You know the age-old debate. How much of advertising and PR is science, and how much is creative energy and emotion? That controversy extends to brand philosophy as well. Everyone agrees that the best brands in the world do far more than merely communicate a corporate identity. They elicit an emotional response based on our experience with that brand—whether in the actual past or based on future expectations rooted in the brand promise.
Trust is, after all, a feeling in the form of a clear, inner assurance that precedes any major buying decision. I think we would all agree that nowhere is trust—and therefore brand—more important than in senior living, where families put their lives, and sometimes life savings, “on the line” for themselves or their aging parents.
But is building trust always and only just about touching feelings. Or does it spring from something deeper? Short answer: Yes.
An emotional connection aspect might lead you to believe that world-class brands are developed in fluffy brainstorming sessions where breakthrough ideas surface as the product of raw creativity. Indeed, most people think the logo and tagline themselves are the brand. They see it as merely coming up with a clever name and logo as successful “branding.”
However, nothing could be further from the truth.
Attractive logos and brand names are merely the outward representation of a much deeper strategy for communication, conveyed not only through media but at every brand “touch point” in your company culture. Like any strategy, brand strategy is—or should be—the product of much research and logical reasoning that precede any foray into creative expression.
Trust actually runs deeper than mere emotion. Trust occurs only when there is a complex alignment of rationale and intuition which triggers a decision to move forward in the face of risk. Accordingly, your brand must address and satisfy that complex set of criteria—both spoken and unspoken, both conscious and subconscious. That’s where the “science” of brand development come into the picture.
Genuine brand development is more readily compared to an engineering project than to poetic inspiration. As in engineering, you have to begin with “givens” and decide how to determine the best positioning from there. Research is at the core of the process. The “givens” in brand development begin with a discovery process to crystallize your company’s history, mission, goals, capabilities–all in perspective of the larger competitive environment. Like any intelligent structure, your brand has to reconcile both your vision and your surrounding realities–and engineer alignment between the two at every turn.
Brand development requires rigorous self-assessment in terms of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, values and more–and how they all add up to equip your company to offer a unique and genuine value proposition to a certain market. All of that science brings you to a realization of your optimal “positioning” within your market. From there, the art form is to condense that positioning into an arresting, memorable and credible brand identity package that your market encounters in your advertising, signage, PR and more. But the total brand experience is communicated to your prospects by the experience they have at every point they touch your organization.
If your brand has been wisely approached and expertly crafted, your brand identity will attract your market with a unique and compelling promise. If it is has been properly implemented in your company culture, there will be no disconnect as your prospects move forward in the sales process and become customers. Ultimately, they will then become “brand advocates” for you in their own right. That cycle summaries a successful brand development and implementation.
We call the process Brand Engineering and consider it “brand development by design.” In subsequent posts, I’ll examine some of the strategies involved.