Creating an Identity
March 1, 2010
by Jennifer Barnett Fox
You order, stock, sell and advertise your product, but what consideration do you give to your company’s brand? Webster’s Dictionary defines a brand as “a class of goods indentified by name as the product of a single firm or manufacturer.” Today, a brand encompasses much more than just a name. Successful brands engage their audience and provide a consistency of experience, product, service and customer expectation.
“Brands are formed in the minds of consumers,” said Lee Sucharda, president, Design North, Racine, WI. “A brand is the summation of their perceptions.” To create a successful brand that resonates with your customer base, communication and interaction with your customers are crucial. The best brands create a full visual palette with triggers that cause people to think about it frequently, said Tricia Davidson, principal and managing partner of Duffy & Partners, a Minneapolis, MN-based branding and design firm.
BREAK IT DOWN.
So what does your brand stand for? “Your brand is an articulation of a product or service that meets the expectation of your customer every time,” said Amy Scott, marketing consultant, Cattywampus Consulting, Fort Myers, FL. “Branding is a consistency of this promise.” She stressed that while companies may legally own a brand, the emotional ownership ultimately lies with the customer.
But those expectations might not always be clear. A January AdAge article written by Rose Cameron, chief strategy officer at Euro RSCG Chicago, reported that a majority of consumers choose brands that “represent their aspirations.” In other words, consumers look for brands that help them identify with where they want to be, rather than where they are currently. These aspirations can be social, economic or ecological.
“In these times of constrained resources, consumers are consolidating their brand choices and ultimately selecting the ones that reflect not their realities but their aspirations and values,” Ms. Cameron said.
The importance of a well-defined brand continues to increase because of the number of channels and messages bombarding consumers each day, according to Design North, a strategic branding and packaging design firm. “Successful brands are desired,” said Gwen Granzow, vicepresident and creative director, Design North. “They are less susceptible to price competition, and they stand for something — a compelling point of difference.”
This differentiation is not just important to consumer packaged goods companies. It’s also important for business-to-business companies, according to Joseph O’Neill, executive vice-president of sales and marketing, BENEOOrafti, Inc, Morris Plains, NJ. BENEO-Orafi supplies ingredients that use the trademarked BENEO icon on consumer labeling. “Having a solid brand identity is the crucial first step in standing out from the crowd, especially in commodity-driven environments,” he said. “Your brand is still your promise, and you must deliver on that promise.”
The 2-way dialogue created through social media also increases the importance of a strong brand backed by honesty and a clear purpose. “It’s all about integrity now, and you need to be aware of topics and have a 24/7 awareness, emphasizing what’s important to your customers,” Ms. Scott said.
SET YOU APART.
As customer aspirations and needs evolve, branding must follow suit. Rebranding, similar to a wardrobe change or new car upgrade, can make a powerful and differentiating impact.
Chabaso Bakery, New Haven, CT, recently completed the rebranding process. Dorothy Radlicz, Chabaso’s director of marketing, recognized the company’s existing package design had a strong brand identity but could more vigorously communicate product attributes. Because Chabaso’s packaging resonated with its consumer base, Ms. Radlicz undertook a process to create consistency across the SKUs and differentiate its products from other brown-bag artisan products.
Chabaso’s rebranding effort enlarged the font, added illustrations and a color band to differentiate product and removed extraneous symbols. The company also added the Whole Grain Council’s whole-grain stamp, where applicable, and called out product attributes such as the company’s use of extra virgin olive oil and California-grown garlic roasted in-house.
“This company was founded on the extreme focus of good products made with good ingredients, and this rebranding tells people about some of the things Chabaso has always done but were maybe too humble to talk about before,” Ms. Radlicz said. “Our rebranding was a combination of ‘ground-floor research’ and an instinct for just knowing this is the right thing to do.”
Duffy & Partners recently assisted artisan baker New French Bakery, Minneapolis, MN, with a rebranding effort. New package slogans were designed to get straight to the point with phrases such as “Take Bake Yum!” and “Take Bake Slice Savor Smile.” The brand development revolved around the insight that the celebration of simple, everyday things is powerful, according to Ms. Davidson. “Smart companies gear up and break away from the pack during an economic downturn,” said Joe Duffy, chairman and principal, Duffy & Partners. “Strategically investing in a brand leads to increased sales and positions a company to maintain those sales into economic recovery.”
Boulder, CO-based Snikiddy used rebranding to build a stronger connection with moms who wanted healthy snack alternatives. Design North removed Snikiddy’s signature characters, updated the font and streamlined packaging with a product photo. The rebranding process employed the firm’s internal creation tool S.A.I.D, (Strategic, Appealing, Inspiring and Dominating). Rebranding doubled Snikiddy’s business and increased same-store sales within six months of the packaging change.
When asked if it was difficult to let go of Snikiddy’s original packaging Mary Schulman, Snikiddy’s founder and executive vice-president, said, “Rebranding requires you to be honest with yourself about what’s working or not working for the product. Ultimately, you just have to let it all go, knowing it will be even better with the changes made.” Ms. Schulman noted her experience with Design North taught her the importance of an effective package.
Dynamic branding requires creating the right message for the right audience. This is why more companies are expanding their traditional branding focus with blogs, e-newsletters, social media and e-blasts, but having a target audience is key. “It’s important to be considered sound and responsible but not if it clouds the message or isn’t the key driver for the target you are aiming at,” said Patricia Fiore, president and c.e.o. of Fiore Associates, a brand communications firm in Morristown, NJ.
And don’t confuse branding with marketing and advertising tactics or product performance with the benefits of a brand. “The ideal brand is not affected if there is a change in sales person, product selection or company location,” Ms. Scott said. “A brand is consistent whatever happens, and it should remain an untouchable, constant promise.”
ASPIRE TO INSPIRE.
The continuous advent of new technology ensures there’s no end to the opportunities to share your brand message. Whether your communications can be defined as old school, Web 2.0 and beyond or somewhere in between, determine where your customers are and learn how they want to be communicated with. “The most successful brands are designed to stand the test of time,” Ms. Davidson said. “The communications around a brand are devised to stay current with cultural relevance, but the heart of a brand delivers consistency.”