Do brands matter any more? Yes, and here’s why: done well, the brand can define the organising principle of the enterprise informing the entire experience of customers, employees and other stakeholders.
There are an awful lot of companies and agencies around that say they will help create, refresh or reinvent your brand. Many of them have unfathomable models that obscure and don't inform. You may have come across the brand onion, brand pyramids, we’ve even come across the brand deck-of-cards and the brand periodic table. At Lekito we think this is mostly baloney designed to make it all seem more complicated than it really needs to be. We work with a principle that says if it could be simpler, then it’s not simple enough. If brand onions are your thing, that’s fine by us. It’s just not how we work.
A great brand needs only one thing: a great idea. An idea that is big enough not to be mistaken for anything else, simple enough so that it could not be simpler and true in the sense that it is based in an insight about the idea that is genuine and not a piece of marketing puff.
Whilst we avoid brand onions or other fundamentally unhelpful scallions, the late great Wally Olins presented a very simple model many years ago. It was right then and it’s right now. Paraphrasing, it simply says that a great brand has to have a great idea at its heart. Then you can figure out the best way to express that through the way the brand communicates. Also the way the people delivering the brand behave in the organisation and at every place a customer might come across it. The central idea should also impact the design of the product or service itself and, where relevant, the environment in which you do business and present the brand which might mean, for example, a retail environment or a digital one. It all works together or it doesn’t work.
In this way, the brand can define the organising principle of the entire enterprise. That means the CEO is the brand manager, and everyone in the organisation is responsible for the brand too. (So all CEOs are brand managers, but that doesn’t mean all brand managers are CEOs!)
Today, brands can’t be just top down entities only based on message transmission. That might have worked 20 years ago, but things are different now. Now, brands need to be framed by the audience just as much as the ‘owner’. If you’re the owner of a brand, think of your organisation as the brand’s curator. For success, the values of the ‘curator’ must be in sync with the values of your audience. That’s why culture is so important, so the brand has genuine empathy with who it's for, delivered through the people, service and product.
Multi channel, multi-directional communication, in an ever-changing landscape means we have to think about brands in new ways, constantly refreshing. Consistency of experience is more important than consistency of old-school brand guidelines (although a few pointers can help!). The crucial thing is that employees, customers and every other stakeholder knows what you stand for. It’s the only way you can stand out. Think of it like this: if you have a good friend that you know well, then you have a reasonable expectation as to how they’ll behave. They don’t always dress in the same clothes or order the same drink, but you know it’s them. The trust you have between you is the same. Simple, hey?