Over the past years, thousands of companies have been unable to establish a good reputation among their consumer audience. Unfortunately, this has often been the case because these companies failed to achieve synergy between their strategic intentions and the real outcomes the market perceived.
Nike provides us with a classic example. During 1999, Nike diluted its brand dramatically. The “Just Do It” ethos became a nightmare tagline when it became global knowledge that Nike exploited labor in Third World countries. “Just Do It” was translated into counter-campaign T-shirts bearing the slogan “Just Don’t Do It.” Thus the philosophy and marketing drive that Nike had spent years creating was washed down the drain.
This fatality has to do with 180-degree branding. “Quick” branding doesn’t exist. To think that it does would be like imagining you could paint the roof of your house to repair the holes.
This is the type of dilemma facing most dot-com sites. On the surface, their image is perfect, but just beneath the surface, the holes appear. In the split second that it takes to make a purchase from the site, or worse, during the longer time you might spend contacting it with requests for information or to return products, it is then that the rain and the wind start coming through the holes.
So far, dot-com branding has covered the first 10 degrees. What about the other 350?
A recent study conducted by Bang & Olufsen, the high-quality stereo-equipment manufacturer, shows that the future of branding doesn’t lie in imaging, the product itself, or the ads. It’s the whole brand story that counts. The term “story branding” is based on the philosophy that every product needs a story to prompt a consumer’s involvement with it. I’ll give you an example.
At home, I have a salt-and-pepper set designed by Arne Jacobsen. It’s nice but not something you would spend hours talking to your guests about. But there is a story behind the set that you would find fascinating if you were at my table.
You see, almost 50 years ago, the designer had dinner with one of his business partners who admired this salt-and-pepper set. The business partner was so fascinated by the design that he asked Jacobsen to design a whole hotel around the salt-and-pepper set. And so he did.
It took Arne about 20 years, but the hotel he designed became a bit of an icon in Copenhagen. Not only was the hotel specially designed to match the salt-and-pepper set, but so were the plates, the cutlery, the curtains, the beds, and, well, everything you could name that a hotel would need. The chairs were also inspired by the design, and his “egg chair” later became part of the Museum of Modern Art’s collection in New York. The whole environment was spun from a simple salt-and-pepper set.
What is your perception of this salt-and-pepper set now? Has it changed? Probably, and you haven’t even seen it.
Strong branding is all about creating a story or, if a story already exists, making it spin off the product and the brand. Fascinating stories quite often create the foundation for the whole brand its philosophy, its direction, and its ethos. In the case of the salt-and-pepper set, the designer’s philosophy became so integral to the hotel that every staff member, every guest, and every supplier knew of the story, respected it, and worked with it.
There’s a lesson to be learned from any business that has a nice web site with nothing behind it. The risk of everything falling apart is huge, and this might be the reason why up to 25 percent of users who fail to use an online site satisfactorily decide never to return to the site again (according to Forrester research). Sites like this kill their brands, even before birth.
Three-hundred-sixty-degree branding is about creating a solid brand philosophy. Often this can be founded in a true story from which the brand can grow in all directions, covering all disciplines and all media channels. Whether you’re a business-to-business player or a clicks-and-mortar partner, or you’re just trying to win your brand strong customer loyalty, the first and, probably, best step for you to take is to dig into your history. Perhaps you have a goldmine somewhere that can be used to create your full 360-degree branding.