The creative industry can help businesses get ready for a brand new world

Now in the 10th week of lockdown, the Government assertions that that economy will be able to return to prosperity quickly and talks of the ‘V’ shaped bounce back are looking increasingly unlikely. According to the World Economic Forum, a poll conducted by Reuters shows that economists and forecasters are talking in terms of perhaps a ‘V’, ‘U’ ‘W’, ‘L or even a tick/swoosh shape depending on specific industry sectors (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/alphabet-soup-how-will-post-virus-economic-recovery-shape-up/). Indeed, on 19 May, the Chancellor has stated that it ‘could take time for the economy to get back to normal’ (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52719230). The one thing everyone does agree on is that there will many business unable to survive this pandemic and those that do, will most likely find that their business doesn’t look or operate in the same way as it did pre Covid-19.

We have seen how some companies have already stepped up to the plate and changed their business model immediately, gaining kudos and high profile publicity by offering to make PPE or ventilator equipment in the short term, for example, while others promote the work they are doing in order to keep us going, delivering essential items to whilst simultaneously reassuring us that they are protecting their own staff’s health and well-being.

However, when lockdown is fully over and we emerge ready to rebuild our economies and businesses, those that are determined to survive and thrive are already re-examining their business proposition and revitalising their brand and marketing to communicate this. They will inevitably be better placed to maximise opportunities that will be revealed in post Covid-19 world.

When it comes to defining and developing a brand proposition, a misconception by some is that it is the expression of the company logo and a catchy tagline that should be focus of the attention. This is not the case. Updating the logo may be a good way to signal a change, but as many branding, and marketing agency will tell you, a logo or avatar is not a brand. It is a symbol to identify a brand which signals the brand promises and that the informed will recognise. In isolation, it will not generate, sustain or drive business growth.

One of the most common challenges companies face when asked about their brand is to be able to accurately articulate what makes them unique when compared to their competition. This can be summed up in a statement – the “Onlyness statement” a phrase coined by Marty Neumeier in his book Zag (https://www.martyneumeier.com/zag) This can often be a challenge for many business to succinctly articulate, both the compelling and unique element to their business proposition. We have certainly experienced this when working with clients, usually due to a lack of clarity about the uniqueness of their business proposition. As Neumeier suggests you need to fix your company rather than fix the statement, but by committing to this exercise it can help in finding your sweet spot and stand out from the herd! This all sounds very dramatic and drastic but, logically, this make sense since the company’s direction will not be clear and, without a clear direction, there will be a lack of shared behaviours and ambition among those involved in the business. This will impact a company’s performance since ambition and shared behaviours lead to focused delivery around a common goal and will, ultimately, determine the consumers’ experience of a brand, be that to manufacture the best product or provide the best service. So unless you have a strong and unique proposition, it is unlikely that any rebrand/brand development will be as successful as it could be.

So why do people lose sight of the company’s vision? Quite simply, as the length of time from a company coming into being increases and the people involved become potentially more removed from those involved in the original founding that the vision and the essence of the company can become diluted if it is not embedded at every touchpoint and lived by those involved in all aspects of the business. Companies often espouse their values and vision but for a company to develop and truly grow to become a brand, they need to be more than just statements. If a company’s aim is to be the cheapest, what happens when they aren’t? There has to be something else that is going to make your customers come back to you and that’s where ‘brand’ has an important part to play – it has to be what Simon Sinek refers to as the ‘why’ (link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPYeCltXpxw). This also has to be something more compelling than ‘great customer service’ as this is taken as a given and not up for debate in today’s commercial world. The companies that really understand their own ‘why’ are easy to identify and everything they produce, resonates with the ‘why’. Not only does it resonate within the company, it is reflected by those who want to be associated with the brand, be that because it gives them a sense of belonging or a sense of aspiration. Sometimes we can be too quick to dismiss our children for wanting only to wear ‘labels’ or have the latest tech, for example, but in fact, this is exactly what the best brands can do – it can make you feel special on many levels. You can feel part of a ‘gang’ of cool looking people, or you can feel aligned to the ethical values of a particular brand… it doesn’t really matter what the reason is – the important thing is that the company has successfully engaged with its audience and made them prize their product/service above all the others in the market. As long as the brand promise is met at every level, they will have an enduring brand.

If you are confident that you have the right proposition, why do you need to involve a design/brand agency at all? According to cognitive scientists, more than half the brain is used by our visual system and research by the 3M Group and Hubspot supports this with results showing 94% of first impressions of a brand or services are based on the design of their visual content.

As consumers now have access to a wealth of suppliers in seconds via the internet, and are increasingly time poor, the ability to deliver brand clarity and resonance with potential customers quickly is even greater. Successful branding is the fruitful combining of good strategy with good creativity. This coupled with a consistently positive experience at every customer (or supplier) interaction will result in your brand becoming what you want it to be because your customers will experience it as you imagine it is. After all, regardless of what you say your brand is, it is nothing more than how it is defined by how your customers feel about doing business with you. It comes back to knowing your ‘why’. If everyone in your company truly understands the ‘why’ and not only understands it but believes and lives it with a passion, then you will attract like-minded people – employees and customers alike – since you will all share the same common values and love for the product or service you are offering. It is then that you will have built a brand.

Post Covid-19 will undoubtedly be about the survival of the fittest, those who know “the cheese has moved” (Who Moved My Cheese by Dr Spencer Johnson) and are prepared to go looking in new places. This may require the business strategy and positioning to be updated for a new reality which in turn may require your brand and the promises it makes to be refreshed. It will be those that combine a unique and focused business proposition with a well-designed brand that will prove to the be fittest because together they can drive passion. Successful branding starts with robust brand foundations that underpin and inform design so that your creative has meaning and will elicit a response in your customers and prospects. They may not be able to articulate this – it’s ‘just a feeling’ but that’s when design is at its most powerful because it’s not only winning hearts, it’s winning minds as well. Applied consistently you have a truly powerful brand that people will want to be associated with.

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