I am currently involved in a couple of separate and unique branding issues and the debates that swirl around them. The first of these addresses the do’s and don’ts of branding a political candidate for purposes of electoral appeal. The second challenge is the branding of a city versus the hierarchy and visibility of community names and identities within that municipality. Over my career I have been handed the challenge of branding or re-branding dozens of firms and products and have learned that there are various misconceptions, fears and opinions when it comes to designing and developing an effective brand identity.
The fundamental principle of branding is that it is the attempt to transform an impersonal business entity, or generic product, by imbuing it with a character or personality that is both relevant and appealing to the key market segment targeted by the firm. The creation of Aunt Jemima, Mister Clean, or the KooDo man come to mind. This contemporary form of hallmarking a product or service is a considerable evolution from the age-old ritual of branding cattle with the owner’s insignia to establish ownership and discourage cattle rustling.
For the branding of a politician, the principle is a simpler connection because the candidate is the brand and the brand is the candidate. The challenge is to capably represent the person, projecting character, principles and platforms as honestly and clearly as possible. The trap here is in exaggerating or misrepresenting the individual’s capabilities in the competitive effort to brand them positively in voter’s eyes.
In attempting to position its brand to markets beyond the region, for tourism and business attraction purposes, this city has run afoul of those who feel their community is being mislabeled with the recently simplified city brand. The fear expressed by some residents is that their community will somehow lose its traditional local identity and even its own local brand. Yet examination of other distant cities known to us by a single simple brand proves that the fear is unfounded as long as a community works to maintain its local visibility while also embracing the single collective group branding. Just look at a small community of Los Angeles called Hollywood, or New York districts named Harlem, the Bronx or Staten Island.
The branding of any organization, service or product is built around the elements deemed essential to convey the benefits and values to those who will make the decisions to acquire or embrace that particular item. The simplest advice during brand development is to use common sense, stay focused on the end user, and build in lots of flexibility.
Colin is a marketing guru, strategist and author. He has recently published a DIY reference and guide to planning book,”Simply Marketing” to assist organizations in their planning and implementation methods. It is available from Kindle.