Harry McCann used the slogan “The truth well told” to describe the ultimate goal of advertising. This idea, we believe, goes beyond selling a product and reaches into a company’s identity. The best brands not only tell the truth about their products but about themselves as well.
“A brand is more than just a logo,” Micah Wimberley, creative director at Culture Farm explains, “It’s what you are but mostly how your customers perceive you.” Often, a customer sees a brand differently from how a company sees itself and a company’s ultimate goal should be to streamline both perceptions into a unified brand identity.
That customer gaze defines a shift in focus that’s causing companies such as P&G, Unilever and even Coke to step up their own brand building. John Marshall and Rick Wise at Lippincott discuss these new priorities: “People matter as much as products,” they say. “In today’s radically transparent business environment, understanding a company’s integrity, values and, most importantly, intentions, matters more than ever.” It seems that customer service in the traditional sense can no longer be relegated to just one department. “For customers,” Marshall and Wise continue, “the purpose of the company can often be as important as the performance of its products. For employees, there is a heightened need for a corporate brand that connects.” Developing a clear and relatable brand image impacts everyone involved in new ways because the way we connect to each other has changed.
Mobile devices and social media platforms have permanently changed the way customers interact with brands. “In the same way that Twitter profoundly changed the news,” says Kyle Wong, founder and CEO of Pixlee, “the exponential rise of user photos and videos has deeply altered the way consumers experience brands.” This revolution has given people the power to influence a brand like never before. Ultimately, Wong explains, this new balance of power will have the ability to “convert customers into brand champions who love the brand even more than they love the products.”
The ability to obtain “brand champions” is the purpose behind developing a comprehensive brand identity. These changes in how customers connect with the brands they love make the first steps of brand building more efficient. Integrating who a brand feels they are with who their customers feel they are, Wimberley explains, is best tackled in collaboration between the client and agency. Determining public opinion and researching competitors precede a daylong brainstorming meeting filled with a series of development activities designed to streamline the brand’s purpose and meaning. In such a meeting, we use company goals, public perception, market research and brainstorming to produce a framework around which all future work will be built.
Only then does creative work begin. “Our job is to pack as much of a brand’s personality and meaning into the simplest form,” Wimberley continues, “it’s tricky because essentially you’re creating something you need to be able to respond to now and also in ten years. The parameters need to be there but there also needs to be a little flexibility built in.”
Telling the truth about your brand is no longer a luxury but a necessity as the world moves deeper into relationships that are built on digital communication. The power your customers wield in that story cannot be ignored as the concept of “brand champions” becomes more mainstream.
– Micah Wimberley, interview