As marketing types, we confess to having an obvious bias when it comes to an expression of a brand’s story. We tend to experience a brand primarily through our eyes, by watching how it draws us into its world. And when we are creating brand identity with a client, one of our first steps is to create a book of selected pictures and graphics that create a feeling of the brand’s character.
Check out our thoughts on creative marketing.
The next step though is the expression of the brand through words. The message, we feel, is just as crucial and maybe more so.
Employ creative branding
Why are brand stories and brand messages so important? Simply because your website, your brochures, your advertising and social media are all opportunities to draw customers into your brand world. They represent your ability to influence how people see you, feel about you, and talk to others about you. The words you use, then, should reflect who you are and what makes you distinctive.
And it is not rocket science. Take something as elementary as how you describe your customers. Marriott calls them guests. Augusta National Golf Club, where the Masters Tournament is played, insists on calling them, patrons. Most professional firms use the word ‘clients.’
The decision to use those terms is the first step on the way to creating a corporate story that differentiates and distinguishes. It’s just that most companies never take the next step and end up sounding like every other company in their communications.
Any effective marketing campaign whether it’s a series of Web videos, direct emails, magazine display ads, banner ads, outdoor billboards, television and radio spots, or any combination thereof, will only work if it focuses on a single message.
At the heart of all advertising is the promise you commit to delivering to your clients. No matter how clever or memorable your marketing, if you fail to comply on that pledge, you will fail.
Learn a lesson from the politicians. The general publics’ opinion of politicians is about on a par with having a prostate exam. Politicians can’t help themselves; they promise the electorate what the electorate wants to hear, and then fail to deliver on promises that can never be kept. Consequently, people become cynical and distrust everything politicians say.
Failure to deliver on your promise to be the cheapest, the best, or the guy with the most features, is like a politician promising no new taxes. Read my lips! Those kinds of promises are a prescription for a marketing disaster.
Taking the conceptual approach requires a certain degree of confidence and an understanding that you are going to have to give something up to get something in return. If you present your identity as the Timex of widgets, inexpensive and ubiquitous, then you are giving up the audience looking for the Rolex of widgets, expensive and exclusive.
This list could go on, but I’ll end with one last powerful principle that is useful in reshaping opinions and getting people to rethink brands or categories — one of the best reasons to invest $5 million in a Super Bowl ad in the first place.
Creating brand identity … creative branding examples
In early 2011, selling an American car was a tough ask. Most people still associated Detroit and American automakers with failure and bailouts.
The principle of “two-sided messaging” was brilliantly used in Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit”(No. 13). We are more likely to engage with a message that fits with what we already believe. If someone feels negatively toward a brand, they’ll be resistant to hearing a direct, positive message. By first acknowledging a few of its flaws, they’ll be more open to changing how they feel and what they believe.
The Chrysler spot tells us that, yes, Detroit has been through some tough times, but it’s also strong, resilient and knows a thing or two about art and culture and luxury. By validating the viewers’ impressions of Detroit and, by reflection, Chrysler, the brand was able to turn “Imported from Detroit” into a “hell yes!” rally cry for the Motor City everyone felt proud to get behind.
Whether or not any of these ads were developed with the intelligent use of behavioral science, it’s clear to see that when ads work the way our brains work, they capture our attention and make a lasting impact. Think how much further ahead you can be if you start your ideation with behavioral science in mind.
Designing a brand identity
Given that you have a unique story to tell, when you use the same phrases and thoughts as everyone else to express it, you’ll sound the same as everyone else. Don’t tell me you’re creative, show me why. Don’t tell me that you value your employees, tell me how. Don’t say you go the extra mile, take me on the trip with you.
When you tell your original branding story, create a distinctive voice with unique images … dare to create different feelings and emotion with your communities.
The bottom line
A significant portion of a company’s value is intangible, so a strong brand is a great competitive advantage. As Philip Kotler wrote:
The art of marketing is the art of brand building. If you are not a brand, you are a commodity. Then the price is everything, and the low-cost producer is the only winner.
Brands, marketing, and communication have long been highly related. From TV ads and press releases to events and endorsements, the way consumers view a brand will influence their decision making, so crafting and reinforcing a brand image has long been a top priority for marketers.
To be useful in this new era, we as marketers need to see our jobs differently. No more just focusing on metrics like clicks, video views or social media shares. We must successfully integrate our function with other business functions to create entire brand experiences that serve the customer all the way through their experiences throughout the firm.
We can do better. Much better. But first, we need to stop seeing ourselves as crafters of clever brand messages and become creators of positive brand experiences. That will make the difference, won’t it?
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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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