“Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room” Jeff Bezos
The terms ‘brand’, ‘branding’, and ‘brand identity’ are sometimes treated as interchangeable. The first ‘Element’ of the SERVICEBRAND approach is Brand Identity and we refer to this as the collection of all the brand elements that the company creates to describe its personality and character. The brand identity is what makes an organization instantly recognizable to different stakeholder groups (customers, employees, service partners, local communities etc), creates the connection with these stakeholders and determines how the organization is perceived.
Some leaders in organizations think that their brand is simply the name and logo. Of course, the name and logo are important parts of the visual identity and yet there is so much more to an organization’s complete brand identity. It consists of intangible elements such as the organization’s purpose and values as well as tangible elements such as visual identity and tone of voice. Ultimately, we think Jeff Bezos’ description above captures perfectly what a brand is.
In practical terms, the Brand Identity is a combination of purpose/vision, values, brand attributes, unique positioning, SERVICEBRANDSignatures, visual identity and tone of voice. The starting point is to identify and articulate the organization’s purpose and values. The brand purpose or vision captures what the brand desires or promises to accomplish (usually for the buyer).
The organization can use positioning and differentiation to communicate the brand’s purpose and ultimately enrich the brand’s identity. And this purpose can transcend the functional purpose to also express the brand’s higher purpose or reason for being. The higher purpose suggests emotional and social benefits for the customer by choosing that brand. A strong purpose and values set the tone for the organization’s purpose and code of conduct.
The changing tide
In the past, it was commonly accepted that organizations owned their brand identity. The marketing function usually took the lead, deciding what the brand identity was and the used their marketing or public relations department/campaigns to ‘pump out’ directed messages to their target audience.
In the Values Economy, this is no longer the case and an organization’s brand identity is now co-owned by the various stakeholder groups e.g. customers, employees, service partner, local communities, investors etc. In the future, we believe that the most successful brands will not be focussed on direct control of brand messaging. Instead, they will invest energy in being true to their brand identity, led by their purpose and values. They will then focus on enabling their stakeholder groups to communicate how they feel about the brand with these stakeholders effectively acting as the marketing department.
“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is—it is what consumers tell each other it is.” Scott Cook
Positive and Negative
When organizations have a strong brand identity, it gives them an edge of their competitors. When you successfully attract a customer or service user and give them a positive experience of your organization, they often become brand ambassadors, offering free marketing via social media and word of mouth, to encourage others to choose you as well.
Whether you put much time and attention into brand identity or not, customers and service users, will still get an impression from you, one way or the other. Considering the power individuals have in this day and age to influence others for or against you, it is well worth putting the time into creating a strong brand identity, one that raises your brand awareness in the minds of others, in a positive and lasting way.
When done well, a strong brand identity can generate a halo effect or a Midas touch, that makes launching new products or services much easier, as those that have already had a positive experience with your organisation are far more likely to trust you when it comes to new releases.
Your customers’ experience of your brand can also lead to damaging or negative effects. Once a brand is tarnished, customers and service users are far less likely to trust or engage with future products or promotions. This negative association can even lead organizations to rebrand and separate themselves from the core brand identity, consider Facebook’s recent name change.
Your brand lives in everything your organization does… whether you like it or not. If you treat your brand identity as a lip service campaign designed to attract people, but do not then offer consistency or substance, you will fail, sooner or later. At SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL, we help progressive leaders of organizations to create strong brand identities through careful examination of their purpose, vision, and values. From this we are able to create SERVICEBRANDSignatures, that set organizations apart from the competition. Your brand identity is what people say about you when you’re not there, so how important is this to you?