A logo may be the face of a business, but it is your brand which sets you apart from the rest and what your business will ultimately be judged on.
Branding is one of those topics that most of us feel we know something about but the reality is that it often means different things to different people - from the very practical elements of logo and website design to the more challenging, less tangible areas of emotion, culture, service, and experience.
The obvious place to start is to look at some of the leading brands - the ones we can all identify with. Ask anyone and the chances are that they will quote names such as Coca Cola, Apple and Marks & Spencer - all very different, but very successful businesses. But how much does 'brand' play in this success?
It's certainly an interesting fact that when most of their key markets were in recession last time around in 2008/9, the top 10 brands continued to grow. Markets may shrink but as someone recently told me "Until we have 100% of the market, there is no recession!" So whilst companies come and go, the same top brands continue to thrive and grow market share. But this still doesn't tell us why 'brand' and 'branding' works?
So what is a 'brand' and why is it so critical to business? And is it critical to every organisation? The brand is important of course but the key is why does your brand matter and who does it matter to? If it isn't lived and breathed at the top of your organisation, there is little chance that people further into the organisation will understand it or know what part they play in it. Brand is about a promise we make to every person and organisation that we interact with - it represents who we are, what we believe in, the quality of our service and products, and how we 'do' business. Getting to the essence of your brand is a thought provoking and soul-searching journey. For instance, we started by making a statement of what we do and why it's important - interestingly it was the latter point that really got people thinking, especially when we kept asking 'why'.
You will be surprised at the nuggets of information that come out of these discussions that really start to articulate what your company's real purpose is. Constantly considering what you do and how you do it in the context of your real purpose is an important next step in checking that everyone understands the brand promise, and what part everyone plays in delivering it.
Whilst we can all think of amazing examples of brands, the reality of many organisations is that they never really get to grips with what their brand is because it's pretty hard to do. Many organisations have done the work on the process of branding and have great mission statements but the test is how well they are delivered on - is there understanding and buy-in from all of their stakeholders? This is where engaging communication is critical and it has to start internally because if your own team can't understand what the brand means to them individually, there is not much hope that your customers will.
We're nearing the end of our 'brand refresh' journey and are building on the good work we have done over the years in this area. From my experience, I think it's very useful to relook at your brand regularly to check that purposes and values are still valid because the products and services you provide may have changed significantly since you last did the exercise. If companies get it right, their customers should know what to expect and in an age of uncertainty and risk, that provides comfort and re-assurance.
So it's not just about a logo after all!