Thursday, July 30, 2015

Robust Brand Identity

A brand's identity system helps people recognize the brand. It helps people encode the brand in their memories and quickly extract it from their memories. The system incorporates a number of identification triggers. These almost always include visual components but can also include other sensory components such as Cinnebon's cinnamon scent and Harley-Davidson's engine sound. Several hotels are exploring distinctive aromatherapy scents. The visual components can include a shape or icon such as Nike's swoosh, McDonald's arches or the Olympic rings. Often packaging shapes are a part of the system such as Coca-Cola's distinctive bottle shape or Absolut vodka's unique bottle shape. Colors are usually a part of the system such as John Deere's green, UPS's brown or Southwest Airline's vibrant color palette of blue, red, gold and orange.

Consider personal brands. I am known by my name. Sometimes people associate me with my Brand Aid book. Many people know that I earned an MBA at Harvard. People who interact with me in person know that I usually wear a bow tie with a jacket.  People that know me well expect me to arrive in a Toyota Prius as I have owned three of them since 2000. And friends know that I am a passionate sailor. Each of these are "brand" associations that may also serve as triggers for people to think of me. My brother associates me with scary clowns, but that is another matter entirely.

The more distinctive elements that you can build into your brand identity's system the better. They may include names, shapes, colors, patterns, type fonts, visual styles, sounds, scents, textures, flavors, spokespeople, jingles and feelings. You can also associate your brand with occasions, events, situations, product uses, lifestyles or particular types of people.

The system should be rich but not overly complicated and flexible enough to be effective in every media, use or application. And here is the most important part - you must use the elements consistently over time once you have decided what they are. This is key to memory encoding and decoding. 

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