The difference between BRAND and BLAND

Building a brand is about focusing on key objectives and then delivering consistently against those objectives. A brand is so much more than a name – it’s about meaning. A failure to communicate meaning is the difference between brand and bland.

A brand that resonates strongly with its target audience is a belief system. It delivers a whole series of meanings and complex emotions that force you to have an opinion. That opinion – hopefully positive – will drive your actions and reactions to the brand, whether it is a product, service or person. David Beckham is a brand as much as he is a footballer because of his relevance to several target audiences, including football fans, users of Gillette blades and wearers of Police sunglasses. But what happens to Beckham when he can no longer ‘bend it’? Can he maintain his relevance and meaning to the varied audiences? If not, Gillette and Police will need to evaluate their options.

Madonna is a brand that constantly re-invents itself. There are few people who could call Madonna bland and, whether you like her music or not, she certainly provokes an emotion. Now, my references to celebrities are meant purely to demonstrate that brands are not names put on a podium simply for display. Brands need constant nurturing, the belief system among your target audience needs nurturing and, like a healthy plant, you need to give it the right food. As Prince Charles would advise, talk to your plant from time to time.

In financial services, brands are becoming more and more important. It is very easy for a brand in our industry to become bland. In fact, it almost goes with the territory. To be brutal, an industry categorised as low interest, with low involvement and where all products are similar has all the hallmarks of commoditisation. Add to this the fact that with some financial services, inertia appears to be the largest factor behind loyalty and you quickly understand that we have to constantly think about how to add value in order to make the value proposition abundantly clear and fully relevant. We need to develop meaningful relationships with our customers so that we become and stay relevant. When we stop being relevant then we not only fail to attract new customers but we start to lose the ones we have. In a way, that’s how Madonna keeps going.

World class branding is what makes the difference between brand and bland. It’s the difference between a vibrant offer like Nike and Gola (does anyone remember Gola?). In marketing we have the four Ps (product, price, place and promotion). I tend to focus branding on the six Cs (actually, it was five Cs and an S, but it sounds so much more guru-like to have six Cs…).

  • ‘C’ingle minded visionary approach to branding and all communications
  • Compelling proposition based on customer/consumer insights
  • Commitment from all areas to the brand and what it stands for in the customer’s eyes
  • Communicate the story – internally as well as externally
  • Consistency in delivery – across all touch points in order to live up to the promise
  • Connection with stakeholders: building relationships, not just fulfilling a need

If we apply these principles, we will succeed in brand building to world class standards. Your, like a ‘ray of light’, will not only be in ‘vogue’ but its meaning will drive ‘deeper and deeper’ and ‘just like a prayer’ it will become something you ‘cherish’ to the point that it becomes ‘human nature’…



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