If you know that “Brand” is important, but find it difficult explaining what it is and how it works, this article is for you. We understand that “Brand” is difficult to get your arms around. So in this series we break it down in simple terms using a lot of examples and concepts to help you absorb faster. Like most things, understanding concepts are important before you can really “get it”. And once you understand the concepts, you will begin to feel the powerful forces behind all the fuss we call “Brand”. By the end of this series, we hope you will have the basic knowledge and skills to begin to think about Brand ideology in your work and even in your life.
Let’s start with concepts – The Brand and Logo
The diagram below shows how most people see Brand – that is, logos that have become world renowned and belong to large companies that make famous consumer products. Although this scenario is a little misleading, it’s a good place to start. First, it’s best to look at an example of how Brands and Logos work, instead of spending too much time describing it.
Having a rough day – A Visit to Starbucks
Anyone can make a cup of coffee. Then why is Starbucks a multi-billion dollar company?
- I’m having a rough day so I decide to treat myself at Starbucks for the first time. The barista greets me with a smile and says “hello sir, what can I get you today”. I immediately feel welcomed and happy that someone has taken time to be nice to me. By the way, this barista is wearing a hat and apron, both with a conspicuous Starbucks logo.
- I sit down with my coffee on a comfy chair attached to a table inlaid with earthy wood patterns. The walls are dark olive green and large windows let in broad strokes of sun light. I feel relaxed, like I’m on vacation, as I sip my coffee with a conspicuous Starbucks logo on my cup.
- I get up to go to the bathroom and I dread public bathrooms. But to my surprise and relief, it’s immaculate. I feel like a VIP. And I say to myself “thanks Starbucks”.
- I finish my coffee and head downstairs, feeling invigorated, and satisfied with my time here and as I’m heading out, there is a very conspicuous Starbucks logo next to the glass door.
What just happened? It’s Starbucks “Branding” making an indelible impression on me. But how?
Starbucks Branding – A closer look.
I had several emotionally charged moments at Starbucks; welcomed, happy, relaxed, high class (VIP), reinvigorated and satisfied. And while I was experiencing these pleasures, the ubiquitous Starbucks Logo was always within eyeshot. In effect, I subconsciously became “Branded” to the Starbucks Logo with a sense of happiness (among other things). That’s why they call it “Branding” because you’re being branded like a like a cow, but not with a hot iron – you’re being branded with an image of a logo associated with some emotion. But don’t get me wrong. Starbucks is not intentionally manipulating you. They are genuinely trying to give you the best coffee experience ever and the outcome is Brand awareness. It means when I see the Starbucks logo next time, no matter in a magazine or on a tee shirt, there will be flashes of “feelin’ good”, at least at some subconscious level. And the best part for Starbucks is this – whenever I’m feeling blue, I’m going back to Starbucks for another “cup of happiness”.
Brand is the emotional connection a customer will have with your company through personal experiences.
It’s similar to “imprinting” for baby ducks – they instinctively imprint on the first thing they see, and it doesn’t have to be a momma duck – it could be you – and they follow you everywhere without rationalizing why … they just do. Brand is a powerful force that “imprints” on customers through emotionally charged, personal experiences. And you follow your brand everywhere, even though you probably never rationalized why – you just do. Anyone can make a cup of coffee. Then why is Starbucks a multi-billion dollar coffee company? Its Brand … Many people might think Starbuck’s makes the best coffee in the world but … Starbucks doesn’t really sell coffee per se, it sells an experience. McDonald’s doesn’t really sell hamburgers per se, they sell “happiness” (to kids). I’m not saying these companies don’t make good products, but it’s the Brand that is the real glue that brings in loyal, long term customers.
Brand is about consistency
Actually, the Brand process may not be as immediate as imprinting with baby ducks. It may take several experiences before a Brand is embedded in heart and soul. But as I continue to patronize Starbucks at different locations, the consistency in my experiences will bolster my connection to the Brand. On the other hand, if I visit even one store where employees are apathetic and bathrooms are dirty, it undermines everything the brand has been building up to. Have you ever stopped patronizing a store because of one bad experience?
Consistency is paramount.
Brand is for everyone, not just famous companies.
I use famous companies for my examples, but Brand is not about attaining the status of Apple or Starbucks. It’s about connecting with customers, no matter you sell coffee or wall paneling, no matter you’re a B2C or B2B company. We all have customers, so Brand is important. And how do you get more customers using your Brand influence? That’s where you need develop and establish your Brand through “Branding” practices, which we will talk about it in Part II.
Take aways from this post
- Brand is not about attaining the status of an Apple, or Starbucks logo.
- Brand is about connecting with customers through an emotional/personal experience
- “Branding” is the support system that helps you develop and establish your Brand.
- Ask yourself this … If anyone can make a cup of coffee, then why is Starbucks a multi-billion dollar company?
See you in Part II where we really get into “Branding”.