In late September 2015, Adobe launched its Marketing Cloud product with a sly wink towards the marketers it was aiming to sell to.
In one of the campaign videos, a rocket launch is repeatedly interrupted by the marketing department with requests for a bigger logo or more real estate for the sponsors – until a Day-Glo rocket takes to the sky, emblazoned with giant logos and a putrid orange paint job.
It’s a battle every hardened marketer is familiar with: you submit a brief and a mood-board; the client is on board; you make the thing – the client is still onboard but, “can you make our logo more prominent?” or “can you change the colours so it’s more in line with the brand?”
And suddenly your creative baby is a shell of itself with a logo taking up half the screen and a colour scheme so awful you wonder if your client has working optic nerves in their heads.
In a welter of pain, you send it over to the client.
“I LOVE it,” they say. “It looks great.”
It does not, but you know there’s no talking the client down from the ledge.
It’s not about YOU
Walter Landor was one of the most prominent branding professionals of the 20th century, with a diverse portfolio including the Coca-Cola script, Shell Oil, and General Electric.
His most memorable quote, and a constant go-to in blogs about branding, is: “Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.”
His was a steely belief that good design was the key – but good design that appealed to people and not to ego. It’s a truism that particularly resonates now, as ego too often becomes a conceit where branding and marketing exist under one umbrella with the core principle of promoting YOU – your product, your event, your service.
But here’s the thing: unless you’re the custodian of a legacy brand (and even only then: at a stretch) most consumers aren’t overly swayed by branding. A familiar logo helps, absolutely, but it’s not everything – especially in a digital age where consumers have the power to disrupt entire industries.
Look around you and you’ll see a dozen brands. A perfunctory sweep of my desk brings up Apple (twice), a Lidl notepad, Duracel batteries, a stack of our in-house consumer magazines, MyProtein, BSN, and HP.
These products are ingrained into my environment but beyond the two nods to Apple (my iPhone and Mac), they don’t routinely ping as anything in my conscious thought. They’re just there in much the same way that banner ads take up space on the internet. You see them, but they don’t necessarily register.
Logos are not a brand, but they are a building block. An inherent memorability might suggest that plastering your logo everywhere is the way to go, but that’s short-sighted thinking that’s driving an onus on only delivering instant results.
If instant results (or an instant brand) is the crux, how can marketing efficiently consider long-term strategy? A couple of quiet months or ‘boring’ activity that aims to build a brand may not drive instant results – so does that mean the activity has failed?
Of course, it doesn’t – but it’s doing your brand a disservice and propagating a cycle that’s going to be difficult to break.
Abandoning the campaign mindset
This isn’t to say that overt branding isn’t a key to success: indeed, think of a jingle from radio or TV and you might find yourself singing, “Washing machines live longer with Calgon” or “Autoglass repair; Autoglass replace.”
The difference here is that Calgon or Autoglass are built on short wins. It’s unlikely that either brand has a long-term customer cycle; once you’ve cleaned your washing machine or fixed your windscreen, your chances of retention are probably low.
Ultimately, being persuasive in the moment is a short-lived goal. A brand needs something more to resonate concurrently or over time – to keep customers coming back.
A recent move in marketing and advertising has brands positioning themselves with shared values for consumers – environmental stewardship, charity, community spirit for Pride – and while it’s easy to tar such activity as a marketing ploy, it’s helping brands grow.
However, brand building isn’t about plastering your logo everywhere – but in fostering quality interactions. It’s the kind of easy marketing rhetoric that seems bloated: it’s all about the interactions, maaaaaan, but it’s one that resonates if the brand is authentic.
In recent days, Aldi, usually stellar at marketing, was a poor custodian of its brand.
It’s an embarrassing exchange for Aldi, with a wildly different tone of voice in communication. Lidl, of course, was quick to step in with an offer of its own. Iceland followed, in a war to send free vouchers to Don, a newly-minted Twitter hero.
Don, drop us a DM! pic.twitter.com/NPOMwv91IG— Lidl GB (@LidlGB) August 18, 2018
The disparate tone of Aldi’s response and its DM is likely down to having a large social media team, but it’s still a relevant study in authenticity. Holden Caulfield would eat his red hat.
Aldi’s was an off-note that will resonate for a couple of days in retweets and online media, but then it will die down and the brand will live on, intact. Aldi’s brand and offering are far too good to be ruffled by a mix-up in Twitter communication – it has spent years positioning itself as the cheaper, quality alternative to Tesco or Dunnes or Sainsbury’s.
Aldi’s has been a multi-year effort – and that’s the silver bullet.
Its positioning isn’t bold or big or new – but it is effective.
It’s also a long-term play, and that’s the crux. Where brands are prioritising fancy mission statements and wordy purposes, their audience is looking to companies that already exist. Meaningful brands have built trust with the consumer – and not because they slapped a massive logo everywhere.
Perception is reality and how the public perceives you becomes what your brand is.
A lyrical mission statement can’t hide poor customer service or a product that doesn’t really work.
Inversely, a single campaign can launch a brand; we’d be remiss to suggest otherwise. Dollar Shave Club is the well-trodden example, launching on a dime with a video that went widely viral – but for every Dollar Shave Club, thousands of equivalent brands never get a look-in.
Businesses need strong marketing across the board in order to swim: in their branding and advertising and data analytics. Consumers are mindful of authenticity and brand values – but the internet is a very big space, with Shopify and ecommerce platforms like it seeding hugely successful brands that only live online.
Consumers have more choice than ever, on their desktop or mobile or in the shop in front of them. They expect a cross-channel experience that works for them – that suits them.
The client might think that their logo slap-bang in the middle of the creative looks great – but will the customer?
That’s the priority.
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