think is actually probably good because we know it’s been updated, and it still looks current. But it’s been continuous in history in some way.
And then like you said, too, like, you’re also keeping consistent their mission, which seems to be to not only provide delivery services but also to deliver peripherals to that that make the experience of having that something delivered to your house better, right?
When you’re talking about rebranding and looking at brands historically, you can always go back to the successes are where they started with a clear defined mission of what they were doing– what they stood for, what their values were– because you always go back to that. When you distill it down, you should be able to use that as a jumping-off point. Throughout time, as you do different marketing campaigns, as you do mark refreshes, you should always be able to go back to that core essence, that soul of your organization.
To piggyback on that, I think somewhere I’ve heard before people say, in one sentence, can you define your brand? And that’s, to Jess’s point, that core statement. That’s the one thing that you should weigh, essentially, all your decisions against for the evolution of that brand.
And when I think, like, for an example, of, like, core mission statements or core statements, I should say, I think about Airbnb is one good example that I can’t think of. And their core statement, in essence, is– and I don’t want this to get confused– but it’s, to be anywhere. And basically what they’re saying is that we’re offering you these really cool places to be in, these really, like, unique places at an affordable price and allow you to be in those places anywhere you want.
We think in terms of hotels and what those things can offer. And you want to go get a hotel room. But it’s so expensive. Or it’s a place that you don’t feel like you can fit in. Well, Airbnb is here to allow you to fit into those places.
That’s a good one. I was thinking how warm that slogan makes me feel right there, right?
So it’s clever, so it’s kind of fun. It definitely makes sense about their global empire or ambitions in that way. I mean, what else does it do that is successful? And actually, another point I want to point into this is it kind of works like a mark or a logo in that way, too, because it’s like, I can totally see that written out anywhere and be like, [SNAPS FINGERS] boom, that’s an Airbnb kind of like concept.
You want it to be direct. You want it to be easily digestible and memorable.
Yeah. And in that core statement, too, that’s the thing that you basically give to all the people involved in that brand or that business. And it allows them to get in that mindset. When we speak to attitudes about brand, that core statement really sets the tone.
So if you’re Nike and your core statement is to be an athlete, and however that is, if that means with an asterisk to be human, then that allows the people who are going to be working on that brand or even be associated with that brand to really dive into what that means and produce products across the board or marketing across the board that will always be consistent.
Once you’ve figured out your brand, what are you doing with it? I’ve talked a lot about branding advertising, for instance. And there’s other applications, too, like, I mean so many things come to my mind. But let’s just talk through applications of brand once it’s established. What do you do with it?
Your brand can be represented in very physical ways. Your user is going to experience your product and your services in a variety of ways. So it’s really important that your branding is consistent from the time that they step into your store front to when they visit your website to how your employees provide customer service. Everything needs to mirror the mission and the values and the attitude that your brand represents. If you have any disconnect, that’s a point for your consumer to start questioning things.
So, like, the experience that the customer actually has. And that’s what they’re seeing visually, as well as, like, their interactions with the representatives and stuff like that.
Yeah, down to the furniture you have, the signage, the smile on the employee’s face.
Right. The classic one.
So there has to be that continuity in order for your audience to build that confidence and connection with your brand. There are different stages of the consumer cycle. And it usually starts with research. And so from research to advocacy, you need to have consistency for them to be totally bought in. And even at that advocacy stage when they tell their friend, this is awesome, that person needs to see the exact same thing in order for it to not break down.
Same thing in, like, the advertisements that they’re going to be placing or their present set events, which we’ve talked about a little bit, or any of these other things, too. When you’re talking about the consistency, you mean not just the visual but, like, the– again, that overall culture needs to– if they belong there for their brand, they’ve got to be there. And they need to look the part that shows that they belong there.
They need to look it. They need to read it. They need to feel it– smell it.
I mean, Jess brings up a really good point. I think that’s the hardest thing for the small businesses to deal with is that investment into consistency. I mean, yes, you have your investments into these touch points and these physical touch points. But it takes a lot of time and energy to get to that consistency level.
If you’re Small Business A, and you’re thinking, well, gosh, Starbucks is– God, they’re just so great; they do all this stuff. Well, that stuff didn’t happen overnight. Yes, they had some resources to put into that. But it took a lot of time and a lot of thinking and a lot of just emotional and personal investment into really, in a sense, grinding out, like, what that line is– that consistency line is– and then applying it, and applying it, and applying it and not waving from it.
So when a situation arises and somebody says, oh, that’s not your brand. You don’t do that. Somebody goes, well, this is the line that we drew. This is in line with our brand, and we’re going to stick to that.
I think that’s the hardest part for anybody in terms of a brand is that you’re just so tempted to change things and to be as fresh as you can possibly be. But the most reassuring thing for the consumer is that you’re going to be this consistent voice throughout time.
Beautiful. Well put. OK, well, I think we’re about ready to start wrapping this up. So I am going to put the screws on you guys here. And I’m going to ask you for your top three takeaways, the way we like to round out the show. So how would you sum up what we should be remembering from this conversation today on brands?
Brands are not logos.
They are experience and emotion.
Yeah, I would say brand is certainly– for me, it’s an attitude, and it’s a way of being. I mean, I go back to my class years, and my professor was saying, think of a brand as a person, and what do you want that person to be? How do you want them to act? And where do you see them going in the world?
Another point I think I would want to emphasize is when sitting down and really focusing in on your vision of your brand, allowing yourself– well, allowing your brand to evolve, so setting up rules that don’t trap you but allow you to evolve with time and how your product might be evolving or even your audience.
Your brand, your business, your propositions are going to change over time. But you need to have that one true core element that remains the same throughout all of that so that you can weigh all those decisions against what that core statement is so that you know you’re making the right decision and you’re not just flying off the handle, so to speak.
Jess and Ali, thank you so much for the discussion today on brands!
In today’s Attainable, Brandon Dawson makes the case that your brand is everything you do, all the time — not merely your logo and colors.
People get confused about what their brand is. And a lot of times they think their brand is what their logo looks like or what their colors are. What your brand really is, is the total sum of all experiences that somebody gets when they work with you or they engage you or they encounter you.
Your brand is everything you do and everyone doing it, and you’re either every day intentionally adding value and building your brand in all you do, with everyone doing it at a high level of intentionality and a full level of alignment with team members doing it.
Or you’re degrading and undermining your brand. And for somebody to say they’re great and they’re not intentionally focused on greatness, you cannot make that promise, and the result of that will be a broken business.