A bit like children, brands are strange creatures. We bring them to light with hard work and involvement, but then after a while, we stop really understanding them. That’s why, when our brand doesn’t work, we feel a little lost.
I’ve had the good fortune to work on different brands, both by creating them from scratch and by helping them in a relaunch phase. From this privileged perspective, I have identified several reasons why a brand “doesn’t fly”.
In what sense does a brand not “work”?
Understanding that a brand doesn’t work is not something immediate. It’s not like saying “a campaign doesn’t work”, because the effects of branding are seen in the long run, and measuring results is not always linear. But we can reason by opposition: a brand that works creates spontaneous involvement, is easily recognized, and every new product is welcomed with curiosity and enthusiasm.
When, on the other hand, the brand doesn’t work, you can tell by the enormous effort that accompanies every communication initiative. Here are some possible causes (and solutions).
1. You have not identified your distinctive values
Values are often overlooked in the branding process because after all they do not go out into communication and are therefore less pressing. In fact, even without values, you can start working. But soon the brand gets stuck and becomes a neutral “thing” that nobody recognizes and nobody wants in particular.
Solution: one step back. Re-evaluate the implicit values of the brand, making them mandatory and portals in communication.
2. You have not translated values into strategic communication
Defining values is not enough: you have to know how to illustrate them. Many corporate sites have lists of corporate values that only exist on that page. But we can’t ask the public to guess what the brand means. We have to say it loud and clear.
Solution: a quick review of all communication assets (e.g. website, video, content, brochure) and then update all those that do not express the values of the brand.
3. You have not translated values into visual communication
Visual elements can communicate the values and positioning of a brand more quickly and deeply because they are non-verbal. In many cases, however, identity is developed on the basis of purely aesthetic criteria, which do not necessarily work in communication.
Solution: an accurate revision of the brand guidelines and the latest materials produced. If there are no guidelines, it’s time to create them.
4. You haven’t been constant
Boredom and impatience are sworn enemies of the brand. The branding process needs months to take root well, during which we must be stoic enough to endure a communication that to us (but only to us!) will seem redundant.
Solution: identify a figure (internal or external) with the task of protecting the brand, even from internal rethinking. Then set medium and long-term objectives and respect them.
5. You have not adopted the point of view of the target group
Even if the brand is perfect and perfectly communicated, it is not necessarily in the public interest. Its values can be so disconnected from those of real people that they are abstract. Remember that a successful brand always responds, in some way, to a need.
Solution: listen to your audience directly, informally, or with a survey. Involving them is both a brand-building move and an opportunity to better understand your customers and see you from their point of view.
There are brands that achieve success in a spontaneous and unplanned way and brands accurately created that are struggling. Having said that, however, a strong strategic approach makes the brand more solid and consistent, resistant to crises, and recognizable in the long run.
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