With over twelve years of experience as a brand developer, Anne Miltenburg has worked with organisations and people as diverse as tech companies, artisans, women’s rights activists and bankers, from Zambia to Tunisia and from the USA to Saudi Arabia. To help her clients and workshop participants think like brand strategists, Anne developed tools and exercises to make the branding process easy to comprehend and apply.
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A SHORT HISTORY
Branding is an inherent human practice of all ages and all cultures, a way of showing who you are and what you stand for.
For ages, artists have signed their work in order to build their reputations. Silver and goldsmiths have developed marks of quality to instil trust. Knights and warriors were clad in the colours and symbols of their houses or tribes, proclaiming their allegiances, distinguishing them from the enemy, and advancing their reputations. The actual word 'branding' derives from the branding of cattle in the United States in the 19th century to show and prove ownership.
Branding as we know it today came of age during the Industrial Revolution. Large-scale production and faster logistics meant that the distance between producer and consumer grew.
Word-of-mouth was no longer effective as a single tool for spreading a reputation. Especially for food, the safety and quality of products was a big question mark. Creating more recognisable identities for their products helped manufacturers build trust and loyalty.
By the mid-20th century, most manufacturers could no longer compete based purely on quality, as most goods on the market were roughly the same. So manufacturers had to develop another differentiating factor to make products stand out on the store shelf, a more emotional appeal, and advertising, marketing and branding came into their own. Today, branding is used by individuals, governments, activists, movements, political parties, products, services, scientists and celebrities to help guide people how to think and feel about them.
BRANDING: A DEFINITION
There have been a lot of books written on branding, and experts can argue about its exact definition until they are blue in the face. For the purpose of this book, we are defining branding as directing how other people think and feel about you.
Your brand is a catalyst that drives everything you do, from your actions to your communications, from your HR policy to choosing a new location for your office. Through your actions people will (unconsciously) build an archive of associations of your brand. By being aware of what you want to be recognised for by others and designing the right actions and communications which will build that recognition, you can actively guide how other people think and feel about you.
BRANDING HELPS YOUR AUDIENCE
Every day we are bombarded by thousands of messages from thousands of people, organisations and products who think that we should buy them, read them, eat them, fund them. Brands help people choose. Developing a brand strategy means not leaving your audience's choice to chance, but having a plan about who you want on board to support you and how you can get them on board. You can't control it entirely, and neither should you want to, but if you don't frame how you want to be thought of, others will frame you – right or wrong – as they see fit.
BRANDING HELPS YOU
Internally, a brand provides purpose, is a compass for direction and a filter in decision making. Branding is choosing. You can't be everything to everyone. If you try to be everything to everyone you end up being nothing to nobody. A strong brand helps you take better decisions on new opportunities and creates a stronger company culture where values are shared and where actions are more aligned.
BRANDING IS A MIND GAME
If branding is all about directing what others think and feel about you, then it is really a mind game. Your goal: to position yourself in the mind of your audience and to have their preference. Positioning is central to branding and crucial to your success. To be considered, you need to be known. To get on someone's mental shortlist it needs to be clear what you offer and for whom. To be selected, people will run through their mental archive to check what they know about you and if that resonates with them. If they believe you are trustworthy, offer the best solution to their need and that you are aligned on values, you can beat the competition. This journey of consideration and choice is the same for consumers looking for a bank, a social impact investor looking to fund startups, a recent graduate looking for a job or a person who wants to donate half of her end of year bonus to a good cause.
COMPETITION VERSUS COLLABORATION
Positioning yourself in a market helps you to be different from other players in the same field. Social enterprises often don't like to think they are in competition. To think that not-for-profits or social enterprises don't compete is an illusion.
Therefore, it is important to brand yourself in a differentiating manner. And that is not just needed to be competitive: it is also needed when you want to be collaborative. To achieve a better world, we need to work together. Having a strong positioning will make that easier. When your brand and another brand have a clear complementary service, you can team up. When you have shared values and a shared audience, you can create a partnership.
WHAT BRANDING IS NOT
In an effort to change their reputations, many people, companies and governments turn to PR and branding. If all we do is try to influence perception through communication, it is simply propaganda. Nor should we go for merely cosmetic operations. For people and operations to be believable, communication must be aligned with action.
Branding is a great tool, but it does come with some dangers. Turn on your 'bullshit radar'. Be sure to test every idea and phrase against reality. Don't be afraid of sharing a bold vision, but be honest, open and transparent with what you are trying to achieve. Always make it as compelling and original as possible. Keep it simple (simple is hard). Eschew jargon.
WHAT MAKES A STRONG BRAND?
Whether a brand is strong is not just a question of taste. A strong brand has measurable qualities. It is:
Know what role you want to play within your market. How do you distinguish yourself from others in the same field or with similar offers? What do you want to be recognised for? Branding is choosing. Brand strategist Suzanne van Gompel takes the restaurant business as a simple example: if you position yourself as specialising in vegetarian and non-vegetarian food, you end up being nothing to no one.
