In previous articles, I have emphasized the need to value branding for your business or start-up, and how to approach the branding process to achieve results. It is said that talk without walk leaves you rooted to one spot, and it’s obvious we all want to move. Not just move, but move in the right direction. I hope this article will leave you sprinting and catapulting with actions that will transform your brand into an icon worth revering.
To begin with, I always liken the art of branding to the human being. A new born baby is practically blank and has no identity, and that’s how your business is when you just have the business plan and operational structure sitting as paperwork. Education, rules and principles guide the growth of the baby into a responsible adult respected in society. Same applies to brand building where brand guidelines guide the growth of your business into a strong iconic brand.
Still vivid in my mind’s eye, some years back on my first day at work in an advertising agency. After I had been ushered to my desk and settled in, my creative director dramatically dropped a big blue book on my desk and said “This is your bible. Read it chapter by chapter and make sure you never blaspheme”. I had been placed on the Tigo Millicom account, and that blue book or “Bible” was Tigo’s global brand guidelines. I had to read it cover to cover and imbibe the personality of the brand to enable me meet the clients every request aptly.
In order for you to create a successful brand you must maintain consistency and focus in all your operations and communications, and this can only be achieved with brand guidelines. Brand guidelines are basically key statements and rules which guide the strategic handing of the brand by all stakeholders. In simple words, it’s a document with Do’s and Dont’s on how the brand should be applied. As your business evolves, employees will come and go, and even graphic and web designers could change. Brand guidelines ensure that anyone that handles your brand follows these rules and maintains the direction and style of the brand. How do you think big brands like Coca Cola and Guinness have maintained one strong identity over the years? Your audience must always identify you, and this can only be achieved if you are consistent in your identity.
As a beginner, start by writing down the values you want your brand to exude, and sit with your brand consultant or graphic designer to translate it into brand guidelines. This way you can build a strong and consistent brand over the years.
Yesterday as I scrolled through my facebook timeline, I came across a post by my former boss and mentor Uche Ofodile which read “Doing what everyone is doing means you will be at par. Good amongst good”.
And it’s obvious what I did next. I shared it on my timeline for others to also read the wisdom those few words conveyed. This statement was simply saying that for you to be noticed amongst good people, you must be better. And to be better simply means you should be different. When you are different, you stand out and you get noticed. In my line of work, I have cracked and written many briefing documents for agencies and clients, and I always come across the field that asks “What is different about this campaign or product”. This has brought me to the realisation that even small products and campaigns look for a differentiator to stand out, how much more an entire brand.
For your brand to be noticed amidst the clutter, you must be different and be known for something unique. The word unique takes me back to some years ago when Unique Savings and Loans emerged in the Ghanaian market cluttered with many financial institutions offering savings and loan services. What did the brand do that made it stand out? Simple! It offered loans in less than 48 hours. It drilled down this communication into the minds of the target audience so well that it stood out easily amongst competitors. With that foundation well laid, Unique Savings and Loans has now evolved into a solid brand with various services in the area of banking and even real estate.
Still on differentiation, in a market where you are the first, you can stand out by making your product synonymous with your brand name. Before even competition steps in, you would have registered your brand in the minds of consumers. A typical example is how the average Ghanaian refers to all toothpaste as Pepsodent and all baby nappies as pampers. This is evident of the good job Pepsodent and Pampers did on entering the Ghanaian market some years back.
If you are quite observant you would have noticed blue and white telescopic banners springing up all over Accra with Surfline printed boldly on them. Surfline telecom is an LTE about to launch 4G data services in this market. As firsts, their campaign can be used as a test case we can all observe and learn from. It’s either they drive the awareness well enough to make 4G data synonymous with their brand or they allow their competitor Blu telecom to leverage on the awareness created and launch the same product with a differentiator to stand out.
Your product or service is what sets you apart from competition. Find that differentiator and ride it till the wheels fall off.
THE BIG IDEA
People who talk too much always miss the point and are not able to leave lasting impressions in the mind of their listeners. A lot of brands make a big mistake by trying to say too much in a bid to communicate with the consumer. In doing this, they are not able to cement one solid idea or message to the consumer. Less talk with much thought always disseminates wisdom. A good brand picks one big idea to build an entire communication plan around. At the end of the campaign, one strong message is left lingering in the minds of the consumer.
Let’s look at our everyday lives sitting behind the TV, driving around town, listening to the radio and even flipping through newspapers and magazines. A gazillion advertisements are slapped in our faces, each saying different things. Yet amidst this din, there are a few memorable ones which stick in your mind. It’s either they used humour, sex or they communicated one direct message and emphasized on it.
Let’s use Nike as an example. The brand wanted to empower consumers to simply make decisions to achieve greatness. Nike wanted a big yet simple idea to tell consumers not to let anything prevent them from achieving greatness. They could have said “ Break loose of all barriers and achieve greatness”. Instead, Nike simply said “JUST DO IT” .Powerful, personal and simple communication that has been the bedrock of all Nike communications till date.
In MTN’s bid to communicate their nationwide coverage, they could have said “We give you coverage everywhere in the nation”. Instead they said “EVERYWHERE YOU GO” .Another powerful, simple and personal idea steering all their advertisements till date.
Also Vodafone’s aim to give consumers the power to be confidently connected could have said “Be empowered to connect with all your friends and family” Instead they said “POWER TO YOU” .Simple, direct and very powerful.
Good branding is more than just marketing. It is painting that memorable picture in the mind of the consumer through consistency, differentiation, simplicity and many other pillars which I will share in my next article. Till then, breathe some life into your brand and be patient and watch it grow.