Branding and symbolism

According to wikipedia’s definition:

“A symbol is a mark, sign or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an idea, object, or relationship. Symbols allow people to go beyond what is known or seen by creating linkages between otherwise very different concepts and experiences. All communication (and data processing) is achieved through the use of symbols.

Symbols are the basis of all human understanding and serve as vehicles of conception for all human knowledge. Symbols facilitate understanding of the world in which we live, thus serving as the grounds upon which we make judgments.”

Let’s just think about this for a moment.

ALL communication is achieved by the use of symbols.

Symbols facilitate understanding of the world in which we live and are the grounds upon which we make judgements.

In other worlds, we see the world in terms of symbols and communicate our understanding of the world through symbols.

More than that, they enable us to make connections and carry concepts across boundaries – a lion as a symbol of strength, for instance, or the colour red as danger or passion, a flower for growth and so on – and symbols speak to us at a deep, philosophical level.

This is of fundamental importance to the role of brands.

What the truly successful brand does is create a universe of symbols around itself which speak to its purpose, its vision and its promise to customers.

These are deeply important in people’s perceptions and create a “drawer in the mind” which contains all the symbolic signals they have received about you – from your logo, to colours, to tone of voice, to advertising messages to how you respond to enquiries and so on and so on.

Right back in the early days, a “brand” was a symbol on cattle which reflected the ranch they came from. Over time, that symbol also came to represent what people thought of that rancher – was he reliable, was he honest – and that symbol could be projected through communications to build reputation and attract people.

If we see the world around us in symbols, and if we use symbols to facilitate understanding, it follows that perception is everything and everything is perception.

Everything you do, everything you say and everything you use in communications must be consistent, it must say something about you and your company and – above all – it must be honest and reward our interaction with you.

Symbols are about trust.

So the next time you are considering a “brand refresh” or a logo change or a change to how customers access your services, be aware of the depth of your brand and the conscious and unconscious impressions you will be attempting to re-engineer.

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Does the high street have a future?

Many column inches have been devoted recently to the “death of the high street” following extensive store closures and the demise of major household names such as Toys R Us, House of Fraser, BHS and so on.
Part of the blame has been correctly identified in the growth of on-line shopping, but the solutions proposed (such as cuts to business rates, consolidation of store in viable areas and complaints that on-line retailers should be subject to the same tax and rates regime as bricks and mortar operators) are part of an old business model which needs to be radically changed.
Although high-street retailers have set up their online operations to compete, they still see them as part of an overall business model based around the stores.
They don’t see that on-line shopping and the in-store experience are different models.
For me, the best analogue is the music business which was one of the first sectors to be disrupted by the growth of internet shopping.
The business model was built around selling physical stock in terms of CD’s from high street stores.
As the Internet took hold, with tracks increasingly available to down load at lower and lower costs, retailers reacted by trying to diversify into books, T-shirts and games and competing on price with deep cuts to CD’s which were becoming an increasingly outmoded technology.
Today, high street retailing of music is almost non-existent as HMV hangs on by the skin of its teeth.
The production side of the industry saw their profits eroded by the low prices and low commissions paid by online distributors at the same time as high street retail shrank.
People predicted the demise of the industry as artists and record labels struggled to make money.
Then came a radical re-appraisal.
Music had always been about performance, but the old business model was to use performance to sell physical product i.e. records.
What if the industry went back to its roots and made performance an end in itself, with record sales a by-product rather than an end in itself?
So we have seen huge investment in tours, festivals, the technology of stage production and consequent rise and rise in ticket prices.
Artists and their promoters now make far more money from performances and merchandise than they do from record sales.
They recognised a clear delineation between the listening experience, bought now mainly online, and the performance experience which on-line couldn’t replicate.
Herein lies the lesson for the high street. Instead of tying itself to a business model based around physical infrastructure to sell goods (where even on-line sales are just a virtual dimension to that model), retailers need to follow the example of the music industry and clearly distinguish between the “performance” experience, and selling physical products.
What can they do in-store which can’t be replicated easily on-line? How can they attract customers with experiences, events, tie-ups which they might pay for? In what ways can they replicate the changes to the music business where there had to be a re-alignment from record sales to making money from performance?
Unless the high street retailer is prepared to let go of old thinking in this way, we will continue to see the closure of stores and high-streets turning into ghost towns.

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Personal branding – 5 things to get right to achieve your goals

“To thine own self be true” – Shakespeare

Personal branding is the process of building a unique brand around you as an individual and follows the same concepts as developing a brand around a product or business.

And, just as in business, Personal branding is becoming increasingly important because the complexity of modern life means audiences look to brands they can trust when making decisions.

The importance of trust in today’s brand marketing cannot be over-emphasised.

In addition, branding for individuals and businesses has reached a new level of complexity because of the rise of the Internet. The interplay between the real and the virtual world means you have to think about the need to manage multiple identities consistently.

For instance, employers are increasingly using social media tools in order to vet potential job applicants.

5 things to get right

  1. The elevator pitch

The quote from Shakespeare above means two things – you have to understand who you are and what you do, and then you have to present it authentically and consistently.

One way to do this is to write a personal statement. Think of it like an elevator pitch.

