Friday, March 4, 2011

Branding, Identity or Logo! What Is It Really?

Isn't It Time We Decoded Branding Correctly?

It is a great, huge disgrace that the word 'Branding' has been so overused in recent years. More and more agencies (small and big alike) and clients tout the ‘Branding’ word about as though it were going out of fashion… which of course, some people would like it to do.

But the fact is that many of these so-called proponents of Branding simply don't understand what a brand is, or how Branding works. Branding has come to mean very little to a lot of people, largely because it is so regularly misunderstood, and is used so vaguely and liberally. The word 'Brand' is often used interchangeably (and incorrectly) with words like 'identity' and 'logo', and clients who simply need a visual identity are tempted to request a Branding programme because, quite simply, it's been the buzzword of choice for the past couple of years.

A brand is like a unique individual personality. It is the sum of a great many parts, and is made up of an elusive set of characteristics and traits, all of which combine to provoke an emotional response from anybody who comes into contact with it. A person's personality is made up of their attitudes, their values and their beliefs. And the way we perceive someone's personality is influenced not simply by what they say, but by how they say it, what they wear, what they look like, how they behave and more.

The subtleties of perceiving someone's personality are just as evident when it comes to perceiving an organization or their products and services. People have personality traits, organisations have brand values. But they are the same things. Think about Pepsi, Apple or Porsche and the chances are you'll have a fairly similar view of each of them to the guy next to you. This is no accident. These brands have been carefully and skillfully managed to be consistent – wherever you come across them.

A brand can be a valuable business asset, increasing loyalty and revenue from customers, increasing share value and reducing staff turnover, whilst at the same time paving the way for future business growth and roll-out of related but separate sub-brands. Get it right, and your business can flourish. Get it wrong, or mistakenly think you are creating a brand when you are simply designing a logo, and you will be back at the drawing board much sooner than you wanted.

When Ford bought Jaguar, its physical assets were estimated at only 16% of the total value, and when Vodafone, the world’s largest telecommunications company bought Orange its physical assets were estimated at just 10%. The purchase values were therefore largely the result of an intangible set of assets which an accountant might describe as 'goodwill'... and which we would simply call the brands. Vodafone has since bought over many brands including most recently Hutch in India for similar reason while Tata Motors took over Jaguar from an ailing Ford in 2 June 2008 for around £1.7 billion.

As soon as Branding sorts out its identity crisis and is recognized to be more about personality and culture than a simple logo and typeface, the world will be a better place - not just for brand-driven agencies, but for clients and business the world over. Like it or loathe it, 'Branding' as a concept is here to stay, so isn't it about time we started using the term quite correctly?

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