Running a creative agency, everyday we’re brainstorming ideas, designing ad campaigns, writing copy, taking photographs, building websites – and so on. However, we’re probably best known for branding. Working with clients, we create new brands, build them and reposition them. Branding is regarded by some (me included) as the most important weapon in the marketeers arsenal today. Get it right, and the customer is putty in your hands(!). But I’m often asked why people buy brands, and are some people immune from a brands influence?
What is the purpose of a brand?
My definition of a brands purpose is to create something the target customer needs that they can’t get elsewhere. They are the two boxes which must be ticked. Of course when we say brands lots of people think of high end premium labels – maybe a fashion house, luxury watch brand or prestige vehicle. But branding applies to every day products too – creating differentiation between commodity items from sugar to frozen peas is an even more important role for branding when customers can’t explicitly see a difference.
At a higher level, as CEO of Saatchi Kevin Roberts said “brands build loyalty beyond reason” Two of many examples are Adidas and Nike. Go to a sports store with just these two brands and most shoppers will be strongly drawn to one or other. Lots would go on to make a purchase ‘beyond reason’. This means that even if they were presented with an alternative product at the same price or even slightly cheaper from the rival brand, and told by an expert that the other product had more features, performed better, and would last longer; the customer would STILL purchase their favoured brand – in spite of the facts.
Another good example is iPhone – when customers found out it was made by Foxconn in China – they still brought it because of the Apple brand, designed by Steve Jobs. Ditto Lexus which is made by Toyota. A company perfectly able to make a very high end vehicle, but would people have paid £50k+ for a Toyota? Ask Volkswagen who created their greatest car the Phaeton. Arguably worth the £60k asking price, but nobody brought it – why? because of the badge.
Brands also change perception. Guinness made Stout cool. Primark did the same for cheaply priced clothes. Cadbury created a whole brand around a flaky textured chocolate which originally nearly got canned BECAUSE bits came off. Lucozade is another great example. As a kid the very sight and smell of the stuff, and the crinkling noise of the wrapper made me feel ill. Who would have thought a product linked to sickness would today be one linked so strongly to fitness!
Brands also create memorability. We all remember brand campaigns such as the PG tips piano, Smash Martians, Henry cooper splashing it all over and the Milk tray man. All of this stuff is dreamt up by creatives like me in the boardroom
The evolution of the brand
Last week I was sat in a creative meeting with our studio manager and two designers staring at a big board with a picture of a man and women standing proudly in front of a big yacht. Having worked all their lives they finally purchased their dream boat and were going to enjoy their retirement sailing around the Azores. This was the target for a rebrand of a global Yacht Marque. Our new brand had to appeal to ‘Mr and Mrs Smith (Sailors)’.
Whilst others talked I started thinking about how branding had changed over the years. In the early days brands were more honest (except the ones telling you cigarettes were actually a health benefit). They simply said this is us / this is what we do / heres where you can buy our stuff. All very features driven and informative.
We then moved to Benefit based brands. Not what they did, but what that meant. Selling the sizzle not the sausage as salespeople say.
Branding then went down the Emotive / lifestyle route. Here the focus was taken OFF the product and its features and benefits and onto how a brand made you feel inside and how others viewed you. One of my favourite ad campaigns of all time is considered the first of this ilk. Created by my hero Sir John Hegarty for Levis rebellious Black Label jeans, this ad was the very first Levis advert NOT to feature the product – revolutionary at the time. Instead this was about a lifestyle statement, the copy boldly declaring ‘When the World Zigs, Zag’
Where will branding end?
With social media some say we’re going back to honesty – arguing your brand is what your customer says it is. However I don’t think were going to see Dudley Moores ‘Boxy but good’ campaign running for Volvo any time soon. In fact brand claims seem to be getting wilder. Look at Red Bull – a drink which gives you wings apparently. Although NOT according to a guy from the states who is allegedly suing the drinks giant for $13M for failing to sprout as much as a feather after drinking a can!
But what’s so wrong with these crazy claims? We all like to escape don’t we? We’re happy to pay to read books, watch films, go to the theatre. Who are we to criticise a brand like Harley Davidson that can transport a middle aged professional from Slough to a cafe in the States in the turn of a key. For a few hours on a Sunday afternoon he is a Jack Daniels swigging, Hell-raising Hells Angel in leather – back home in time for tea and Songs of Praise.
So I ask you, why shouldn’t brands have a tangible value? And why shouldn’t YOU embrace them? Fact is it’s very hard to overlook brands – even if you try. If you’ve got disposable cash, and unless you’ve opted out of the rat race, then maybe somewhere in the world theres a board room filled with marketing people staring at a picture of YOU; formulating a brand strategy for their new product – and working out how to get YOU to buy it!
WDA’s unique brand marketing approach drives business – and we have the figures to prove it.
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This article was originally published by the Derby Telegraph, click here to view