What is it that makes some brands connect so well with their audiences? We could learn something about building brands for organizations by also asking, What is it that makes some people connect so well with other people? In many ways, organizations are like individuals. Each has its own specific “fingerprint” — strengths, character, and personality — that makes it unique and recognizable. It’s how we get to know our friends and understand what it is about them that we like. In a world where no one has time to carefully weigh all available brand options, this fingerprint acts as shorthand to help us sort through the maze, a very real point of value at a time when it is increasingly difficult to tell one product or service from another. When an organization’s brand fingerprint is clearly defined and articulated so that customers, shareholders, distributors, employees, and partners consistently feel they “know” the organization and know what to expect from it, magic happens.
This is when high emotional engagement occurs. This is when “raving fans” and customer loyalty are created. This is when organizations gain sustainable competitive advantage. Discovering and communicating this brand fingerprint helps organizations bring strategic focus to the power of their brand — giving brands a meaningful and recognizable shorthand that helps cut through the noise and clutter to connect with people.
Brand fingerprint process
Following a process to help uncover the organization’s brand fingerprint will ensure that the intangible attributes assigned to the brand — assets like integrity and innovation — are translated into a visual, tangible representation to which audiences can relate. The process has two phases, strategy and visual translation. It works like this:
Phase I. Strategy
Step 1. Finding your brand values, character, and personality
Step 2. Understanding the competitive landscape
Step 3. Determining your position in the marketplace
Step 4. Developing your value proposition
Phase II. Visual Translation
Step 1. Developing the brand mood
Step 2. Determining the key brand elements
Step 3. Developing the brand roadmap
Phase I. Strategy
The strategy phase can be compared to traditional methods of brand development and is based on core values. The difference here is that the exercises used in the facilitated sessions with company decision makers are designed not only to uncover brand values and attributes, but to gather information in a way that it will be useful for development of the visual translation of the brand. Pairing the creative team with decision makers at the very beginning of brand strategy development is essential in gathering input that will be critical to visual translation.
This is important since experts say that 80% of what we learn comes to us visually, and customers will most likely see brands long before they understand the strategy. There are many benefits of considering how the brand will be communicated visually at the strategy stage. Some of these benefits include: – translation of intangible company assets and attributes into tangible representations that truly reflect the company’s core values – avoidance of possible disconnects when logos, websites, and print materials are developed – development of marketing materials that really communicate key messages – deeper understanding and long-term recall of brand messages by customer audiences – consistency of brand messages over time
Phase II: Visual Translation
The visual translation phase takes all of the information gathered in the strategy phase and translates it into a visual form that people can see and relate to — the visible brand fingerprint. A clear and accurate brand fingerprint can communicate assets like integrity, zero defects, and innovation and make them palpable. Visible. Understandable. Audiences will know at a glance “who” the organization is, what it is saying to them, and why they should buy, react, or be moved. And it will be real, it will be authentic, and it will stand the test of time — because what people see represents the synthesis of the brand strategy.
The benefits of developing the visual components of the brand directly from strategy exercises include:
– a brand mood that will communicate to customers on an emotional level, because the design is based on authentic aspects of the brand’s character and personality – because the mood is a direct translation of strategy jointly developed by company decision makers and creative team, there are no unpleasant surprises at the design stage – the main visual components of the brand will look and feel “real” and will become the pillars upon which other marketing materials will be built – there will be no need for new themes, visual approaches, or deviations from the established visual translation. Brand equity builds with consistency. This is a cost-effective benefit.
Being true to the organization’s authentic brand is how trust, loyalty, and sustainable relationships are developed between the organization and its audiences. Great graphics and cool animation aren’t effective if they don’t accurately communicate the company’s character or brand. Something’s amiss if the organization is not clear and consistent about how it is presenting itself in front of its publics. If the organization’s brand and its image are not aligned, “brand schizophrenia” occurs, which significantly affects the quality of the relationship and level of trust with valued audiences, including customers and employees. Both lose trust in companies when they don’t know what to expect. With brand strategy and visuals clearly articulated in a unique brand “fingerprint,” organizations can make a real connection with their audiences. Once established, this connection enables them to communicate compelling value, promote long-term recall of brand messages, and foster the trust, loyalty, and emotional attachment that sustain relationships.