Commercial: Three questions about branding
As asked by Shaan of Identiti. Answers to them below.
1. What will be the next big thing/trend in branding?
There are a couple of obvious trends that I think have already broken into wider consciousness, and will affect the way in which brands both are defined and interact with their customers. These are:
• How brands respond to the ‘green’ and climate change agenda
• How brands respond to a world of transparency, perfect information and, therefore, customers’ growing desire to take back control of some of their data
• How brands can better integrate themselves into the lives of their customers, eg through the phenomena of branded utilities.
With the current – and most likely ongoing – economic difficulties caused by the credit crunch, and the ending of the long boom, there are two further questions brands will have to address:
• If you are a mid-market brand, to what extent will you be squeezed, by people shunning you at the lower end of the market, and ignoring you at the luxury end of the market?
• Do you believe that, due to the green agenda, consumption will have to be lower to help save the planet? If so, how does that impact on your brand?
From the perspective of ‘branding’ as a process, the thing that most interest me is the decline of the ‘monolithic’ brand, eg something that looks the same all over the world, to be replaced by something with an infinite amount of flexibility in terms of expression and message, but with the same core underpinnings.
2. If you had to explain branding to a corner-shop owner, what would you say?
Branding is, at its most simple, the idea that someone has about you in their head – your reputation. Everything you do as a business can positively or negatively impact on this reputation. So, if you’re closed when you said you’d be open – that’s a negative impact. If you decide to give a regular customer a small, unexpected bonus in their shopping, that’s a positive impact. The more positive impacts you have, the stronger your brand is, and the more likely a customer is to return, return often, and spend more money with you.
I think that branding is especially important for smaller businesses like corner shops. There are so many out there, that if you can start to differentiate your corner shop in some way – through design, through stock, through levels of service, through price – then you stand a better chance of succeeding in the market. Whatever that method of differentiation is – that’s the core of your brand.
3. Is there a 'standard' branding approach as it seems everyone adapts the discipline with their approach?
No is the short answer – unlike law or accountancy, where there are agreed standards and rules to adhere too, there are none in branding. What there is, however, is an agreement that most brands have some sort of core idea, which is their point of differentiation, some sort of way of behaving that (over and above the way the business behaves) touches the customer in a positive way, and some way in which personality is expressed, through a logotype, design, writing and so on.
You get different approaches to branding when you go to different agencies because that’s their point of differentiation in the market. Some approaches are better than others, but at root the output should be simple even if the process isn’t always straight forward.