There’s a lovely little Italian around the corner from where I live. It’s cosy, we’ve never had a bad meal and the manager recognises us every time we wander in. And naturally when they opened a second place, I recommended it from the bottom of my heart to anyone with a pulse.
For me, it’s easy to say it’s a brand I ‘love’. What’s not so easy is to capture that magic and apply it to businesses elsewhere – big and small.
Why is it that only a small proportion of companies can claim to be truly loved by the audiences that pay their bills? And what is it a small Italian in Glasgow knows, which even billion-dollar marketing departments struggle with?
It’s a question which has drawn both fasciation and derision. One of the world’s leading branding minds, Byron Sharp, even described the whole notion of ‘brand love’ as “an embarrassment to marketing.”
You can see his point. The inconvenient truth we have to impart to many of our clients is that – when it comes to their brand – the starting point for most audiences is total ambivalence.
Yet… we all know there are brands we’re illogically attracted to. Businesses who stir something in us. Who we return to, and even forgive when they go awry.
It’s a tough nut to crack. It can’t be easily bottled, sold or mapped by an agency process. True love – a depth of affection, loyalty and passion – tends to come from a cocktail of something that is more fluid than logical.
However, although creating that kind of feeling is impossibly hard, in our experience it is possible.
So, below are some tricks of the trade to help get you started. Three simple methods – based more in psychology than design – that help give you the best chance of forming a deeper emotional connection and finding some true love out there in the marketplace:
It’s so simple, and yet often overlooked. If you have a home, then leverage it.
It doesn’t matter whether you sell whisky or fish food, if you have a strong sense of place (a home you love and are making better with every sale you make) people will warm to you. It lends you automatic authenticity.
We try to hard-wire it into so much of our work. Whether it’s the brand strategy for a global manufacturing business proudly rooted in the North of England, or a refreshed identity for our feisty local rugby team – roots gave them strength.
And you can turbocharge the effect further. The more passion you pour into your home, the less it matters whether your audience is down the road or ten thousand miles away.
It’s just a simple human instinct: Love begets love. Wherever you’re from – if you show it for your home, people will show it for you.
It’s an old agency cliché, but it happens to be true: great brands tell a story.
Stories are the easiest way to get a complex message into someone’s head, and their heart. You find a powerful and timeless narrative arc – and build your identity around it.
So you have a founder – great, there’s a ‘rags to riches’ story. So you have a big rival dominating the marketplace – perfect, there’s your classic ‘overcoming the monster’ arc.
When we repositioned the brand for the one of the world’s leaders in 3D printing – we let their story do the hard work. ‘A pioneer’, who helped invent a technology of tomorrow.
These timeless archetypes help you understand a narrative instinctively and quickly, and they warm you to the protagonist. So if you find your audience is struggling with your brand – try telling a simpler story.
It’s an uncomfortable truth – but if you’re only here to make money, your audience will smell it at fifty paces. And no one falls in love with a bottom-line.
So try and define a purpose beyond the commercial. Save the planet. Help dogs walk. Make the best pasta in Glasgow. It doesn’t matter – as long as it’s true and simple. (If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, it’s too complicated.)
When we created an internal comms brand for Centrica/British Gas, we managed to get their purpose down to just one word. So it is possible, with the right help.
And one impact of purpose is that you might have to make some enemies too. If you stand for something, then be confident enough to exclude those who stand against you. Because those who stand with you tend to reward you for it.
Each of these tips may sound a little vague, but they collectively do one very important thing: humanise. They turn corporate entities into something with more human-like attributes. And that is ultimately what good branding is all about. Because it’s a hell of a lot easier to fall in love with a person, than it is a business.
Give us a shout if you think we can help humanise your brand.
(And if ever you’re looking for a lovely Italian in Glasgow, pop by Celino’s on Alexandra Parade.)