" SpiritofSaltSpring:BC:Canada:GulfIslands:SaltSpring:Salt Spring:

June 17, 2008

The Infinity of Branding

In 2006 I had the pleasure of being a passenger on a Harley-Davidson. It was a gorgeous July day and we were on the Sea to Sky Highway. The light sparkled the waters of Howe Sound fantastic. The road whizzed under us in furry, blurry happiness. That's how it felt. I'm certain that my face under my helmet looked a bit the way a dog's face does when it's leaning way out the window of a moving car.

It was spectacular. It was better than everything I thought being on one of those bikes would be like. F-R-E-E-D-O-M! And, that feeling my friends, as you probably already know, is exactly the feeling that Harley-Davidson has built one of the strongest brands in the world around. It's a way of being, a sense that you're a ruggged individualist, separate from the pack. There was a fork in the road and you took the road less travelled, and that has made all the difference... But, you know all that. We've all heard it before.

Emotional branding. Make them feel it. Let them live it. Tap into their dreams. Help them belong.

At the High Tech Communicator's Exchange, Sharon Habib of Outsidein Communications did an excellent job of speaking about her experience of re-branding the North Shore Credit Union about five years back.

She did her research. She found out that Vancouver's North Shore has some of the highest numbers of people who are active in the outdoors in BC. She used people who actually worked at the bank in photogaphs and those photographs had a specific style based on a photo with a dog named Koby in it.

Koby was running in focus up front while his owner, an employee, was seen a bit distant and hazy in the back holding his leash. I think there was a frisbee in the shot. They came up with the tag line: "Thinking OUTSIDE the bank." People want to bank to live not live to bank. They chose outdoorsy colours; natural colours like sand and seafoam green for the website and the bank cards. They used photos of employees in their lives outside of work in the outdoors - coaching soccer, kayaking, biking and doing what West Coasters do, rain or shine.

Here's a branding checklist based on her talk.

My advice: Use your intuition. Be the unexpected. Find a way to conquer and overcome the fear of the conservative people/attitudes in your midst so you can risk creating a brand that's memorable.

Here's Sharon's advice translated by me (and in some instances added to by me)from her talk:

1. Do your research! Back up your rationales with facts and stats. Combine a right brain dominant with a left brain dominant to substantiate the decisions you make in creating your brand and then designing it to be graphically/aesthetically on-target.

2. Who? What? Why? Answer all those questions first about your competition and then do the same about your own organization.

3. Use words, visuals and actions to support the answers to the above. Describe your brand in words.

4. Educate senior management on the signficance of branding in general and include them in every step of the process.

5. Educate employees in an active, fun way. Information. Events. Contests.

6. Ensure everyone - the receptionist to the president - can say in simple language what the brand stands for.

7. Use that description to develop a tag line. Try and create a dual meaning in that tag line. "Thinking OUTSIDE the bank." It can be read literally. It refers to other things - how customers behave, how the bank partners with others, etc.

8. Work with a talented graphic artist who also has had some formal education in graphic design and knows how to choose colours and fonts and a graphic style that will support the brand's emotion.

9. Forge partnerships and collaborations that are in line with what the brand stands for and that will mutually benefit each brand.

10. Try to create a bricks and mortar environment that aligns with your brand (Tell the story on the inside (storyboard, photos, gimmicks) and the outside in unique ways that reinforce the brand.

11. Ensure that any sub-brands (and limit the number of those as much as possible) complement the overall brand. ie: in terms of the bank, the names of accounts should complement the brand, while not confusing them.

12. Ensure your corporate participation in acts of social responsibility support the brand's intent.

13. Hunt down inconsistencies.

14. Create a brand book that's user friendly, can be referred to quickly and explains the brand and its usage including: logos, tag lines, graphics, swag, etc.

15. Remind yourself, as the marketing or communications person, that branding is like parenthood - it's only over when you're dead! And, even then we can't be too sure... (I'm not a parent. No children of mine were offended by that statement.)

Oh and a word of caution. Branding is not for the weak. It helps to be a creative genius with the sales skills of Bob Rennie, the assertiveness of Germaine Greer and the patience of the Dalai Lama in executing and maintaining any brand.

Read about the saga of the Harley-Davidson brand here.

Got a comment? Got a tip?

No comments: