The Blake Project, the brand consultancy behind Branding Strategy Insider, delivers interactive brand education workshops and keynote speeches designed to align marketers on essential concepts in brand management and empower them to release the full potential of the brands they manage.
Category: Brand Identity
In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald writes, “Personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures.” Similarly, a brand is the result of an unbroken series of consistent gestures, encompassing both what it does and how it does it. Brand Identity is the tool marketers use to articulate the rules for brand gestures. It explains how the brand will support the organization’s overall mission and objectives, and forms a bridge to making decisions about more than just marketing. Successful companies use the brand as a filter for determining whom to hire, which businesses to participate in, what partnerships to pursue and more. As a result, creating a brand identity is one of the most important steps a company can take to ensure a consistent, enduring brand.
Brand Identity is meant for internal consumption. Once developed, the best practice is to internalize it up and down the organization, so that everyone making decisions that impact the brand is working from the same understanding. Strong brands have well-defined ‘edges’ – everyone in the organization knows where the edges lie and how to respect them. Disney Cruise Lines does not have a casino and never will, despite the potential for generating revenue. Ronald McDonald will never march in a gay pride parade. These are extreme examples, but the difference between a clearly defined brand and a fuzzy one often rests on the ability to discern boundaries.
Our Brand Identity Model
There are many different ideas about the best way to define a brand identity. After reviewing several, we concluded there is no one right way, but there are elements that are important to include. All brand identities have at least three components: rallying cry, capabilities, and personality. But some brands need more elaboration. Our Brand Identity Model is an adaptation of Jean-Noel Kapferer’s “Brand Identity Prism.” It offers these three elements and four more, a reflection of the fact that the brands that are richest in meaning define themselves on more than just three dimensions.Read More
Developing a new or refreshed corporate or brand identity is often a response to change. Many factors will drive that change – new management, mergers, acquisitions, product development, or a competitor’s threat to a core business. Most change within organizations (or individuals for that matter) is usually driven by external influences (fear) and rarely is initiated through forethought (innovation).
Seemingly in every industry category, offerings are increasingly becoming commodities and perceived by customers as less differentiated and less valuable. Naturally it’s tempting to respond to this by changing something. It’s only logical to assume that maybe you can duplicate success by copying the attributes, features or capabilities of what is working for others. The sobering truth is this tactic will not sustain real growth, nor add more value to customers; it only increases the sameness and adds to the clutter.
We adapt by copying others.
Social observer and author, Mark Earls demonstrates the simple fact that humans have largely evolved by copying others. For thousands of years, humans have adapted through a “do what works” mentality. In fact, Earls points out “copying is our species’ number one learning and adaptive strategy.” The temptation to copy other’s success is, well — tempting. Here’s why:
It’s easier and less risky to copy what works than to create more value.
Humans have naturally sought the safety and security of the known, and avoided the risk of the unknown. When it comes to building an identity, product development, and marketing, the majority of change today is really just copied from what came before, or from what’s currently influencing the behaviors of the status quo. The pressure to sell more stuff seems to trump creating more value through serving people better.
As a result, products have more features on features, there are more flashy logos, more marketing. Seemingly, the more that changes, or gets copied, the more organizations and brands become the same – the result is more commodization with eroded brand equity.Read More
A brand’s identity is a combination of visual, auditory, and other sensory components that create recognition, aid in memory encoding and decoding, represent the brand promise, provide differentiation, create communications synergy, and are proprietary. The logo is one key component. Here is what we look for when we evaluate logo design:
- Memorable – highest recognition and recall (both of which can be tested for)
- Including recognition at maximum distances (can be tested for)
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Timeless quality – the logo will not become dated
- Appropriate for the product/service category
- Has “breakthrough” quality, that is, it stands out in the midst of other logos (can be tested for)
- Reinforces the brand name or tagline or both (can be tested for)
- Evokes positive emotions (can be tested for)
- Has positive brand associations (can be tested for)
- The icon does not evoke negative or unintended associations among the target audiences (can be tested for)
- Fits in the spaces in which it will most likely appear – has the most advantageous (vertical/horizontal) orientation
- Including, is recognizable in small (e.g. business card) spaces
- A version of it looks good in black and white
- Works well with sub-brand or endorsed brand identities
Choosing a new logo should not be taken lightly and it is not a job for amateurs. Higher profile brands can expect debates, more debates, rejection and failure from less than optimal designs. Keep in mind as you move through this process, successful brand identity development and change begins from within.
Sponsored By: Brand AidRead More
Regular readers of Branding Strategy Insider know we welcome and answer marketing questions of all types. Today's question comes from Asma, a marketing student in Bangalore, India. He writes:
"In India we recently witnessed a large mobile service provider, Airtel rebrand. The company acquired another company from Africa and now has the 5th largest subscriber base — around 200 million.
The Indians are not at all happy with this rebranding exercise because of the strong attachment to the old logo and the brands’ jingle. Although Airtel marketers claim that the new logo is urbane and youthful, people are finding it difficult to accept. Is it a wise decision to change a strongly encoded brand identity like Airtel did?"
Asma, thank you for your question. The very simple answer to your question is, “No, it is not wise to change a well-known identity system unless there is a very good reason to do so.” Identity systems are designed to encode and decode brand information to and from people’s brains. If you change the system, the associations may be lost and will take a long time to rebuild. I assume Airtel’s management felt the need to change the brand’s identity because they acquired a brand from another continent. Perhaps their research showed that the original brand identity would not work for customers of the acquired brand or perhaps altering the identity was part of the acquisition agreement.
You mention another point. People become attached to the identities of well-known brands. When they are comfortable with a given identity, they don’t want it changed. Changing brand identities is risky business, not only because it has the potential to reduce brand recognition, recall and key associations, but also because it could cause customer dissatisfaction. While Gap changed its logo back to the original one after much consumer dissatisfaction with the new logo, many other brands such as Kodak, Starbucks and Xerox changed their identities to some consumer push-back at first but in the end, people adapted to the new identities.Read More
Branding Strategy Insider welcomes and answers marketing questions of all types. Today's question comes from David, a Marketing Manager in Salt Lake City, Utah. He asks:
“I am hoping you can lend some unbiased direction. Our organization has thousands of products in a variety of mediums. As we move towards a more comprehensive visual identity system, we are concerned that by the time we get to the end of such a project, the intended results will be compromised due to the constant change in media. I was at a AIGA PIVOT conference in October where Terry Irwin, Professor and Head of the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon, suggested an era of organic branding and visual identity might be the direction of future visual identity programs.”
Thanks for your question, David. There are a few things I would have you keep in mind as you are considering this:
- To be highly effective, brand identity needs to be consistent across media/uses and over time. Otherwise it is much more difficult to encode and decode brand recognition and associations in memory.
- Any time a brand identity project is pursued, one should strive for an identity system that works in all current and potential future contexts. That is, maximum flexibility needs to be designed into the system.
Brand identity can and will evolve over time, but usually it does so incrementally so that the new identity is a refreshed extension of the old identity. In this way, one does not lose the recognition and positive associations that existed with the previous identity. Consider brands like Betty Crocker (pictured), Quaker Oats, KFC, Xerox and Morton Salt, they changed significantly over time, but only a little bit at a time.
In addition David, we think you'll find these thoughts on brand identity change meaningful:
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Sponsored By: Brand Aid