Brand building is all about human psychology. Brands exist only in the mind. Wholehearted brand builders understand this and seek balance in four tensions that will give their minds the freedom to think with clarity and to create within a rational framework.
We call these factors the four frenemies of the Brandocalypse. They are Ego, Chaos, Surprise, Obsession. Each is a friend to the brand builder. But each is also a potential threat.
A great brand emerges from a battlefield of competing ideas…
When ego retreats, ideas advance
All brands seek to appeal to the ego of a certain type. Our brand says to that individual, “I understand you. I’m helpful to you. We belong together.”
Ego is the brand builder’s friend because it’s receptive to relevant messages.
However ego can be an enemy to brand building teams, which often include people with dominant personalities.
A branding initiative can easily become distorted to appeal to a dominant personality on the brand building team, rather than the target audience it was intended to influence.
A great brand emerges from a battlefield of competing ideas about how to progress an enterprise. When originating brands or campaigns it’s useful to have more ideas from diverse sources. Ego both encourages and discourages people from sharing ideas.
Wholehearted Brand Building aims to de-emphasise ego to enrich the mix of ideas. We are also aware of how ego influences idea decision-making. Branding decisions informed by objectivity, debate and testing are more effective than those based solely on personal opinion or taste.
Ideation involves a certain measure of chaos. But quality-conscious enterprises naturally seek order…
Contain chaos for ideas to flourish
The basic building block of a brand is an idea. Brands are born as ideas, nourished by ideas and sustained in the mind as ideas. A steady stream of ideas is valuable.
Ideation involves a certain measure of chaos. But quality-conscious enterprises naturally seek order in operation. Standards, best practices, SOPs, company policy and rules exist to avoid chaos.
Brainstorming is aptly named – a storm is chaotic, yet it has boundaries. We know when it’s over. We can measure its impact. During brainstorming sessions we seek to reduce participants’ inhibitions in a chaotic atmosphere. Sometimes these sessions are productive. Sometimes not. Unproductive brainstorming sessions usually feature too much chaos – or not enough.
The wholehearted brand builder seeks to contain ideation chaos within the orderly methodology of a creative brief. An effective creative brief concisely reflects the business needs of the enterprise. Within that framework wild ideas can be tamed and put to work for the brand.
Balancing consistency with surprise requires a deep and disciplined familiarity with the brand’s fundamentals.
Be consistent and surprise consistently
A brand must surprise its audiences or risk becoming irrelevant, boring, or disrupted by competitors. But consistency communicates quality. A quality brand must therefore present itself consistently, while paradoxically continually offering refreshing surprises. Wholehearted brand builders ensure consistency by developing and documenting a strong foundation for the brand. This foundation takes the form of a brand model, brand architecture and brand guidelines.
Consideration for heritage, business strategy, competition, audience and aesthetics informs these important documents that can act to illuminate the soul of the organisation. They help ensure a brand’s purpose, promise and personality are consistently expressed.
A solid brand foundation supports the development of communications campaigns that engage and delight audiences with innovations, news and pleasant temptations.
Balancing consistency with surprise requires a deep and disciplined familiarity with the brand’s fundamentals. Team continuity is especially important to this endeavor.
Identifying appropriate creative solutions requires both subjectivity and objectivity.
Be obsessed and able to detach
Strong brands are built by creatively presenting engaging solutions to key audience needs. Creative branding benefits from an obsessive focus on clarifying and simplifying messages and images.
But it’s difficult for creators to dispassionately evaluate their work. It’s also difficult to know when to stop creating. Identifying appropriate creative solutions requires both subjectivity and objectivity.
To achieve the necessary detachment, organisations traditionally outsource some or all of their brand communications development to agencies. Creative agencies working in a variety of industry sectors can credibly introduce cross-pollinated ideas and left-field inspiration. The brand owner then has the benefit of encountering these ideas with fresh eyes.
The wholehearted brand builder seeks to bring both obsession and detachment to the development process.
The wholehearted brand builder must know where they stand with each frenemy to make productive creative work.
When ego retreats, ideas advance
Containing chaos helps ideas flourish
Effective brands are consistent and surprise consistently
Brand builders should be obsessed and able to detach
In later posts we’ll revisit each frenemy and share thoughts on how to better manage them.