BASED ON A STRONG 'WHY'
Articulating why you do what you do, to what bigger aim, will help you connect to your audiences, as well as give you a guiding principle for everything you do as an organisation. Your purpose makes your brand directional, it provides a dot on the horizon to work towards.
A STORY PEOPLE CAN RE-TELL
Build it around your mission, an insight, moment or person that led you to do what you do. Nothing builds a stronger connection between you and your audience than a story that is relevant and memorable. Stories allow your audiences to share your experience and become your ambassadors.
CLEAR IN ITS COMMUNICATION
Strong brands create clarity. You cannot expect to attract people's interest and support if they cannot understand what you offer them. This may seem too simple to mention, but you would be surprised how often organisations fail to communicate clearly what they offer. Be sure to articulate the real value for both your audience (what they get out of engaging with you) and the world (what the bigger issue is).
A LIVING BRAND
A strong brand is not just painting everything you do in a brand colour. It is about making it come alive through everything you do. Whether your audience watches you speak at a conference, visit your website, call your customer service, or attend your event, everything they encounter should live and breathe what you stand for.
A STRONG NAME AND FACE
Don't sell yourself short with a generic brand. Create a brand identity that translates your internal character into a unique, differentiating external identity and personality.
REALISTIC AND TRUSTWORTHY
At the end of the day, the product or service that you deliver will define how people think and feel about you. When building your brand, never ever forget to walk the walk. Never over-promise and under deliver.
WHY BRAND THE CHANGE?
In a perfect world, great ideas would spread, based purely on their own merit. But unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. In order to turn changemaking ideas into reality, we are going to need investors, talented employees, partners, customers or clients. And in order to convince them to come on board, we have to get really good at selling our concepts for change. Branding is the perfect method to do just that.
Building a brand is not an easy feat, but once you have made the investment into building a strong brand, it will start to do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.
It is our conviction that when changemakers get the brands they deserve, not only will their organisations do better, but by outperforming traditional businesses, we will create a paradigm shift whereby social good simply is the best way to do business.
RESEARCH HAS SHOWN THAT A STRONG BRAND ...
»Can yield higher profit margins, as well as bigger financial investment and grants.
»Creates more and longer interactions with your audience.
»Builds more loyalty, referrals, and repeat business.
»Helps attract the best talent for your team.
»Helps attract better strategic partnerships.
These outcomes are exactly what social entrepreneurs need when they are working towards impact! When you are a startup, branding can help to get your first client or investor and to launch your product or service successfully. When you are an established organisation, branding can help strengthen what you have built or can bring you into a new phase when your market is disrupted, when your context changes or when your organisation experiences internal change.
SOCIAL GOOD IS ALWAYS GOOD BRANDING. OR IS IT?
Before we dive into brand development, let's address a fundamental question. Is social good always good branding? These days, brands who put their social or environmental mission in the spotlight are taking the world by storm. But building your brand solely on your impact is not a guarantee for success, and it comes with risks that can take you by surprise. Consider these five points before you make social good the star of your show.
IF YOU CREATE A BRAND AROUND YOUR PHILANTHROPIC MODEL AND IT COMES UNDER FIRE, YOUR ENTIRE BUSINESS CAN SUFFER
American shoe manufacturer Tom's has built a business on the now much-replicated One-for-One model. In the past nine years Tom's has donated over 35 million shoes to children across the world, one for each pair sold through their commercial channels. The company has put One-for-One front and centre in all their branding and marketing efforts. To many consumers in the West, this is an easy-to-understand, warm-hearted initiative that they love to support and be associated with.
However, Tom's philanthropic model has recently come under fire. Critics point out that products donated to developing countries often distort the local markets, undercutting local suppliers and causing unemployment. The company now faces newspaper headlines directly linking them to the exact opposite of what they set out to achieve. When your social impact model comes under fire and is as intertwined with your brand as Tom's is with One-for-One, you are at risk of losing credibility and eventually sales.
WHAT YOU THINK IS A GREAT VALUE PROPOSITION MIGHT NOT BE OF GREAT VALUE TO YOUR AUDIENCE
In 2008 Indian mega conglomerate Tata launched its Nano, a 'car for the masses' priced at US$1,500, proclaiming their vision of an India where even the poorest can afford a car. The project failed to meet expectations, however, partially because no one was willing to buy what everyone saw as a car for poor people. By contrast, the Kenyan mobile payment system MPESA has an invaluable social impact because it provides people at all income levels with a money transfer service, effectively creating a bank for everyone.
It is simply an effective, cheap and safe way to pay bills and receive payments. For MPESA, labelling their Kenyan customers 'poor' and offering them 'rescue' would make the brand less attractive than treating them like customers and providing a world-class service.
Similarly, the people behind the Dutch Weed Burger, a seaweed-based vegan hamburger, are former animal rights activists on a mission to get as many meat eaters to enjoy vegetarian and vegan food. But instead of highlighting the environmental benefits or cruelty-free aspects of their production method, they talk about its great taste. Staunch meat eaters aren't going to embrace vegan products unless they taste great, and environmental impact is just by-catch for them. In short: know your audience before you put your social impact in the spotlight. Your good intentions might disqualify you from the start.
