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The Shape of a Brand
What is a brand and how should it behave? Why are brands so important in our lives? Can we be brand-free?
The Shape of a Brand
The communications industry has an explicit ability to demonstrate how the power of language signifies and constructs the world around us. In this sense, the communications industry is not one that merely reflects on a material reality but, more powerfully and necessarily, constructs a reality. Specifically, communication is a unique weapon in both defining and creating a relationship between a consumer and a brand, product, service or cause.
Brands shape the world around us. They create expectation and fulfilment of the material reality of your product or service. From McDonald's burgers to Kellogg's cornflakes, from Sony stereos right down to the reputation of your local restaurant, there is a brand image at work, a simulacrum, that governs your relationship with what you consume on a day to day basis. Not only do these reputations create demand, they actively distort the way we experience a product or service, both positively and negatively.
Consistency within Limits
Lots of us have heard the phrase 'brand consistency.' So much so, that we often forget to consider its limitations. Specifically, we can often overstress the importance of brand consistency while neglecting the benefits that the plural nature of a brand can bring us. 'Brand consistency' is a buzz phrase because it reassures us that we're in control of what our brand is saying about us. But think of it this way: are people that inflexible? Everyday, we adjust ourselves to different circumstances, showing different aspects of our personalities. A brand has the potential to do exactly the same, to engage with a plurality of people instead of an overly-narrowed down, artificial group that, in reality, is often no more than a mere stereotype. In short, brands can pluralise themselves too.
That's not to say there doesn't need to be a consistent framework to work within. But humanising your brand and respecting the diversity of the people it speaks to can really open up the way your audiences connect with you. To take a good example, HSBC purport to be 'The World's Local Bank.' With this ingenious concept, they use our universal notion of the 'the world' to provide us with a framework of consistency to express their recognition for our local differences. At once, we feel considered and accounted for on a local level by a brand who are quite literally, global. We can all learn from this example when thinking about where to place the dial between consistency and diversification. And all this from a bank!
So, is a brand all words and no action? Not quite. The importance of following through your brand personality is clearly evidenced with the current trend towards companies who are going green.
Businesses have also been quick to embrace the environment in practical ways because they are recognising the massive commercial advantages to be gained through embracing their environmental responsibilities.
Companies who don't 'walk the talk' are in great danger of becoming the latest victims of a revolt against greenwash, where companies are who are quick to claim green credentials are often found suspect when it comes to actually delivering on any of them. Reputational damage here is practically irreversible because brand claims are based on trust - once you undermine this trust it's difficult to win it back.
However, for those companies who take the environment seriously, things can only get better. With traditional natural resources getting scarcer by the second and the economy increasingly rewarding green business, there's never been a better time to get your company working for the environment and to tell everyone about it.
Learn more about the author, Ioannis Loizou.
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- brand consistency
- what is a brand
- brand image
- the importance of brands
- green brands