26 Jun 2017, 13:08 — 6 min read
What is a brand?
Branding, brand consulting and positioning and several allied themes dominate our mind in whichever area of business we are. Most times, people get so busy chasing dreams that they don’t have time to understand what the dream will be like. While there is plenty of writing on brands and importance of brands and tonnes of books written on the subject, I wanted to put some thoughts down based on experience and conviction. One may see this as overly simplistic, but most things are simple. At least, they are simple as long as we take the time and effort to keep them simple.
What does a child grow with? Stories. A lot of stories. The ones the child remembers well into his adulthood and through his life are the stories that were told well. The manner of the telling made the story register in his/her memory permanently. We speak to hundreds and thousands of people over our lifetime and some conversations remain etched in our memories. Those are invariably conversations narrated as stories. While we enjoy hearing stories we need to remind ourselves that we too have a story to tell and that our audience is interested in hearing it.
Branding is pretty much along the same lines. A brand helps you to connect with your audience and builds relationships, credibility and an emotional connection.
We live in a fast world of fleeting interactions. It’s a slick and very homogeneous world in many ways. Very similar names, titles, degrees, professions, products or services. As much as you have these connections so do others. When your brand is trying to seek a connect with customers, the only thing that is likely to prevail in the mind of the prospect is the personal narrative you have. It is the power of your narrative that makes the difference. The emotional connect is a function of the story you have narrated and how closely the prospect can relate to the story.
Some brands have been consistent in telling a story that catches your imagination well. They tend to stand out of the crowd and need far less reinforcement and shrill pitch marketing. A Nike, Starbucks, SONY or more like a Ya Kun Kaya or a Crystal Jade in the East stand out. Many a time the founder has his or her own persona and story weaved into the brand. An Oprah Winfrey and her childhood struggles can be powerful back stories to hook on to the brand. Years ago when FedEx was young, its credibility and story line was driven by Fed Smith’s personal experiences and narration. Jack Ma and Ali Baba are a similar case.
So, once you’ve invested the time in understanding the why’s, what’s and how’s of your brand, you need to start thinking about expressing it. And one of the best ways to do it is through a story. A compulsive and engaging story.
How to tell a nice story
Some intuitive keys to this important part of brand building are:
1. Keep it simple and authentic – Facts and truths have the power to hang on longer and deeper. It is easy to decipher that a story is sugar-coated and made up. The primary rule of business that I learnt decades ago was that the first rule of business is to remember that the person on the other side of the table in business is at least as intelligent as you are if not more. It is just not worth keeping it any other way.
2. Introduce a hook – The question for the listening prospect of 'What is in it for me?' must be clearly answered. This is an ongoing process and it takes a while to strike it deep in the mind of the prospect. Keep connecting to your prospect through different channels and offer them more ways than one to experience your brand story. Get them excited, hook them and they will align with your brand and the value you promise to bring them.
3. Infuse a brand personality – This is the most difficult thing to do in my humble opinion. Very few end up doing it right consistently. One classic example which comes to my mind immediately is Virgin. The brand Virgin and Richard Branson have always intertwined well. Boring sales type narratives do not make the cut. The goal is to grab attention and stay memorable. So, go ahead and inject your own unique style, voice, look and feel to it. By adding in your authentic personality, you will automatically stand out and your story will be more than just a piece of promotional material.
We may come across thousands of names and people, brands and products in our lifetime and remember a fraction of them. Even if you forget the names, the great stories you hear remain in your memory forever. The power of the story determines the power of your brand. It is the story that needs to be heard, seen and sought through your brand. Keep it unique and keep it simple. It is very easy to fall prey to the glitz and fanfare surrounding brands but look deeper to find the connect. Your brand is your story, unique and powerful.
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Posted byVishwanath Krishnamoorthy
My professional experience over the last 23 years has spanned the areas of heavy engineering, investment banking and Lifestyle Consumer Retailing in India and across South East...
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