THE IMPACT YOU ARE WORKING FOR MIGHT BE HARDER TO ACHIEVE THAN YOU EXPECT
Dutch chocolate brand Tony's Chocolonely started off in 2005 as an ambitious, 100% slave-free chocolate bar. Over the next few years, it emerged that Tony's couldn't guarantee that the entire supply chain of their chocolate was slave-free (nor could any other company in the industry). The original label on the chocolate bar wrapper featured a pictogram of a breaking chain, with the words '100% slave-free'. Today, it reads 'working together to become slave-free'. The brand has chosen to be open about the problems it is facing in the global chocolate trade and even shares critical articles on its Facebook page. Despite these setbacks, the popularity of the brand has not suffered; today it is a major competitor to the biggest chocolate brands on the shelves in the Netherlands. But it is safe to assume Tony's is the exception to the rule.
A BRAND BASED ON GOODWILL CAN FORGET TO COMPETE ON QUALITY
Branding something as socially or environmentally good might end up distracting you from delivering the best product or service that you can deliver. When you sell a feel-good product or service to an audience, that feel-good effect will not be enough to keep them coming back if the product is sub-par. This sounds obvious, but many organisations depend on their good intentions to keep them afloat. For example: you need a mobile phone charger to use on the road. You search the web for options and decide on a solar powered charger that is a little bit more expensive but environmentally friendly, plus for each sale the company delivers a matching device to someone in an electricity-poor environment. But after countless hours in the sun, it fails to charge your phone more than 20%. The product fails to deliver what you paid for, and the feel-good effect evaporates. You bought from this company once, but will you ever buy anything else from them?
SOCIAL AND SUSTAINABLE WON'T BE DIFFERENTIATING FOREVER
Social and environmental impact will not always be the differentiating factors that they are at present. Today, when big banks are being rocked by scandals, the local 'green is good' bank stands out. When supermarket shelves are stocked with mass-produced foods, organic, handmade products stand out. But the day is coming (we hope) when every company's business model will be built around social and environmental responsibility, so in the long term, relying solely on this aspect as your advantage over others is a risky strategy. Consider a multi-value approach. What are your other differentiating qualities? When you deliver micro credit to the base of the pyramid, are you the best at service, or do you offer the lowest rates? Are you also offering free personal finance classes? Put that differentiation in the spotlight next to your social and environmental impact. Make sure you are recognised for what makes you different from the rest, the one thing that defines you, your delivery method or your amazing staff. Or add an emotional benefit besides a functional and an environmental one, like the sanitary product brand Yoni, which taps into a contemporary, sexy, confident-woman vibe.
Putting your social or environmental impact at the heart of your brand is often a first instinctual move when developing products or services designed to create change. But building the social into your brand is not a failsafe strategy. Consider your audience, your market and your positioning before you build your brand. If your goal is to create real impact, you might achieve that sooner through playing it down.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Brand the Change"
Copyright © 2017 Anne Miltenburg and BIS Publishers.
Excerpted by permission of BIS Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of ContentsCHAPTER 1 - BRANDING 101
What you need to know about branding before you build your own brand.
A short history
Branding: a definition
What makes a strong brand?
Why brand the change?
Social good is always good branding. Or is it?
CHAPTER 2 - CASE STUDIES
Fourteen changemaking organisations open up about building their brand.
- SuperBetter, Headspace & The School of Life
- Makey Makey
- Dr Ayana Elizabeth Johnson
- Sanergy/Fresh Life
- Tony’s Chocolonely
- Macmillan Cancer Support
- The Finance Bar
CHAPTER 3 - BRAND ANATOMY
We unpack the anatomy of a brand and offer inspiring examples of existing brands.
The Brand Core
CHAPTER 4 - BUILD YOUR BRAND STEP BY STEP
The brand building process explainedin four phases comprised of 22 steps. Follow the steps to build your own brand, supported by our tools with examples from existing brands.
Phase 1: Sensing
Phase 2: Brand Thinking
Phase 3: Brand Making
Phase 4: Brand Building
CHAPTER 5 - TOOL TEMPLATES
Eleven blank tool templates for your own use.
Brand Thinking Canvas #1
Brand Thinking Canvas #2
Brand Pitch Template
CHAPTER 6 - EXERCISES
Twelve exercises to kickstart your thinking and inspire your team.
Spot the Insight
Map Out your Market
Analyse the Competition
Visualise your Vision
Make your Manifesto
The Frame Game
The Bullshit Radar
The Values Game
Visual Branding Tests
The Reputation Turnaround
CHAPTER 7 - EXPERT TIPS AND TRICKS
Guest essays by experts.
Telling stories by Roshan Paul
Getting publicity by Simon Buckby
Going to market by Grant Tudor
Protecting your brand by Marleen Splinter
Selling sustainability by Stella van Himbergen
Going digital by Ben Matthews
Building a brand architecture by Suzanne van Gompel
CHAPTER 8 - THE BEGINNING
Join the tribe