You may be looking at branding your business for the first time or looking to refresh an established one but one thing is certain – cut corners in brand identity at your peril.
If your website is your shop window, then your brand is surely the sign over the shop. Many large companies carry out a fairly regular ‘brand audits’, during which they review whether their perceived image is what they actually mean to project.
Several years ago, a series of high profile brand identities were put to public scrutiny. The results weren’t always what the brand owners expected or wanted.
- Vodafone – Professional market
- T Mobile – Youth market
- Woolworths – Traditional stay-at-home mum
- British Gas – “White van man”
There are a whole raft of consultancies who will offer to brand or re-brand your organisation for a great deal of money. Who can forget the disastrous re-brand of Post Office Group to Consignia in 2001? At the time, Keith Wells of Dragon Brands, the consultancy appointed to handle the rebranding, explained the logic of the name to the BBC: “We were researching hard into what this organization called the Post Office was facing. What we needed was something that could help pull all the bits together.
“It’s got consign in it. It’s got a link with insignia, so there is this kind of Royalty-ish thing in the back of one’s mind,” Wells continued. “And there’s this lovely dictionary definition of consign which is ‘to entrust to the care of’.”
The public didn’t agree and, within 15 months, the Post Office had become Consignia, which eventually became the far more conservative Post Office Group plc. In fairness, Dragon Brands did what had been asked of them, but the Post Office had horribly underestimated the British public’s affection and attachment to the original 300-year-old brand and the whole re-brand debacle cost around £500,000.
More often than not, one of the biggest obstacles is that poor marketing and PR can result in a ‘fractured’ brand; something that tries to be attractive to too wide a demographic. The consequence is a diluted and ineffective brand.
Stay away from graphic logos – they’re very old hat. An impactful logo comprised of a classic font will last for years. Don’t be tempted to use flashy fonts – they age too quickly and you’ll find yourself re-branding again in a couple of years.
The 7 Deadly Sins of Branding
- Amnesia - For established names, brand recall becomes a serious issue. The most obvious case of brand amnesia occurs when a respected and long-standing brand tries to create a radical new identity, such as when Coca-Cola tried to replace its original formula with New Coke. The results were disastrous. However, some rebrands are successful. The venerable retail brand British Home Stores now happily trades as the snappier BHS.
- Ego - Brands sometimes develop a tendency for over-estimating their own scheme in the place of things. This is manifest when a brand believes it can support a market single-handedly, as Polaroid did with the instant photography market.
- Megalomania - Egotism can lead to megalomania. When this happens, brands want to take over the world by expanding into every market it sees. Some, such as Virgin, get away with it. Most lesser brands, however, can’t.
- Deception – As T S Eliot said: ‘Humankind cannot bear very much reality.’ Neither can brands. Indeed, some brands see the whole marketing process as an act of covering up the reality of their product. In extreme cases, the move towards fiction can lead to downright lies. For example, in an attempt to promote their film A Knight’s Tale, Sony created a film critic and a favourable quote to put onto the promotional poster. In an age where consumers are hugely technologically connected, such obvious deceit can be a dangerous game to play.
- Fatigue - Some companies get bored with their own brands. You can see this happening to products that have been in the public’s peripheral vision for some time. When brand fatigue sets in creativity suffers, and so do sales.
- Paranoia - This is the opposite of brand ego and is most likely to occur in a competitive increased competition. Typical symptoms are a tendency to drag rival companies into court, an impulse to reinvent the brand every six months, and a need to imitate competitors.
- Irrelevance - When a market radically evolves, the brands associated with it risk becoming irrelevant and obsolete. Brand managers must strive to maintain relevance by staying ahead of the category, as Kodak is trying to do with digital photography.