By Barry LaBov
It’s always interesting when a company changes or updates its logo. Sometimes it’s met with applause and other times it ignites debate and disappointment. Olive Garden recently revealed a new logo. Some theorize it was done in the hopes of reviving the struggling restaurant chain. Will it work? Probably not on its own. That’s because while logos certainly play an important role in a company’s brand strategy, they aren’t the driving force behind that company’s brand. A brand is a company’s promise to its customers and what gives that company value. It’s a claim of distinction that separates it from competitors. While revealing a new logo may cause a brief flash of attention, good or bad, it’s the brand that stands the test of time.
Take a look at large companies that have been purchased by other companies, like Fiat’s purchase of Chrysler and Kraft’s purchase of Cadbury, and you’ll see it wasn’t the factories, buildings and equipment that held the most value; it was their well-established brands and loyal following. That’s where the value lives.
To fully build value in a brand, it’s important to first have a defined brand strategy. There are a lot of companies out there who have no brand strategy because they’ve never taken the time to go through the steps of identifying their brand. Trying to develop an effective marketing campaign with no defined brand is like flying blind. So why do so many companies fail to define their brand? Probably because it involves more work than one might think.
At my company, we’re strong believers in the fact that a brand is not created, it’s discovered. That discovery process is an essential step in building any brand. A defined brand knows its tangible and intangible qualities. Tangible qualities are those undeniable elements that most describe the facts and basis of a company, where intangible qualities are more descriptive words that relate the feelings, qualities or aspirations that surround it. Employees and customers can help isolate those tangible and intangible qualities.
In the brand assessments we’ve conducted over the years, we’ve helped many companies develop a better understating of their customer. In particular, it’s just as important to identify what those customers most value most about a brand and what they would never want to see changed as it is to identify those things they would like to see changed. It’s critical to hold sacred the things customers love about a brand.
A big part of defining a brand involves research. Whether it’s talking with customers, employees or studying key competitors, it’s crucial to discover how a brand’s products or services compare to others in the market and how they’re perceived within the overall industry. It’s only then that a company can define itself in a way that answers those competitors and gives itself enough freedom to grow in the future.
Another important step in discovering a brand is identifying the strengths and weaknesses of its key competitors. I’ve worked with companies who’ve been completely surprised by what this research reveals, and it has a big impact on how they proceed with their marketing strategies.
All of this information from employees, customers, competitors and more is what feeds the brand discovery process and ultimately forms a brand identity model that identifies a company’s core differentiators. That model can also inform the development of a tagline, brand essence statement and elevator speech. An elevator speech is a brief description of a company, product or service that could be given in the time of a short elevator ride.
It’s all the makings of a solid brand identity. When it all comes together, a brand strategy can be created, along with supporting elements such as a logo and brand standards that ensure consistency in all communications. Brand consistency is very important in everything a company generates, from instruction booklets to websites, brochures and more. Imagine if you visited Apple’s website and the iPhone page had a completely different look, feel and messaging than the iPad page. You might feel disconnected and maybe even a bit distrusting of the Apple brand. A company that refers to its brand in one way and then turns around and refers to it in a completely differently way elsewhere is on a dangerous road to losing its brand and all the value it holds.
When a brand is strong, it can greatly increase the value of a company beyond the dollar value of its physical assets. It can also help attract and retain customers as well as employees. So while a company may change its logo, that doesn’t, or shouldn’t, change who the company is at its core. Brand is and will remain king.
My Entrepreneurial Confession: I’ve seen companies introduce new logos and get burned for it from customers and employees alike. Rather than spring it on everyone all at once, a proper introduction from inside a company and then out to the public can make a big difference in the success or failure of a new logo. But just as introducing it in the correct way is crucial, a new visual identity must truly reflect the essence of a brand to succeed.