• Candace MacDonald & Johnna Quinn

Why Brand Clarity is More Important Now Than Ever Before

2021 is emerging as a year of intense competition. The race for delivery alternatives is fierce as tech companies and those within the industry try to find a sustainable and quality way to meet the demand they anticipate will continue post-pandemic. Beer, wine and spirits companies are intensely competing with each other and with other mood-enhancing beverages. The salad bar’s biggest competition may be a robot. Animal proteins compete against each other and with plant-based alternatives. And, we can now imagine a time in the not too distant future when the next big competition for the cow, might be a 3D printer.

What does all of this have to do with the concept of “brand?” To answer that, let’s start by defining a term that many people use interchangeably with “company” or even “logo.” A brand is the promise that a business makes with their consumers, users, customers, or guests. It’s how a product or experience makes people feel. It’s also the most ownable aspect of most businesses. Recipes can be copied, technology can be replicated, and a brilliant concept can be easily stolen. But a strong brand owns something more powerful – a place in people’s hearts and minds, embodied in a highly visual identity.

For those businesses surviving – and those that are thriving – we believe the competition will continue and that now is the time to be sure you really own your place in the market.

Verbalize Your Brand Promise

What is your purpose? This is more than a catchy phrase or slogan. It informs all customer, guest touch points along their journey. It is the unifying roadmap for your marketing. In short, it’s what we are telling the world that they can expect from you. For example, Nike’s brand promise is “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world,” while BMW’s is “The ultimate driving machine.” For a restaurant, it’s the difference between, “we serve unique food and craft cocktails” and “We embrace the unconventional and celebrate creativity with drinks, food, and music.” The latter gives your team a touchstone to evaluate decisions against and communicates how people should feel about the brand. Product features can be replicated; a brand promise is easy to say and harder to live.

We’re living in a visual world. Make every channel count.

A brand isn't embodied in a singular logo word or icon. A brand is everything tangible and intangible that is used to convey the business, its values and what it promises to stakeholders. It is a growing reality that most people experience a brand for the first time through an online interaction, most commonly a website and/or social media channels. Long before they walk through your doors, your audience has already evaluated what you have to offer and they have made judgements about whether or not the experience you provide is going to be worth their time, money, and eventually, loyalty.

Some of the key ways your audience makes these judgements is through visual 'cues.' They absorb visual information and weigh it against criteria such as "would someone like me, enjoy something like this," and "does this fulfill the need/s I have for this experience?" Visual 'cues' help guide and inform the decision making process by aligning your audience's wants, needs and expectations with your brand promise.

For this reason, it's imperative that digital interactions convey the physical or product experience, and accurately represent your brand. This consistency builds trust, reliability and recognition. A lack of consistency can make your audience subconsciously question your brand’s authenticity. The strategic visual language you craft is an integral part of your 'brand identity' and extends far beyond a logo. Color, font choices and photography style are all visual tools that play a major role in conveying your brand. Elegant, calligraphic fonts communicate formality and sophistication, while a bold, blocky font might communicate casual, laid-back or even boisterous. Color has a deep connection with physiological associations, and can be used in myriad ways to imply a certain mood or feeling. The important things to ask are, do these choices reflect what your brand stands for, the experience it provides, and the promise it makes? And even more importantly, is this identity completely ownable, letting the world know how you are different and better from your competitors?