You are in an elevator with a potential client and you have 15 seconds between floors to tell them who you are, what you do, how you can help them.

What would you say?

Think about:

  • Your skills
  • Problems you can solve
  • Who would benefit
  • Your USP – what makes you different?

This is all about your professional reputation, so you need to be critical of yourself and ensure what you offer can be delivered.

  1. The Proposition

Like all good branding statements, you need to sum up your brand in a single phrase or sentence which encapsulates the offer you are making to customers.

There are lots of examples out there, but here’s mine:

I’m Ivor Lawrence and my company is called Underlying Form. I believe passionately in the power of brand strategies to transform companies, connect with their customers and motivate their workforce.

It’s a core to your business – a brand is a promise kept.

I specialise in helping organisations develop strong brands and improve the effectiveness of their marketing activity by focusing on re-discovering their vision

Once you have developed who you are and what you do, you can use the proposition just the same as in branding a product to produce consistent communications and messages and to answer the dreaded first question in any conversation – “Tell me about yourself/ your business”

  1. Start thinking of yourself as a brand

What do you want people to think when they hear your name?

My boss in an advertising agency I worked for called it “The drawer in the mind”. So, when people think about cars or insurance, or plumbers or consultants, they open the drawer in their mind with those headings and ask themselves two questions:

  • Who have I heard of?
  • What do I know about them?

Once you start to think of yourself as a brand, you can start to be more strategic and more creative about how you promote yourself.

You need to audit your existing footprint – what is your online presence? Do you present yourself consistently across platforms?

Do you have a simple on-line profile/web site you can refer people to?

  1. Promote yourself

Think about your audiences, the ways to reach them and the messages you want them to hear.

For instance, LinkedIn is a great networking tool for professionals which enables you to develop a profile, connect with potential clients and promote yourself through blogs and articles.

However, you have to focus on your brand, your audience and your offer otherwise you can end up with a large, unstructured network of acquaintances.

Find ways to produce value by creating content which is useful to people – this article is an example. This is not about selling. This is about sharing your knowledge and showcasing your expertise to build your reputation.

Be thoughtful about what you share and where you share it. Every tweet you send, every blog you publish, every comment you make on other people’s blogs contributes to your personal brand. But this isn’t a negative issue – all these instances are a positive opportunity to present yourself and your ideas widely and consistently.

  1. Walk the talk

 A strong personal brand has a story and a personality as well as skills and experience.

Think about Richard Branson, David Beckham, and Muhammed Ali.

All these people have a skill set which set them apart, but they also have a story and a way of presenting themselves consistent with that story.

Branson is an entrepreneur, an iconoclast and someone who likes to work for the customer and take risks to make things better. This is presented consistently form his business dealings through his personal exploration challenges to the things he writes.

Look at some of the great figures from history and the presentation devices they used to get their message across and present themselves in a memorable way (consistent with their proposition):

  • Churchill with his cigar, two finger salute and bowler hat which immediately said stubbornness, pugnacious, strength and self-belief
  • Ghandi with his simple loin cloth and spinning wheel which portrayed him as a simple man of the people, non-violent, and not swayed by self-enrichment
  • John F Kennedy with his youthful image, glamorous lifestyle and positive vision for the future

These may be extreme examples, but they show the need to think about the image you give people and how it is consistent with what you are offering.

So there you have it. 5 things to think about when it comes to personal branding and how it can help you achieve your goals.

Please visit my web site to find out more about who I am and what I do

www.underlyingform.co.uk

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What is Corporate Identity?

What is Corporate Identity?

I often get into discussions with clients about “branding” and “Corporate identity” where they talk about one when they mean the other, or they separate the two and fail to see the relationship.

If we define a brand as a promise kept, it is by definition the whole business enterprise – product content, service support and reputation and image.

The questions brands have to answer in the mind of the consumer are:

What “market” am I now in?

What brands have I heard of?

Which ones do I trust?

So Corporate identity is part of the process of projecting : “The overall image of a corporation or firm or business in the minds of the public (customers, investors and employees.)”

Corporate Identity is part of the process of establishing the brand, and the colours, logos, typefaces and writing styles should all reflect the personality and “promise” of the brand.

Brands (and therefore Corporate identity) have three components:

Design

  • Logos
  • Uniforms
  • Colours

Communication

  • Advertising
  • Public Relations
  • Information

Behaviour

  • Personality
  • Values
  • Norms

Just taking colour as an example:

  • Colour increases brand recognition by up to 80%.
  • Colour ads are read up to 42% more than similar ads in black and white.
  • Up to 90% of snap judgments made about products can be based on colour alone (depending on the product).

But it all flows from the Brand’s personality.

Think about Apple’s and Virgin’s Brand Personalities for a moment.

Apple’s brand personality is about simplicity and the removal of complexity from peoples’ lives and its values are around Lifestyle, Imagination, Innovation, Dreams and Aspirations.

Virgin is often described as maverick, rebellious and even a bit edgy – but that is combined with a sense of fun and appreciation of pleasure. This enables Virgin to challenge and shake up many industries whilst keeping a strong emotional appeal to customers.

Now think about their logo’s…

Think about the colours they use…

Think about the PR programmes, the cult of the founder…

Think about their advertising….

That’s Corporate identity!

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