Timeless Branding Fundamentals that No Amount of Innovation Can Change
Authored by Shiraz Khan, Founder Director, Spicetree Design Agency
The above statement seems to be the guiding principle for the modern innovators and marketing strategists. However, it is also equally true that there are certain fundamentals to every process from construction of a building to growing a brand.
No matter how luxurious or sporty design of a private car, it will always have four wheels and an engine and of course seats inside for the passengers. These are some of the fundamentals which have remained in place right from the time the motor-car was invented to the latest electric vehicles that you see today.
The first and foremost endeavour in creating a renowned and market leading business is to create a strong and identifiable branding for it. Without a distinct brand identity, a company is as good as the millions of others vying for a share of the global market.
As a marketer, almost everyone knows that creating a sustainable brand is a given for any business. Despite that awareness, many don’t really get the process right and find it difficult to know what exactly works. There is no lack of strategies and resources online, but, still a lot of brands fail to get any traction.
In the 21st century, digital marketing platforms have literally burst onto the scene and marketers all over the world are busy thinking and rethinking how to attract more customers. However, in many cases, the eagerness to go digital and futuristic makes companies lose their vision and they tend to overlook the fundamentals of branding and brand communication. There is a zeal to deploy cutting edge concepts and tech without figuring out if such a change would end up confusing the customers and creating a gap between them and the brand.
Consistency of branding
The challenge is even bigger with brands that have already built a global reputation as the decision makers tend to become rigid and dismissive of innovation or brand evolution. However, an ideal strategy is one which remains guided by the brand’s fundamentals, and serves as a continuation of the brand’s journey. What you want is to keep your brand relevant to the changing times.
Case in point: A prime example of this brand evolution is the Shell logo. One of the most renowned global brands in its vertical since the 1930s, Shell has gradually modified its logo to keep up with the times. While the original logo was a realistic iteration of a sea shell, the current Shell logo has bold colours and simple lines. The steady and contemporary simplification of the logo makes for great brand consistency and recognition.
Loyalty to Brand Identity
Irrespective of what kind of branding goals you have, a universal and fundamental need is to define the brand identity and then remain loyal to it come what may. If you wish to build a brand that resonates with standards, quality and innovation on a global scale, the branding has to be strong enough for anyone to name the company by merely looking at the logo.
Case in point: There is probably no brand as definitive as BMW when it comes to remain loyal to brand’s original identity. In fact, despite over a century of operations, the German auto giant’s logo has remained unchanged to the extent that most people might not even notice a change. The layout, and primary colours have remained the same, and the brand has made only minute changes such as a light source shining on the letter ‘B’ which adds more depth to the logo. Thus, the logo is a clear reflection of the historic reputation and luxury image of the automobile maker.
Building the brand community
This is the age of dynamic marketing, and social media algorithms change every few months. The most iconic social platforms of the day fade out in a matter of years, and in such an ever-changing playground, it is quite a challenge to stay relevant to the markets.
One of the most impactful tools for the modern marketers is to cultivate a loyal brand community. Thus, a brand can evolve beyond being a product and become integrated to the lifestyle and aspirations of the consumers. Build an emotional connection with the audience that is strong enough to last across generations.
Case in point: Coca Cola is probably the most famous brand in the world when it comes to instant recognition and nostalgia. You just can’t conduct any branding master-class or conclude a discussion on global branding without mentioning the brand that has become synonymous to cola beverages despite its rival Pepsi Cola having been around for well over a century. They have demonstrated how consistency of quality and branding alongside innovation in marketing can keep a brand on top of the global rankings decade after decade.
The company withstood the global backlash against the ‘Uncle Sam’s Imperialism’ sentiment that had gained momentum during the 1980s and 1990s, The company launched its ‘think local, act local’ brand marketing to integrate it with its local consumer base instead of pushing through with the standardized brand communication. We all can see how this has made the brand one of the most iconic global brands. They have promoted the universal values and sentiments such as happiness, festivities, success, family, relationships and milestones of life. Hence, a consumer is likely to fondly recall his/her association with the product as it will evoke strong positive memories.
Social media is where the consumers are, and this also means that the brand has to be there as well. However, at platform level, social media is constantly evolving. From Yahoo! to Orkut and now Facebook, the platforms of engagement change every few years. Accordingly, a brand’s success also depends on how it evolves. A decade ago, Instagram was hardly considered as a major platform, and today it is one of the very few to have a billion plus users online.
The important thing here is to ensure that your brand evolves with time and changing consumer preferences as well as needs. You need to see from the perspectives of your audience. What do they need? What will make them happier and more interested in the product? What are their sensibilities? Brand marketers need to innovate only to the extent where they can effectively answer these questions.
Case in Point: Apple is one of the most popular, successful and iconic brands of modern era. No matter which country you are in, there are always going to be people who have heard of Apple and who either strongly associate with the brand as a user or wish to acquire Apple products. Apple is not only about high-end products, but, it has become a lifestyle benchmark and using Apple devices is seen as a sign that the users are doing well in life.
It is not to say that Apple’s products lack in any of the quality or functionality parameters. They are one of the best and can deliver the most satisfactory performance. The most interesting thing to note here is that they have completely done away with the logo that they started out with. Yet, they have built such a strong brand positioning that today there is the same standardized global identify for all Apple products and marketing collaterals.
Branding technologies, customer sentiments, innovations and channels of marketing have changed drastically over the years, and they will continue to change. However, what remains unchanged is that the core purpose of branding is to build a business goodwill by communicating with the customers who will always be humans with the same sentimental tendencies. Thus, as long as one remains loyal to core branding fundamentals, success will always be easier to achieve. However, if you ignore the immutable laws of branding then the customers won’t take long to ignore your brand!