What a brand should be today. Set yourself apart from the competition with Univisual's unique approach.
Why is a brand critical for your business? What role does a brand play in the global marketplace? What are the criteria for a 21st Century brand?
PART ONE / What's the relationship between a brand and a product?
Despite today's rapid changes, in some business cultures, the value of the brand is still appreciated only in marketing and communication departments.
This perception produces an anachronistic strategic vision. Instead, brands concern finance departments and those responsible for creating sales proposals since a brand should really be considered the very first article for sale.
Everyone recognizes the importance brands play in the modern market, but it is still difficult to quantify how integrated they are in the success of a product or the survival of a company. This despite the existence of widely accepted benchmarks defining the value of a brand or the many case studies – both historical and recent – in which a brand is clearly the deciding factor.
Branding is a distinct discipline, similar in many respects to psychoanalysis or psychology that were once considered 'soft' sciences.
In reality, it is our irrational side that we use to make decisions, though we are unconsciously obliged to provide a rational reason to justify those same actions. And we will stop at nothing to convince others that we have made the right choice.
All this has been scientifically proven. Research on fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) shows that 90% of decisions are irrational and not fully conscious. Therefore, we convince ourselves of the value of our purchase, even to the point of glorifying the item as better than it really is.
The real error lies in incompatibly unifying the product – or the company – to the brand.
A rule of thumb in branding is that the product and the company should neither explicitly nor rationally correspond with the brand.
Many companies find this to be the most difficult aspect of branding to understand. This difficulty represents a change in corporate culture or – as previously mentioned – refers to an asset that is complicated to monetize financially.
PART TWO / What is the role of a brand?
Based on this premise, only a clear analysis of the brand's core nature and intentions will allow it to function effectively and profitably.
Rather than expect a brand to have operational functions, a company should consider their brand a resource similar to any other asset. The brand should be thought of as an employee or a partner and must be given roles and a set of tasks just like people.
But the role of the brand can not and must not be one attributed to an individual employee, nor can it be cloned from a product or from marketing. Just as it would be a mistake to limit the brand to identifying and representing the company, intrinsic as these functions are now considered.
Neither should the brand merely identify and represent the company given how elemental these functions are now considered.
Not to mention that even when the brand is not given a specific role, it will, automatically and by its nature, have an impact, inexorably occupying a specific space in the public eye. In this case, however, without responding to any guidelines from the owner.
Therefore, defining the functional role of the brand becomes a necessity, and not merely an option, especially given that over time the classification of brands has evolved considerably.
Roles like ownership or reliability are primitive and unintended for any brand that wants to be associated with a “way of life”.
PART THREE / What should a brand be like today?
To survive fluctuating markets and consumption patterns, a brand must have an individual personality: separate from specific products, trends, corporate values and social phenomena.
As we shall see, today's brand must embody an ideal that allows it to continuously stand out from the competition, while defending the public's unconscious and emotional spheres of life. This is because a brand if part of an individual’s life, as a friend that thinks the same way, even if not on everything. Integrated into people's everyday lives, a brand is like a friend with whom shares many feelings, if not quite everything.
In order to establish paradigms for modern brands, we need to classify the levels brands operate on in today's marketplace:
- Brand 1.0 / STATUS: belonging to a lifestyle defined by the product
- Brand 2.0 / MEANING: a sense of benefit derived from using the product
- Brand 3.0 / SYNTONY: connections based on human ideals detached from the product
Even today there are brands that meet only the basic level of their potential, that of Status. In these cases it is difficult to separate the brand from the product since they overlap perfectly: the product is luxury, so the brand is exclusive.
Then there are fully developed brands that have opportunely established their meaning in the world of sensations: the ability to appear unique even if the product is not expensive. In these cases it is difficult to pinpoint sensations that do not derive from the characteristics of the product and its Usp.
Indeed, it is difficult to define a brand as unique when, for example, the focus is on the scent, such as a detergent for floors; or pleasure, driving a car, because competing brands risk being mistaken one for the other (as happens often in the mind of the consumer), giving direct competitors an advantage.
The only possibility, therefore, is to choose an emotional and intrinsic aspect of human nature, that can be applied globally and free from social and cultural variables.
In essence, this means turning the brand into a vehicle to spread a belief capable of involving the largest possible target, creating a harmony of intent without feeling used commercially.
While coherent "brand beliefs" can be detached from the product or company, they are not separate from business objectives. Instead, this allows the brand to find its role in society and enter the lives of people who subsequently make a positive association between a brand and the beliefs they share.
This, not only as a matter of trust and excellence – characteristics linked to the product and the service – but as concerns inner affinities.