I like it – what is it?
“Can you just knock us up a quick logo? We just need to get something out there and developing a full brand isn’t really important right now.”
Yawn! I’ve heard that a lot over the years. And not always from start-ups or SMEs. Occasionally organisations who should know better, forget what’s important. Failing to take seriously the gravity of your brand identity’s first interaction with a potential new customer can be fatal. They fail to recognise the massive opportunities that exist in nailing it or the career-ending-business-killing-cat-food-eating-future that often awaits those that get it wrong. There are multiple market research stats that will tell you just how much money organisations waste each year on creative and marketing work. I think there are some pretty sound reasons for that.
The only place to start is with the people not in the room. That swirling mass of emotions and opinions we like to call ‘the audience’. There is a depressing tendency to treat them as greedy, brain-dead, single-cell organisms that sit with their mouths agape waiting to swallow any old tosh you throw at them. There is a distinct lack of respect for these guys and consequently, disengagement is rife. They are a vast, complex, ever-shifting, mind-changing, paranoid, happy, sad, savvy, dim, neurotic galaxy of opportunity – but so often brands fail to read them. And it’s not like we don’t have forensic data on them these days, is it?
And yet if you just take the time to show them the love – you will get it back. Regardless of the type of business, product or service you’re pushing – the aim is the same: we want our audience to love us. Love is where the real action is and where a long-term relationship is made possible. But like all the best love stories your business and your audience need to get to know each other. On your first date, there needs to be a very quick assessment of compatibility before you can move onto the ‘fiddling about with each other on the back seat of the car’ stage. Only once you’re through that first encounter do you earn the right to find love. You’ll need to look sharp and of course, have great chat-up lines. But at the end of that first date, your audience needs to know what you’re about, what you stand for and what your personality is like. Dropping the torturous analogy and bringing it back to business for a moment – your audience needs to be left in no uncertain terms about what the big payoff is if they decide to invest their time in your business. Whether it’s financially or emotionally, if you are asking people to put time into your ‘thing’ you’re going to need a damn good story laced with some charm and persuasion to convince them why they should.
Here’s the thing about your ‘thing’
New business, new product, established business, whatever – if your ’thing’ doesn’t have tangible hooks that people can latch on to – they simply won’t. Most entrepreneurs go to market not with a brand, but with an idea – an idea that is generally so personal that it can be challenging to present and explain it to others in under an hour. You think your plan is genius. You think everyone should intrinsically understand it as you do because it’s brilliant. That’s enough right? Errr…nope. Without a compelling narrative, businesses are just ‘things’ fighting for our attention. And we – the consumers – already have enough ‘things’ thanks very much! And that’s why you need to develop an effective, engaging brand package – strategy, identity, look, feel, messaging – all working together to deliver a succinct narrative to anyone that doesn’t have a clue about you. Without all this, your ‘thing’ will remain just another ‘thing’.
It’s not me, it’s you
One of the most frequent comments we hear is, “…people just don’t understand our business and what we do, but we are absolutely the best at it.” That statement is a problem. Your brand is your story, and if you can’t tell it, then who will? If you ever catch yourself making that sort of statement, take a step back for a moment and quietly acknowledge that what you’ve just said is total BS. No business is that special. And no story is too complex to tell. You are simply not taking the time to put yourself in your audiences’ shoes and work out what the best thing is about your ‘thing’. The thing they’re going to love. The thing that will give them the best chance of understanding it.
It’s not about the logo. Well, not all of it anyway…
Start by understanding your purpose, position, personality, point of view and promise – without these Ps you’re invisible to 2019 audiences. And good luck with the 2025 mob – because they’ll be along shortly and they’ll have even less time to waste on you. The fact is by going through the process of differentiating your business, however long it’s been around, and clearly defining your offer you are on the road to brand mastery – a mystical land where you are in control.
Control of how people perceive your offer, service, product, your software – whatever your ‘thing’. This is where you know the audience intimately and your compelling brand narrative has been crafted to cut-through all the noise in their lives and chime loudly with them. You have control of the relationship. Without that, it’s all just shots in the dark and guesses – sometimes educated – but mostly the results are creative executions engineered to fill vacuous design portfolios and not the bank accounts of the businesses they’re working for. Brand mastery works internally too. When you’ve got it, pitches are easier. You know what you’re truly about so relaying the story to others becomes second nature. Recruitment becomes less of a gamble because you have a clear blueprint of the values and aims that your employees need to match up to. Regular communications with existing clients become less arduous too – you’re not reinventing your tone, language and point of view for every EDM. Every one of your brand touchpoints and communication channels can be filled with the right stuff, the good stuff that you know supports your brand promise.
Can you speak up a bit – I can’t hear you!
With the above tucked under your arm, you have a fighting chance of cutting through the noise that swirls around us every day. Because you see we are being bombarded. Our senses are saturated with stuff. We are constantly overwhelmed. There is too much media, too much internet, too much noise. And way, way, way too much choice. And audiences are confused. For many, brand loyalty is an alien concept. Businesses now cling to influencers to craft a story they can’t define and deliver it to audiences they can’t reach.
So when you’ve got that 15-minute crunch meeting with that all important new client or investor to ask them to be part of your ‘thing’, if your pitch doesn’t allow them to quickly see how and why you’re great, then neither their time nor money will be coming your way. We work with more and more tech start-ups who have been pushed our way by investors and equity partners who tell them to go get their story straight before they start putting their hand out for cash. Unfortunately, existing businesses generally don’t get that push and often labour on regardless, continually baffled by their situation.
Whatever type of business you’re in – you will need to amplify the reason it’s any good in a creative way so people can get it in 15 seconds. And then – most importantly of all – help them remember it, when both you and it have left the building.
Get on with it, will you!
And quickly. Define that personality, create that narrative, develop your brand’s point of view and then deliver it seamlessly and memorably to your audiences across every channel. Spell out your brand promise – the big difference your ‘thing’ is going to make to everyone. And for God’s sake – have some respect for your audience! Know this from the start – they don’t know you, don’t know what you’re on about or why you exist so take some time to find out what makes them tick and then use that to weave your way into their consciousness.
If you do that, they might just invest in you – either financially or emotionally. And who knows what could happen from there. If you’re lucky it might just lead to love.
Alan founded Sherry Design in London in 1996 and started the Sydney branch in 2011 where he is currently Creative Director. He has used his passion for helping brands attract audiences and stick in the memory to work with clients such as Sony Music, Visa and the Premier League.