For anyone who has ever been involved in creating a new logo for a company will every now and then have the horror of trying to explain to an angry client why their logo looks exactly like the logo they saw on Shutterstock or the tiny Argentinian craft hangliding manufacturer they came across by accident while searching the letter W on Google.
All the client wants is a unique logo with the letter W in it, can’t really be that hard can it? [Insert “primal scream” here]
We are in an age where we are blessed with the most visually and creatively literate generation ever to be alive (there must be a statistic to hold up this statement somewhere so bear with me). We can see this through the proliferation of creative apps from everything from Snapchat filters, beautiful ‘no filter’ Instagram images and the ubiquitous ‘selfie’. Not to mention the selection of great simple editing software on mobile phones and Mac’s where you just drop and drag sound, images and videos onto a timeline and voila, a b-grade movie just like that! What many folks don’t understand is that even with the limited technical understanding framing, lighting, filters and text use the average person is now creating work that was the preserve of artists and specialist technicians. We are now creating the art we are consuming. It might not all be beautifully crafted and technically sophisticated, but it does the job of getting a message across, which is the point.
The same can be said of logos. With multitudes of new businesses springing up to take advantage of the e-commerce economy there is felt a need to create a logo and identity for even the most humble enterprise. And why not? You can create free logo’s and identities online, use AI logo generators and even pay an online army of designers to craft a lovely look and feel for as little as a fiver.
So when does your logo become a brand? This is where semantics becomes important. The word brand was traditionally used as a way of identifying where a product was from, who made it and what was inside. A brand was a promise that if the product or service did not perform as promised there was a way of getting restitution. This is quite easy to deal with now as we can use a variety of social media channels to get restitution or create a stink until someone deals with the issue. The barriers to entry of becoming a brand have diminished to almost zero.
Is Toby’s Sassafras Craft Gin, distilling 100 bottles a month a brand? Yes but also no. This is what Kotler tells us a brand is:
A name, term, symbol, or design, or combination of these that identifies the products or services of one seller group or group of sellers and differentiates them from those of competitors. 1999 Principles of Marketing by Philip Kotler, Gary Armstrong
To be honest I don’t think this really captures what a brand is or stands for. If I had to give my summation of what a brand is today it would sound a bit like this:
A true brand has come to be known over time as the sum of experiences and expectations both perceived and projected onto it by an individual or group who is a user or a spectator. It is ubiquitous and has the ability to be polarising by eliciting strong emotions. A brand creates value for its owners by growing more valuable over time through careful guidance (brand management) the codification of its core tenets (brand DNA) and living of its ideals through its caretakers (brand internalisation).
This quasi-religious statement I feel is the representation of a new step in the evolution of brands. Toby might have a splendid gin, but if his distillery exploded by some unfortunate accident, would he be able to get a bank to give him a loan based on the strength of his brand? Yes a Kickstarter campaign might be an option for him for hardcore fans but I doubt it based on the strength of his brand alone.
What Toby has is a product with a unique ingredient and a nice logo, but it is certainly not ubiquitous. Perhaps in 10 years if the business is still around he may have a brand.
There are some splendid products out there that will have a brief luminance like a supernova millions of light years away, but many will never enter the Pantheon of brand royalty like Coca-Cola and Nike.
Nicholas is CEO of emerging market brand strategy consultancy wunderbrand.com
Article originally posted on www.medium.com/nicholaskuhne