We all have our favourite brands, whether it’s Sony BRAVIA flat screen TVs, Louis Vuitton hand bags, or Lexus vehicles. Even people are brands (think Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, or Martha Stewart, just to name a few). The term ‘brand’ is one that everyone knows—or at least think they know.
But brands are more than merely a slick logo, a new name, or a sexy advertising campaign. It’s what’s under the flash and all that marketing that truly counts. If you don’t deliver on your promise of what your brand offers, it means nothing, and you’ll find yourself without a customer base. It’s as simple as that, says author Laurence Vincent in his new book, Brand Real. Vincent has worked with Coca-Cola, MasterCard, Microsoft, the NFL, Sony Playstation, The Four Seasons, and many more, and currently heads The Brand Studio at United Talent Agency.
After many years of coming to the aid of globally recognized brands, this time he’s here to help you!
Making It Stick
“How well a brand is retrieved from memory is a critically important factor when you play the memory game. We forget about a lot of brands we encounter, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get stored in memory. It just means they aren’t top of mind. An effective brand is easy for us to store in memory and hard to forget.”
Brand Real, page 30
Why do certain brands remain in the forefront of our minds, while other recede and are quickly forgotten? If you’re running a book store, how will you ensure that a potential consumer who wants a copy of The Hunger Games goes to you rather than order it online from Amazon? The answer is simple, if not easy… create a brand that won’t be forgotten!
Our brain can’t possibility remember all of the data it’s exposed to on a daily basis. When we fail to connect it with something concrete, it’s easily forgotten into the abyss of our minds. So at the outset, Vincent requests that you consider the following questions:
– “What is it about my brand that will allow me past the brain filter?
– What can I do to ensure my brand sticks in a consumer’s long-term memory?
– How do I encourage a consumer’s brain to recall my brand at relevant moments in time?” (page 30)
The two following GEMs will help you answer those questions and create a brand that will be remembered.
GEM # 1
Make It Concrete
“Concrete ideas are specific. They connect to concepts we already know and understand. They are tangible, not abstract.”
Brand Real, page 30
To ensure that your brand is not forgotten, associate it with a concrete idea.
Vincent writes about working with a company who described their brand as being “all about wonder.” What? That’s so vague! Would you purchase a product that promised wonder? Laurence Vincent wouldn’t, and neither would I. It doesn’t tell us anything about the brand, and leads to even more confusion.
Many believe that associating a brand with a concrete idea is restrictive. This isn’t true. Vincent offers Nike and Amazon as examples. Nike was originally all about shoes. But now they sell bags, workout wear, gear for skateboarding and snowboarding, and even women’s bras. But people still associate them with shoes, and chances are that’s the first thing you thought of when I mentioned the Nike brand. The same is true of Amazon. Originally they presented themselves to the world as an online book retailer, but since then have grown to include the following categories: movies, music and games; electronics and computers; home, garden and tools; grocery, health and beauty; toys, kids and baby; clothing, shoes and jewelry; sports and outdoors; automotive and industrial—and that’s just the beginning! Each category then expands further to reveal sub-categories.
So, don’t be afraid to allow your brand to latch onto something concrete and expand from there. You’re not limiting yourself; rather you’re giving your brand the potential to expand by allowing it to be identified with something tangible in your consumer’s minds.
GEM # 2
Stack Your Brand
“When I ask them to clarify the type of brand they want to be, I’m not asking them to limit their options. I’m asking them to tell me which type of brand will give them the most competitive advantage.”
Brand Real, page 45
Whether they know it or not, consumers unconsciously categorize brands as cultures, destinations, products, services, and ingredients.
Cultures are brands that thrive because of their people. Culture brands are strongly associated with values, values of the employees, customers, partners, communities, and investors.
Destinations are brands offering a place for the consumer to go, and often provide an experience.
Products are physical, tangible items.
Services are more difficult to conceptualize. “We can’t really see or touch a service brand,” writes Vincent. “A service isn’t a concrete thing; it’s a means to an end. A service brand relieves us of the burden of labor, often by having other people do it for us” (page 41).
Ingredients are often the most difficult of brands to understand. Vincent describes ingredients as “something that a host brand includes to make itself more valuable. When the ingredient brand is very powerful, it can claim a significant share of the premium a consumer might be willing to pay” (page 42). For example, the Tazo tea that is used to make my Passion Tea Lemonade (my favourite!) at Starbucks.
Knowing the type of brand you want to be is critical in making your brand stick in the consciousness of your consumers. Laurence Vincent writers that when he asks which category a client’s brand fits into, “[t]hey argue that it’s not practical to think of a brand in one narrow dimension. They’re surprised when I agree with them” (page 45). Rather he’s trying to maximize the category that will offer the biggest competitive advantage. That doesn’t mean that your brand has to be pigeonholed into only one of these categories; indeed, it can belong to all of them. Starbucks, for example, is a brand that could fit into all five categories. But during the planning stages, the executives decided that above all Starbucks would be a destination, and used that conclusion to make “decisions that might not have made if they had wanted Starbucks to be known first and foremost as an ingredient” (pg. 35) (i.e. opening thousands of Starbucks around the globe). But maximizing your competitive advantage means that your brand has the potential to stick and be remembered by your customers.
With his first book, Legendary Brands, and now with Brand Real, Laurence Vincent has established himself as the go-to guy on the topic of effective branding. For anyone looking to brand or re-brand their company, Laurence Vincent’s Brand Real is the book for you. This is the branding bible.