In the past seven years, we have developed more than two dozen corporate brands – for the most part from the ground up. In every case, the core of the brand has been story. Here is why.
We are working with a client right now that is looking for help because they have been unable to achieve sufficient traction in the market. They have spent substantial resources to develop an industry-leading solution. (Independent testing has given them the upper hand against long established competitors.) Their brand strategy to-date has consisted of commissioning logo artwork, signage and stationary – a clear example of substituting corporate identity for brand.
What these talented people should have expected/demanded from their first round of brand efforts (having invested $5 million in the development of technologies that allow them to do what others cannot) is the ability to crisply articulate and defend their unique place in the market. For in the end, brand is the intersection between the story you tell and what your customers and employees choose to remember and share.
A four letter word
The challenge is that, for many, branding is a four letter word – an often maligned and poorly understood process. Face it, if you are an engineer, mathematician, or scientist by profession, how do you know when you are getting good advice or being pitched marketing voodoo? Some consultants argue the entire branding task can be completed in a day, while others set out a litany of charts, tables and research objectives that cause the process to balloon into months.
The power of story
As an agency, we have a fairly unique view of the matter. Our roots are in public relations and, as a result, our approach to branding is “inside out” – meaning our work is centred on crafting a compelling brand story that creates distance and space in the market. Only then do we consider external components such as a name or visual identity.
We use a straight-forward interview and investigation process that ultimately yields one or two substantive insights that will form the core of the brand. Here is a recent example of this process that may help.
We have a client with a mandate to improve the rate of adoption of sustainability practices within the public and private sectors in Canada. For almost 20 years, they have been lumped into what has become a very crowded spot in the market – promoting innovation. If you take a closer look, however, the vast majority of organizations operating within this space are primarily focused on “invention” (creation) rather than “innovation” (application). This insight allowed for the development of a powerful and unique brand story – one that centred on the applied nature of their work – creating substantial space and distance in the market for them.
If you follow a well-crafted brand strategy rooted in story, you will arrive at much more than a snappy name or visual identity. You have the opportunity to change perception even with the most cynical of audiences, promote internal culture and values that support organizational success even during periods of significant growth, maximize the ROI from your sales and marketing efforts, and successfully support capital market activity.