It's the Method.
By Creative Contributor, Chris McKenna
You know how you can instantly spot the Golden Arches when you pull off the highway? You know you’ll find clean bathrooms and hot coffee. When you hear, the “Like a good neighbor” melody you probably think about the insurance. How about, “Just do it?” Everybody knows that one. Three words that might actually get you to think about going to the gym. And newer to the lexicon, Supreme, how have they so successfully hammered themselves into an iconic brand seemingly overnight?
Branding is the carefully orchestrated set of steps McDonald’s, State Farm, Nike, and Supreme took to make you feel the way you do. The long-term brand equity these companies have invested in is, literally, priceless. It pays off, every single day. And you can bet they take very good care of it. Because branding does a lot. It emotionally connects with your audience. It represents your values. It makes a promise. But most importantly, it creates and maintains an impression that affects a decision.
Creating branding is like a tango. An elegant dance of strategy, style and execution. A delicate blend of intuition, experience, analysis and revision. Actually, maybe it’s more like a tango in a mosh pit – where clients go ‘round and ‘round with strategists, planners, designers and writers. There’s conversation, brutal honesty, translation, gut-following, ego-swallowing, compromise, revision, gambling, trust, discomfort. And it all leads to a glorious moment of truth where everyone holds hands and takes a giant leap of pseudo-science-based faith. It may start with chaos but it can end with something perfect and memorable; with better results than anyone could have hoped for.
The degree to which branding plays in a role in someone’s decision (any decision even voting and donating decisions) depends on lots of things: industry, category, product, venue, time of year, etc. Of course, the nuances of competition and audience each add about a thousand other variables. But to drastically oversimplify things, here are a few rules that apply to pretty much every scenario, even politics.
Strategy is an explanation of your marketing goals. Specific. Achievable. Long- and short-term stuff. You need it before you do anything else. And everything needs to be done according to it.
Planning is how you’re going to achieve that strategy. It’s like a roadmap of how you’ll get from one goal to the next. It has little, if anything, to do with messaging.
Clarity is knowing exactly what you want to say. Hopefully, it’s a single-minded message – memorable and simply stated. Clarity of message is the delicate art of objectively identifying and communicating specific points, through carefully crafted language to a specific audience. Many people believe they don’t need help with this. (They’re wrong.)
Intentional design is the visual expression of your values, brought to life through the interpretive ability of artists.
Consistency is the relentless repetition of your brand equities. So your audience learns who you are and instantly recognizes you. And it helps your marketing dollar earns a higher ROI.
Branding can play a critical role in the success of a product, service (or candidate). And just like you wouldn’t do your own brain surgery, you shouldn’t try it yourself. It should be left to people who do it for a living, folks who spend their work days thinking about how to influence people. Their mission in life is to use their skills and experience to help you to put your best face forward. And while you’ll always have the last word, when you find a group you trust, it’s good to listen to what they have to say. (Especially the writers.)