I suppose I should start with the obvious question; what is a brand and why do we need them?. Let’s cover this for a moment, in simple terms. A brand is character, the lasting impression I have when I remember an experience with a company or even a person come to that. So, that said, what are the touch points of a brand? Err… logo, website, brochure, store, packaging, office, business card etc etc… You know all these.
The thing is, agencies typically create brand strategies by creating a full proposition for a company, you know, vision, mission & values (or variations of these). All very important and vital to the success of a company and often put in place to convince customers to buy more products, and why not. The trouble with this though is that you can only go so far for so long with this strategy. Sooner or later that shiny new logo with that lovely shadowy effect that has been convincing customers to part with their hard earned money may one day be the one thing that potential customers remember for bad customer service, slow delivery, weak products etc.
So, the point I’m making is this, and many of you will know this – brands need to be equal inside and out, a shared view and beliefs that are all aligned with a brand strategy. This has never been important, but today it is becoming even more important as customers are learning not to be fooled by a brand that simply affects a clever visual space. They are becoming even more demanding, expecting brands to deliver on their promise, and expecting nothing less. After all customers are not only a lot more “savvy” these days but also have a lot more at their disposal in terms of information gathering. The internet for example easily allows a customer to find out about a company’s values and if they do not live up to them in terms of service then that’s very damaging: bad press travels very fast indeed. In short, companies have to practice what they preach.
So where does this leave branding consultancies? Well, I believe that branding consultancies need to build alliances with other professionals in related fields, i.e. business consultancies, change specialists, culture experts, knowledge agencies, internal communication experts. Equally these specialists need to understand their skill base. Business consultants are experts at unblocking any barriers such as bureaucracy or red tape, greasing the internal wheels to increase productivity and opening opportunities for knowledge sharing, etc. Internal comms specialists understand how internal channels work and how best to tap into staff and start to sculpt behaviour, and brand consultancies… well, as I said, we align brand strategy or the DNA of an organisation, creating a brand that relates directly to the organisation’s long term ambitions (vision) through value sets and other tools, and making sure that any other specialists involved understand the full objectives.
Finally, I just want to cover some companies that appear to be doing this, and as such are very much in the public eye, companies such as BP, BT, HSBC, Apple, all of which have made specific commitments to their audiences and need to make sure the promises they make to their customers are kept. If they are relied upon to bring out new innovative products, they can’t be seen as not to deliver, or if a company promises their customers that they intend to improve the way they operate in the long term interests of the environment, they need to be doing this, not just attempting to make customers believe this in order to sell more products.
So what does that mean for companies like BP? Well, they need to make sure they have a good business consultancy to help them achieve their objectives, to help the company move in the right direction, to make sure business decisions are always based on the right objectives. They need a strong internal communications company to help embed their values, and they need a good branding consultancy that understands how all these things work in unison, creating the perfect company, one objective and dream, one direction, one team, perfect inside and out.
Joe Hedges is CEO and Managing Director of Rareform Branding, a leading global branding agency; expert brand consultants creating brand design, brand strategy, brand identity, corporate identity branding and design communication services based in London, UK and Dubai.